Guest contributor Ruth Long speculates on what might be ahead.
Here in the middle of spring, August feels like it’s decades away. Unfortunately, most of us don’t have a blue box to hop into that’ll bypass the long and difficult wait for Series 9. So, what better way to make the next few months a little bit more bearable than some good ol’ speculation?
As always (or at least until the next script leak), what awaits the Doctor and Clara is shrouded in mystery; but every so often Steven Moffat and the BBC like to throw us tantalizing fragments of information to get us buzzing with excitement. Something in particular that has sent my mind into overdrive are the titles for the two opening episodes of the series; namely, ‘The Magician’s Apprentice’ and ‘The Witch’s Familiar’. Myself and many others believe that the person to whom these names refer may be none other than the Impossible Girl herself.
Magician and Apprentice
The meaning of the former title is fairly simple to deduce. Multiple times the 12th Doctor’s resemblance to one of the magic circle has been mentioned; his outfit desiring only a top hat and wand to compliment the red-lined Crombie coat and white shirt (a rabbit wouldn’t go amiss, either). So, supposing that “Magician” is indeed a metaphor for “the Doctor” then it’s easy to make a guess as to whom the word “Apprentice” represents. Indeed, I’m proposing that “The Magician’s Apprentice” directly translates to “The Doctor’s Companion”.
In Clara’s case though, “Apprentice” is perhaps more suitable for her than most. Her parallels with the Time Lord have been a strong theme, particularly of late. With her remaining by his side for a whole new series, it makes sense to continue this direction and develop it in new and interesting ways. With that in mind, it’s entirely possible that Series 9 will begin with establishing this as Clara’s character arc: ‘the Doctor in training’, and thus, we get the title.
Stemming from this, a concept that has fascinated me (and other Whovians) is that of a companion ‘losing themselves’ through travelling with the Doctor. By which I mean them becoming increasingly desensitized, increasingly distanced from ‘normal life’, and, maybe, even their own humanity. Rose journeyed along this path to some degree, and it’s entirely possible that she would have changed further had fate not intervened (remember Jackie Tyler’s words in ‘Army of Ghosts’?).
Clara has also started to experience this, and to a far greater extent; as the episode ‘Flatline’ in particular highlights. Even the few short words of dialogue heard in recent filming notably contrast to what we would have expected form Clara in the past. For this brief but telling example, a Coal Hill student expresses their fear at some unusual goings on. There was once a time where Clara would be reassuring them, but her reaction is instead much more Doctor-like, almost dismissive.
Now, I don’t wish to make too much of a couple of simple lines, but they only serve as a marker for Clara’s evolution as a character. This is in keeping with Steven Moffat’s desire for a more ‘real’ and consequential Doctor-companion dynamic, and his comments on the duo’s reflection of one another (something which I wish to explore in detail in the future).
Witch and Familiar
After her apparent obliteration, the announcement of the Master’s return for the opener of Series 9 came as a surprise to many fans (not that anyone actually believed she was dead); with most of us not expecting her to reappear until much later in the run of episodes. Because of this, her purpose in the two-parter is even more perplexing, not least because of the implication held by the second chapter’s name.
“Witch”, especially alongside “Magician”, is an all too fitting analogy for Missy; complementing the one used for the Doctor. In addition to the shared magical theme, the word denotes the power, influence and wickedness that we naturally associate with the “Queen of Evil”. Consequently, if we are to conclude that the Master is the titular “Witch” then the identity of the “Familiar” becomes eminently more fascinating.
In traditional folklore, the term “familiar” describes a supernatural entity believed to serve a witch and assist in her practice of magic. Often taking human or animal form, they have free will and intuition of their own, but are purposed to do their master’s bidding. Now, you can probably guess what I’m about to suggest…
Why Clara? On what grounds, other than my persisting habit of bringing her into everything, do I have to base this idea on? Well, this is a matter which stretches all the way back to Clara prime’s introduction to the show. I have discussed “the woman in the shop” at length in a previous article, but despite my speculation, the idea ultimately came to very little when it was finally explained in the Series 8 finale.
To shed a little more light on the matter, I was of the adamant conviction that Missy had ‘chosen’ Clara, giving her the Doctor’s number, for some complex (and no doubt nefarious) purpose. That behind the scenes, she had a plan in place to which the Impossible Girl was instrumental, that her very presence in the Doctor’s life was orchestrated for a reason.
This idea was only reinforced by certain scenes in Series 8, such as the ominous ending of ‘Flatline’ (“Clara, my Clara. I have chosen well”), but in ‘Death in Heaven’ Missy’s intentions of bringing the Doctor and Clara together were revealed to be considerably simpler than anticipated: “Because she’s perfect! The control freak and the man who can never be controlled. You’d go to hell if she asked, and she would”.
I’ll be honest, this strikes me as a rather incomplete and dare I say, convoluted justification; especially given the influence that Clara has had on the Doctor’s life. Surely, Missy had more in mind than just selecting someone who, per chance, would lead the Doctor to investigate 3W? (admittedly, she is rather bananas). I won’t deny that this declaration came as somewhat of a disappointment, though there’s little point in dwelling on the issue.
The following conjecture is partly based on episode filming footage, possible spoilers ahead…
Recent revelations have worked to rekindle my theory. We’ve established that ‘The Witch’s Familiar’ may well mean ‘The Master’s Servant’ or, in other terms, ‘The Master’s Puppet’. Looking at the title in this way, the thought to be resolved connection between Clara and Missy suddenly comes back into sharp and compelling focus.
The notion of Clara being the ‘Familiar’, and the potential exploration of Missy’s purpose for her becomes increasingly more plausible when considering the new footage from the set of the opening episodes. In which, the two seem to be co-operating; apparently united in the need to help the Doctor (who’s in some mysterious danger). Furthermore, it appears that Missy uses the opportunity to take Clara somewhere (or when) against her will (using what looks like a vortex manipulator).
Maybe she does have a plan for her after all.
A Dangerous Path
My proposal is this: ‘The Magician’s Apprentice’ and ‘The Witch’s Familiar’ will each focus on a different facet of Clara’s character, and on her relationship with the Doctor and Missy respectively. Undoubtedly these are not the only potential meanings for the two titles (there are probably multiple interpretations), but for me they promise the foundation of a very interesting (concluding?) arc for Clara.
With the loss of Danny, she no longer has the grounding force that anchored her to normality; any hopes of such a future has been swiftly extinguished. In essence, traveling with the Doctor has become everything to Clara; the man and the life that she’s so addicted to is free to consume her. Now, there’s no going back.
Jenna staying on the show for another year presents Moffat with the golden opportunity to develop and explore a companion in ways that have not been done before. With any luck, we will see the continuation of the Clara’s increasing resemblance to the Doctor and the growing distance between her and ‘ordinary’ people. Additionally, we may just find out exactly what Missy has up her sleeve, and what it means for Impossible Girl and the Magici- I mean Doctor.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this article! Let me know your thoughts and theories! Does Missy really have a scheme involving Clara? Is Clara the ‘Apprentice’ and/or ‘Familiar’? And if so, what are the implications for her role in the series as a whole?
And most importantly, will Clara ever mention soufflés again?