Doctor Who – 2017 Christmas Special: “Twice Upon A Time”

I hope you had a happy Christmas, wherever you are!

Yesterday was definitely one of the best Christmases I can remember. Having moved into a new house this year, I thought it would be nice to have my immediate family over and cook Christmas dinner myself for the first time. To my surprise, the dinner turned out to be a great success. Everything about the day just came together harmoniously – even the dogs behaved themselves – and I was sorry to see it end.

And of course, yesterday featured Peter Capaldi’s final adventure as the Doctor, and his regeneration – the Doctor’s first since I started reviewing the show on this blog – into his new female incarnation. I’ve already made it clear that I was disappointed with the most recent series, and less than happy with the decision to change the Doctor’s gender; so before watching this Christmas special, I was torn between excitement and a feeling of “Let’s just get this over with.” So, how was it?

  • I enjoyed David Bradley’s performance as William Hartnell in 2013’s An Adventure in Space and Time, so I was very pleased to see him sort-of reprising the role by playing the First Doctor here. His performance is basically perfect; he captures Hartnell’s gestures and manner of speaking extremely well.
  • The First Doctor’s reactions to all the superficial changes from his time – the TARDIS layout, the guitar, the sonic sunglasses – were certainly very funny, but it was also good for the episode to acknowledge the changes to how the character of the Doctor is treated. After playing a man who simply roams across the Universe, having little adventures, without even being able to control where the TARDIS lands, William Hartnell probably would be rather surprised at the kind of figure the Doctor has become.
  • I had been irritated to see Bill return, not just because she wasn’t a great companion, but because she got such a satisfying conclusion to her character arc last series. But as it was, she wasn’t too annoying, and the revelation that it wasn’t the “original” Bill did resolve my latter concern.
  • I was a little disappointed that Mark Gatiss wasn’t given much opportunity to show off his skills with his role as the Captain, though he certainly did very well with what he had. I certainly liked the reveal that his last name is Lethbridge-Stewart.
  • Rusty! Of all the characters who might have returned, who was expecting him?
  • It took a little time to figure out just what this story was trying to do. Ultimately, this send-off for the Twelfth Doctor is a low-key story of soul-searching – rather than a big save-the-world adventure that we’ve seen leading up to previous regenerations – and I was able to appreciate that. With that in mind, the inclusion of the First Doctor felt effective and served the story well, even if his regeneration was being retconned a little bit; I liked his monologue to Bill about his desire to learn why good prevails even though it is “not a practical survival strategy”.
  • The inclusion of the Christmas Truce in World War 1 – the “human miracle” as the Doctor calls it – was also very appropriate and well-presented. As for whether the “Doctor of War” is a hero or a destroyer – which the modern series has based a lot of conflict around – ultimately, why can’t he be both?
  • Well, we couldn’t send the Twelfth Doctor off without a callback to Clara, could we?
  • On the other hand, Nardole can **** off.
  • And what better way for Peter Capaldi to make his exit than by playing to his greatest strength as the Doctor: monologuing! He’s had a decent run, despite a little bit of lost potential. However, in years to come, I’m not sure I’ll find his tenure as enduring in my memory as those of David Tennant and Matt Smith.
  • There we have it: Jodie Whittaker is the Doctor. She’s on screen for less than a minute and only gets to say two words; you can’t make any serious judgements from that. I just had to listen to my gut, and to my surprise, it seemed reasonably comfortable and accepting of the situation now that it’s actually happened. Maybe this won’t be so bad after all.

A perfectly adequate final story for the Twelfth Doctor and Steven Moffat, with good performances all round. It’s definitely put me in a better mood for anticipating Series 11 – bring it on! Rating: 3.5/5.

About R.J. Southworth

Hi there. I've been blogging since January 2014, and I like to talk about all sorts of things: book reviews, film reviews, writing, science, history, or sometimes just sharing miscellaneous thoughts. Thanks for visiting my blog, and I hope you find something that interests you!
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