Twice Upon A Time sees The First Doctor – played originally by William Hartnell, but here by David Bradley – in his final story arc, The Tenth Planet, leaving for the TARDIS in the South Pole, refusing to regenerate… but if he doesn’t, then the next, nor even the Twelfth Doctor cannot exist. Hence, this Christmas edition rather fills in the gap as Hartnell wasn’t in episode three of that story, and gets only a name-check in the credits (thanks to John Lavalie from Chicago TARDIS for filling in the gap on this section of the Who canon, since I haven’t seen most of The First Doctor’s episodes)
This leads to a meeting between the old and current in an alternate take of their conversation from that which we saw at the end of the last episode, The Doctor Falls, since as David Bradley delivers his lines, you can’t see his face. Meanwhile, Mark Gatiss crowbars his way into another acting role as a First World War officer, who ends up near the TARDIS, instead of Ypres, 1914, thanks to a timeline error.
From here, we head over to to the Chamber of the Dead where The First Doctor is accused of being the Doctor of War, and those creatures running the place take someone just at their point of death, extract what they need and then return them back, so they can carry on and die, which is soon followed by a segment which made me feel like this would turn into a run-through of the Doctor’s previous adventures rather than a new and coherent storyline.
In Twice Upon A Time, there was a slight bit of entertaining banter between the two Doctors, but it largely revolved around pointing out how old-fashioned the First one’s attitudes are. And then along came the person I never wanted to see again. Bill. Yes, Bill bloody Potts. Her reappearance might’ve made for a half-decent surprise, but sadly, the BBC not only put her name in the credits, but she was also in the trailer. Whatever happened to the element of surprise? (sigh)
Either way, I wish Bill would just get stuffed and never bother us again. In this episode, we’re meant to feel as if it’s been a very long time indeed since The Doctor and Bill saw each other, but to us, it’s only been a little under six months.
Along the way, this episode showed us its big twist, but it was a rather dull one. It felt more like a side plotline at best. Okay, so Christmas episodes are never about strong plotlines, but it’s often as if they just don’t try.
You know, I had high hopes for Steven Moffat when he took over as showrunner, after that utter charlatan that was Russell T Davies with only one decent script out of him in all that time (Turn Left), and I’d rather have watched an episode made out of RTD’s crappy fake letters for Why Don’t You?
But Moffat was 90% disappointing by comparison – especially since he can’t actually kill a companion properly, and Peter Capaldi has been saddled with some piss-poor writing. When he was about to take the crown as the then-new Doctor, I really thought Daniel Rigby would’ve been the Doctor, even though he was second in the odds to Capaldi. However, the real clue came much earlier, in the cast of World War Z, since Mr Capaldi played the doctor for the World Health Organisation… so was listed in the credits as the “W.H.O. Doctor”. That was clever.
“Laugh hard, run fast, be kind” were nice final words, but I could’ve done without Capaldi’s theatrics in his final words, however. Matt Smith made a much more dignified exit, albeit a quicker one.
Perhaps in an alternate timeline, Capaldi gets some decent Who scripts. Perhaps it was a timeline error? Who… knows?
Oh, and Bill. Moffat saddled us with Bill. Bill was the worst bloody companion with the worst bloody eyebrows in the history of all Who. And Pearl Mackie can’t act to save her life!
Still, Clara was yummy.
I don’t know a huge amount about Chris Chibnall. I saw Series 3 of Broadchurch and that was alright. Same goes for Jodie Whittaker, although since she was announced as the new Doctor, I’ve only seen her in Trust Me, and that was derivative crap. Still, I’ll give the next series a chance, like I do every time.
One plus about this finale… and I would like to think it’s the beginning of a new dawn although I’d very much doubt it… you know how continuity announcers babble on during the end credits about nothing in particular, especially over the iconic theme of this show? Well, this time THEY DIDN’T! Yes! They remained silent! Who killed them? That was a death worth carrying out!
PS. Hey, Moffat… and the horse you rode in on!!!
PPS. And take Rachel Talalay with you! She’s directed some terrible Doctor Who episodes, but then she directed 1991’s Nightmare On Elm Street Part VI: Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare.
The only decent thing in this episode is something I’ll keep behind a spoiler heading
Next time: It will be Jodie Whittaker… but we don’t yet know exactly when or what the first episode will entail. We are aware of the predicament in which she currently finds herself, however.
Twice Upon A Time is available on the BBC iPlayer for a month.
- Doctor Who Extra
- The End of an Era
- Doctor Who Panel: San Diego Comic-Con 2017
Individual episodes can be bought in HD and SD here.
Director: Rachel Talalay
Producer: Peter Bennett
Executive Producers: Steven Moffat and Brian Minchin
Writer: Steven Moffat
Music: Murray Gold
The Doctor: Peter Capaldi
The Doctor: David Bradley
The Captain: Mark Gatiss
Bill: Pearl Mackie
Ben: Jared Garfield
The Glass Woman: Nikki Amuka-Bird
German Soldier: Toby Whithouse
Polly: Lily Travers
The Doctor: Jodie Whittaker
And two cast members I’ll hide behind a spoiler, since they’re not in the credits listed online, even if they are in the closing credits.
Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.