With 3 returning companions, 2 dying Doctor's and 1 leaving showrunner, it could be safe to assume that Doctor Who Series 10's Christmas Special had a lot to accomplish... but strangely, nothing really happened.
25th December 2017, the day that we've all been simulatenously dreading and anticipating. The demise of the 12th Doctor and introduction of the 13th- played by Peter Capaldi and Jodie Whittaker, respectively. However depending on your views on such incarnations, you could be dreading or anticipating either. In my case, I was seriously fearing the regeneration of the 12th Doctor. I had fallen in love with Capaldi's take on the Timelord (regardless of the poor writing he has received- he has delivered some astonishing pieces of acting e.g. the Zygon Inversion Speech, the entirity of Heaven Sent and World Enough and Time/The Doctor Falls to name some of the standouts), however I was also anticipating the fantastic casting of Whittaker for the 13th Doctor.
Twice Upon a Time is a fitting end to the long tenure that showrunner Steven Moffat has been at the helm of for over 7 years. However I can't help but feel he outstayed his welcome by a year or two. Some common Moffat-tropes were apparent throughout his writing of this episode that have just weakened the fluidity of the episode in replacement for a quick witty line here or there- the most prevalent being the unrealistically sexist take on the 1st Doctor, portrayed by David Bradley (originally William Hartnell). Moments such as the 'smacked bottom' line and 'good spring clean' cross's one's mind when thinking about the most unnecessary additions to the script. I cannot recall a single moment in Hartnells tenure when a line like that was uttered- I think Moffat misunderstood the time of release was the 1960's, not the time period of which the Doctor is from. In fact, in 'An Unearthly Child', The Doctor states he merely 'tolerates' the 20th Century and so obviously doesn't uphold any of the sexist views so common to that period. A true fault on the part of Moffat. In terms of acting however, Bradley does encapsulate the majority of what Hartnell did so well- create an serious, enigmatic yet loveable presentation of the Doctor that counterbalances the 12th Doctor perfectly.
As mentioned at the top of this article, the plot leaves a lot to be desired. This final episode is more of a character piece that follows the two Doctors on their journey to regeneration. We begin on the snowy caps of the South Pole with a few bits of witty dialogue between the 2 Doctors, then to the World War 1 battlefield where we meet the Captain played by Mark Gatiss. Then we travel to the Testimony Tower, then to Villengard and then finally back to the battlefield. It all seems a bit of a ramble for a simple story of 2 Doctors refusing to regenerate- we could have had a simple piece set between the South Pole and the Battlefield.
Villengard and the inclusion of Rusty the 'Good Dalek' from 2014's 'Into the Dalek' was almost pointless apart from providing some closure to the Series 8 subplot of is the Doctor a good man. The Twelfth Doctor said it himself, he doesn't know what to do when it's not an evil plan. The episode lacks what all others have- some sort of villain that provides some stakes. Even if the stakes arent' as high as episodes such as 'The End of Time' or 'Time of the Doctor', I left the episode feeling as if nothing really happened until the last act.
The glass woman of Testimony seemed like it was going to be a large revelation for the incumbent Doctors, since Moffat stated in the preview for this episode: "What their purpose is, what their plan is, is going to be a big surprise to the Doctor". However all that was revealed was that they were taking the souls of the deceased and giving them new bodies- much like the process of regeneration (oh and that whole Harmony Shoal thing with the brains for the past 2 Christmas Specials- a plot thread that was never picked up).
Obviously, this was all a way for Moffat to bring back one of his and the 12th Doctors most popular companions, Clara Oswald. Yes, somehow the glass creatures also had the ability to restore the memories of his until now, forgotten companion. This was not something touched apon throughout the episode and something that could have given them some more depth and allowed for people to speculate on any possible cameos later on. Alternatively, although it wouldn't be as accessible for general audiences, a replacement for these glass creatures could have been the Monks from the Series 10 3 parter- a good way of closing off that part that was otherwise left on an underwhelming note. As for my opinion on the return of Clara, I couldn't say I was pleased yet I couldn't say I was overtly against it. It was inevitable and I think since Moffat and Capaldi announced their departures, we knew somehow, she would return.
Speaking of departures, we had 3 departures to deal with at the end of this episode. Capaldi, Bradley and Moffat. Surprisingly, I think they were all handled- on the majority- very well. Moffat didn't go overboard with his grand finale, he kept the final moments quiet, reflecting and simple. The inclusion of the WW1 truce was a nice addition that added some form of human goodwill that was perfect for Christmas viewing. As for the the other revelation of the episode, the identity of The Captain as a relative of Brigadier Lethbridge Stewart was (although predictable), a nice touch that brought together a nice balance of classsic and modern Doctor Who.
Next we had David Bradley of whom was regenerating into Patrick Troughton. Moffat did this exceedingly well as he refrained from any silly expressions and let Bradley perform a simple yet beautiful take on the regeneration. One thing to highlight was the transition from 16:9 Colour to 4:3 Black and White- truly magical.
Finally, the big one, Capaldi to Whittaker. When we heard Capaldi utter the words 'Time to leave the battlefield' we knew it wasn't long til we would be saying goodbye. As we entered this current iteration of the TARDIS, the sinking feeling in my heart grew stronger. I was indeed worried at how Moffat would approach this regeneration but since hearing Capaldi initiated changes to the script before the final scene was filmed, I knew it should be safe. And I wasn't wrong, Moffat delivered a spectacular albeit a slightly weaker take on the 'Time of the Doctor' speech from the 11th Doctor. However what we were presented with was nothing other than mesmerising. As Capaldi strolled around the TARDIS shouting things for the forthcoming Doctor to remember, and the gorgeous score from Murray Gold (Breaking the Wall from Heaven Sent- I mean what else could it have been!) I was falling more and more in love with Capaldi, only to let him go much like he let the Doctor go. My favourite line being about the Doctor's name and how some children may hear it- an idea proposed by Capaldi himself at a convention.
The final scene could be one of the most marvellously directed pieces of Doctor Who I have seen. As the light shone infront of Jodie, it created a silhouette of our new face of Doctor Who, we saw her face in the reflection of the TARDIS console dual-screen. Then a closeup of her eye, mirroring that of the clip released this August to announce her casting, then finally a panning up shot of her smiling over the console- "Oh, brilliant!". What followed, although slightly cliched on Chibnall's part was indeed shocking. A more grand take on Matt Smith's entrance as she was flung about the TARDIS console room until one final explosion sent her flying down to the streets of the United Kingdom once more. What happened to the TARDIS? How will she survive? Where will she land? All we know is that we'll find out in the Autumn of 2018- and here at ASO, we cannot wait.
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