Release Date: February 13, 2018
THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS
In an episode entitled Twice Upon a Time (Doctor Who Special: Christmas 2017), the Twelfth Doctor (Peter Capaldi) encounters the First (David Bradley) who is fighting regeneration. The Doctor duo encounters a World War I soldier (Mark Gatiss), who was temporarily saved from death by the disruption of the timeline when the Doctors met, but who is being pursued by a new threat known as Testimony.
The show starts with actual 1966 footage of Doctor Who featuring William Hartnell as the Doctor (1) with Michael Craze and Anneke Wills as Ben and Polly. The first doctor is fighting regeneration and finds himself at the South Pole where Capaldi’s Doctor (12) finds him as he’s also fighting regeneration. The Testimony, a futuristic-looking glass humanoid figure, approaches the duo in an effort to make right the displacement of the Captain from his time of death. Gatiss is pragmatic when faced with his demise; it is 12 that fights against the demand of the Testimony rescuing both the Captain and a Bill Potts that he suspects is a copy, as viewers will recall that she was turned into a Cyberman is a previous episode. Perhaps saving against their will is an overstatement, but 12 will not give up even when it comes to those who refuse to fight.
At the start of Twice Upon a Time, 12 tells the Captain that “Madness has never been this good,” but this episode seemed more a necessary stunt than the uncontrolled chase. It is a story builder leading to the premiere of Jodi Whittiker’s Doctor. What we saw of Whittiker was brilliant. She is buoyantly reminiscent of the 10th Doctor (David Tennant). The cheeky smile and exclamation of joy, when she catches a glimpse of herself, brought a smile to a somewhat dry episode. Beyond the primary role of the first Doctor, there is a callback to all of the actors in the role as the Testimony refers to the War Doctor, an idea that it somewhat repugnant to 1. There are shout-outs to the values of the time in which the original series aired. Bradley refers to the cleanliness of the Tardis as the responsibility of a female companion and says that he’ll “spank” Bill if she continues to use foul language. He apologizes for his allusions to experience in the “lady pond” in front of Bill and seems somewhat scandalized when she claims to have had her own experience in that field. I’ve seen some of the surprises online at maintaining sexism in the series, the Doctor is a Timelord, after all! There is a need to differentiate the journeys as they have progressed and this is a young Timelord at the start of his journey. 12 lets us know that 1,500 years have passed between the First Doctor and his incarnation, but even the 50 years of the series, is a cultural chasm where so much has changed and yet so much remains the same. I’d rather have liked the First Doctor to stick around for a reaction to 12’s transition. He likely would have said that it’s just like a woman to lose the Tardis as soon as she has possession. Lady drivers, you know.
Testimony is a really interesting character. Rusty, the good Dalek, makes an appearance and when 12 finds that Testimony isn’t evil, he says that he doesn’t know what to do with them. They simply transfer the memories of a person into host beings when they pass on so that they can continue. I found both the construct and the structure of this new entity fascinating, but the focus was more on the Doctors moving on than the actual story. I did tear up when the Doctor delivered the Captain to Christmas 1914 (there is a review of an audiobook of the actual event that appeared on this blog a few years ago). The shock of the carol singing and the stop of battle as the two sides came together was incredibly well done. The Testimony promised that the Captain wouldn’t remember the events that preceded or see the Timelords or Testimony, but he clearly sees 12. Is it because he turns out to be a relative of Brigadier Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart, a character who appeared with the Second Doctor, Patrick Troughton? More importantly in the mind of this viewer, does this mean we’ll see the Captain again?
Overall Twice Upon a Time is not an episode that I will watch over and over. While I enjoyed seeing Bill Potts again, she has turned out to be one of my favorite companions, her character was intentionally off in this episode. I enjoyed the shout-out to the past Doctors and our view of 13. The end of the episode wets the appetite for what’s to come and she seems quite suited for the role of a slightly, off-balance but brilliantly daring character. While it’s not the best episode of the series, it’s essential viewing for any fan and a must-have for those that collect, and I know there are many of us. The Whovians are inheriting the world. Preorder the latest Christmas special today.
Doctor Who Special: Christmas 2017 will be released on Febuary 13, 2018. Preorder it now as a DVD or Blu-ray on
|Title||Doctor Who Special: Christmas 2017|
|Actors||Peter Capaldi, Pearl Mackie, Mark Gatiss, David Bradley|
|DVD Release||February 13, 2018|