Tuesday 26 December 2017

Doctor Who - Twice Upon A Time

Jodie Vivre

Doctor Who - Twice Upon A Time
Airdate: 25th December 2017

Warning: Here Be Spoilers... all of them.

Well this one was so much better than I thought it would be and I’m pleased Peter Capaldi’s swan song as The Doctor turned out quite as well as it did (with a few reservations).

Starting up with footage from The Tenth Planet (reviewed here) was something I didn’t expect because, right from the outset, it highlighted to modern audiences of the show just how wrong in design and voice the BBC got the reconstruction of the original cybermen at the end of the last series. So I don’t know why they chose to include specific footage of them along with the shots of Hartnell to contextualise where The First Doctor fits into all this. It does, however, work very well to get contemporary Who watchers up to speed as much as they would need and it had a lovely ‘merge’ moment where William Hartnell morphed, mid sentence, into David Bradley (not to mention The First Doctor’s then companions Ben and Polly transforming into different actors too). Bradley does a good job here and has great chemistry with Capaldi, it has to be said.

We then had him meeting up with Peter Capaldi’s incarnation of The Doctor (I refuse to call him The Twelfth Doctor anymore... War Doctor or not, every Doctor gets a number to help label them, in my book) at the end of the previous episode and we have both Doctor’s gabbling away and both refusing to regenerate. We then have a soldier 'plucked from time' on a battlefield during the First World War and accidentally deposited with both Doctors.

Now, I have to say, the identity of the mystery soldier, played here by Mark Gatiss, is really not that hard to work out once he talks about having a wife and children at home. It points to his relationship with another famous military figure who has been in Doctor Who history since his appearance as a Colonel opposite Patrick Troughton’s incarnation, The Second Doctor and, well, I’m not going to spell it out here but it did become fairly obvious at a certain point in the proceedings.

However, it’s a pretty good story with The Doctors coming face to face with a lady of glass who is part of The Testimony, a group of beings from the far future who record the memories and experiences of people just before their death and can become them. When The Doctor goes to a planet full of Kaleds it was, again, obvious that they were, of course, the Daleks but I have to say the identity of the person he was going to see actually did take me by surprise, for which I’m grateful. I just assumed it would be Davros but, instead, it was a character from very recent Doctor Who continuity from a couple of series ago, who made “its” debut in the episode Into The Dalek (reviewed here).

In Twice Upon A Time we get a nice conundrum about whether people are, in fact, the sum of their memories, the return (sorta) of Bill Potts and Nardole, a very atmospheric (and tear inducing) sequence set on a very specific night in World War One, a brief return by Clara Oswald (played by Jenna Louise Coleman) plus the restoration of The Doctor’s memories of what she looked like... and the whole episode is generally light on action and strong on ideas. Something which impressed me and which has been a key component of the show since it first started being broadcast 54 years ago. And I thought this was the story’s main strength.

There are a few intriguing issues within the episode though. For example, if the encapsulated memories of The Doctor could shatter the glass beings then... how come they already were able to show The First Doctor the memories of all the things he had become up to Capaldi's point in time? My best answer to that is his memories (and not even his ego) could not, or at some future point in time, did not... shatter them. Because they obviously already recorded him at some point in the future of this incarnation’s timeline, just before death. So that's a bit silly, to be honest.

Another intriguing and, potentially, quite annoying thing, is that the BBC look like they’ve destroyed the TARDIS at the end. Blimey... just like a woman driver, not 60 seconds into his first female incarnation and she’s crashed the TARDIS (thanks to my cousin for that comment). Of course, there’s no way they can let this happen, I think, without a) divesting themselves of a lot of fans of the show over the years and b) taking away from the basic essence of the show... being able to visit a different point in time and space every adventure. I’m pretty sure the iconic TARDIS will be back on our screens before long.

The worst thing about the episode was... Peter Capaldi’s protracted ‘death’ scene was a bit long winded, waffly and... I dunno... felt kinda clumsily written, truth be told. Still, his performance was never less than his best and he’s been a great Doctor whose time has, I believe, come too soon.

Two things I really liked about the show were...

The First Doctor’s blatant, inadvertent sexism and the other character’s reactions to it. When Capaldi kept highlighting to him that he couldn’t say things like that in the current PC environment (in not so many words) it was quite funny but when Pearl Mackie’s wonderful performance as Bill Potts kicked in and she took him on regarding that issue... well it made for some nice comedy moments.

The other great thing was.. hooray. We finally have a lady timelord in the shape of a new, female incarnation of The Doctor. It’s way too early to judge how our new favourite time lady Jodie Whittaker is going to do in the role but she was pretty good here and I hope I’m right in having a lot of faith in her from the outset. Of course, when I was 14 years old and the prospect of a lady Doctor was first discussed, around about 1982ish, I was mortified by even the vaguest suggestion of such a thing taking place but... times have changed and hopefully the male youngsters of today are more flexible and evolved in their thinking to be stuck with that kind of attitude in their heads. I think this is a really good move and will hopefully refresh the series a little.

And that’s my take on Capaldi’s last story... not the best he’s done but, certainly, one of the best and more than I had hoped for from writer Steven Moffat’s last crack at writing the character, for sure. Twice Upon A Time was a really "not bad at all" episode of the current version of the show and a nice treat for Christmas Day. Looking forward to seeing what Jodie brings to the table in the Autumn.

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