Doctor Who Review: “Twice Upon A Time”

Man, it’s taken me ages to write this. I think it’s mostly because I couldn’t get over Capaldi’s exit scene and Jodie’s entrance scene.

Actually, I’m still not over it.

**Spoilers ahead, sweetie**

A Brief Overview of What Happened

The First Doctor is retreating to his TARDIS after leaving his companions behind and refusing to regenerate. This is when he encounters Twelve, and we pretty much pick back up from where we left off in ‘The Doctor Falls’.

Both Doctors are then approached by a soldier from the First World War, who – after originally being gun-point to gun-point with a German soldier – has been displaced in time and space. All three of the men are then captured and taken onto a spaceship where Twelve finally gets to see Bill Potts again. The only problem, though, is Twelve doesn’t quite believe that it really is Bill.

We are then introduced to the glass-like, captain of the ship, she looks like an artificial hologram, but however both of the Doctor’s dispute this as her face is asymmetrical. She offers them their freedom, so long as they hand the Captain over to them so that they can return him back to the moment of his death. Refusing to allow anyone to die, they hatch an escape plan. Given Twelve’s TARDIS is up on the ship, they take the One’s TARDIS to a planet called Villengard.

Once on Villengard, Twelve takes a solo trip to visit Rusty, the rogue Dalek from ‘Into The Dalek’ who has taken refuge on the planet from the other Daleks hunting it. After Rusty granting the Doctor access to the Dalek hivemind the Doctor comes learn that the pilot of the ship, which is called Testimony, is from New Earth. Their purpose is to extract people from the end of their timelines and archive their memories into glass avatars before returning them back to the point of their death. Bill, is one of those avatars, her form merely created from one of her memories.

Realising there is no villain to fight, or an evil plan to be stopped, both of the Doctors agree to return the Captain back to the end of his timeline, and subsequently his death. The Captain, accepting his fate willingly returns and makes a request to both One and Twleve that they keep an eye on this family, introducing himself as Archibald Hamish Lethbridge-Stewart, making him both the Brigadier and Kate Lethbridge-Stewarts ancestor.

As the time resumes, soldiers on both sides of the fight start singing the lyrics to “Silent Night” and stop fighting. Twelve explains that in order to save the Captain’s life, he deliberately shifted the timeline to the beginning of the Christmas truce. The First Doctor then tells Twelve that he now intends to regenerate, however Twelve continues to keep his decision a secret as they both say goodbye.

Now that he’s alone with Bill’s avatar, Twelve makes his point again that she still really isn’t Bill. However, Bill argues to him that it is the memories that make a person. Bill’s avatar then restores Twelve’s memories of Clara and shortly after, they are joined by an avatar of Nardole. Despite the opportunity, Twelve refuses to give them testimony of his life, claiming that the amount of lives he’s had that it would break the avatar anyway. Both Bill and Nardole respect his wishes and say their final goodbyes before departing.

Alone, The Doctor returns to the TARDIS. He relays some advice to his next incarnation before finally generating into his/her thirteenth self. Upon regenerating, she examines her appearance in the reflection of the console monitor and expresses her delight. However, it isn’t to last long as the TARDIS begins suffering multiple failures. Loosing her grasp and falling out of the hip, the newly regenerated Doctor falls down to Earth as she watches the TARDIS explode from above her.

Twelve Deserved Better

I’ve already said before, that I wasn’t too keen on the first 2 seasons of Capaldi’s reign due to the writing. However, I loved season 10, so I was a bit disappointed to find that the Christmas special didn’t quite carry on that streak, especially since it’s Capaldi’s last ever episode.

There’s a whole mix of things that I didn’t and didn’t like, so to make it easier here’s a list.

What I Liked:

  • David Bradley as the First Doctor. I thought he did great playing William Hartnell in ‘An Adventure in Space and Time’. And while he’ll never quite get the First Doctor as well and its original actor would have done, I thought he did a brilliant job.
  • The return of Rusty. I’ve already mentioned ‘Into Dalek’ was one of my favourite episodes of Capaldi’s era, despite being in season 8, so it was nice to see him return briefly.
  • Mark Gattiss as the Captain. Having him be a Lethbridge Stewart was a nice, tiny little nod to the Classic Era in a way that didn’t affect the show as a whole. And Gattiss’ performance was amazing.
  • Nardole’s return. His future was quite uncertain given he was left on a ship full of Cybermen determined to upgrade everyone, though we knew he’d at least survive for a little while. I’m assuming, and believe that he did die on that ship. But it’s nice that he seemed to survive in his avatar form.

  • The fact that once, just once, there was no evil that need to be stopped. After the events of the Doctor Falls I think both the Doctor and us deserved that at least.
  • Twelve’s closing speech. Just because it made me a little bit emotional.
  • Freaking. Whittaker.

What I Didn’t Like:

  • The First Doctor’s blatant sexism that was a bad attempt at comedy. The First Doctor may have been created in the 1960’s, and the writers may have written sexist dialogue back then. But that does not make the character himself a sexist. A mere two episodes in ‘World Enough and Time’ we saw Twelve say that Time Lords were beyond genders and their associated stereotypes and in this episode, we saw the First go on about the female companion’s job was to clean the TARDIS. *insert eyeroll*
  • Clara’s return. The whole thing seemed a little bit forced and very, very rushed. I enjoy seeing companions come back and say goodbye to their Doctor, and I realised it may be difficult given The Doctor’s memories of her were wiped. But if you can’t do a reunion that is brief and beautiful like “Raggedy man, goodnight.” Then give it some more time.
  • Bill’s return. I love Bill, I really do. But I hate, hate, hate the way she was brought back. Her ending had been a happy (albeit a little bit rehashed) one, travelling the universe with the woman of her dreams. To have that reversed in literally the next episode was a little bit annoying. And it also means she too is dead, again. *sniff*.

As a whole, it was an okay episode. But nowhere near as good as an ending for Twelve as the Doctor Falls would have been. That’s more of a logistical failure, as at the beginning the Doctor Falls was intended to be the final episode before Capaldi and Moffat’s departure was moved back to Christmas. I suppose you can’t have them all…

However, I’m really, really excited for Chris Chibnall and Jodie Whittakers new era of Doctor Who. With the TARDIS literally seeming to rip itself apart, are we returning to an era of a Earth-bound Doctor? I can’t wait to see. Autumn can’t come quick enough!


Johanna is an avid writer and lifelong Doctor Who fan living in the UK. By day she is a student, studying Media and Film Production, and by night she fangirls about all things TV/Film related on Twitter and writes posts for a variety of blogs as well as her own lifestyle blog.

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