When it comes to Whovian Christmas Specials, sky is the limit. We’ve had alien invasions, falling ships, a veritable Christmas Carol, a Whovian version of “Inception”, and adventures in which we both said hello and goodbye to beloved characters. Now, when it comes to Whovian Christmas Specials that contain the current Doctor’s regeneration sequence in the modern era of the show, the bar is set pretty high, as most of them were epic adventures in which they did save the day, and went out in a way that you would think that they would. “Twice Upon A Time” changed the formula a bit, allowing Steven Moffat and director Rachel Talalay to present us with a quiet and personal episode, that was a beautiful send-off, and gave Whovians enough time to mourn the Twelfth Doctor (Peter Capaldi), before the new one comes along.
To be honest, I have been very reluctant to actually watch “Twice Upon A Time”, even though I knew that I was still going to watch Peter Capaldi’s entire run before Season 11 and the Thirteenth Doctor (Jodie Whittaker) truly come. Over the years, the Twelfth Doctor has become my second favorite modern Doctor, making it all the more hard for me to let go of the grumpy, Scottish rebel Time Lord, who is basically a teenager in an old man’s body. So, because I couldn’t do it alone, and because I was afraid that I would end up behaving like I did when I was transitioning from Ten (David Tennant) to Eleven (Matt Smith), in which I refused to watch Eleven’s run for a year after I watched “The End of Time”, I decided to rip the band aid off, and watched it with a friend, and I’m glad that I did.
As I said above, this Christmas Special/Regeneration Episode changed the formula a lot, as compared to Nine, Ten, and Eleven, as this story was quiet, personal, and very introspective.
The friend who I watched this with mentioned that Twelve basically had just carried out his own funeral, and I think that this was needed not just for Twelve, but for us Whovians as well, as this is an end of an era, and we needed this time to properly mourn the Twelfth Doctor before Thirteen and the Chris Chibnall era arrives.
Now, it isn’t a secret that the First Doctor (David Bradley) is in this, and in fact, this regeneration episode features TWO regenerations as he also regenerated into the Second Doctor (Patrick Troughton) in this episode. And I did not expect to actually feel emotional about a Doctor I’ve barely known, but I did.
Moffat did a great job in writing such a great, tight and personal story for the Twelfth Doctor to exit on. Talalay’s direction was beautifully cinematic, and I think that this is the best that they’ve both done.
Murray Gold’s music was on point, and if you listen carefully, you will hear “The Doctor’s Theme” (Ninth Doctor and Tenth Doctor versions) and “Vale Decem”. “Vale” and “Vale Decem” were both used when the Tenth Doctor was regenerating, so, if the rumors are true, and if this is Gold’s swan song, it would make sense that he’d go out with that particular track.
Everyone’s acting was on point here, and I think that this is also one of the best performances that Mark Gatiss has had on the show.
In the end, this was a beautiful send off for the First Doctor, the Twelfth Doctor, and the Moffat era of the show, and I honestly am a little bit more excited now as to what the future will bring with the Thirteenth Doctor.
As I mentioned above, regeneration episodes, at this point, now have a very high standard, and sometimes, fans hate them and some love them. As for me, I do believe that each modern Doctor was given their due in their own respective regeneration episodes, and I also think that they went out in a way that is very them.
Nine went out full of hope as he was finally able to open up again; Ten went out in a blaze of glory, kicking and screaming, refusing to go; Eleven defied the odds by protective everyone he could, and finally going out after many years, with him finally becoming tired, and wanting to rest; and Twelve, well, in the beginning, he was kicking and screaming, ready to truly die, but in the end, he finally let go, without leaving any broken hearts behind. The First Doctor, also, was sort of kicking and screaming, refusing to regenerate as well, but, just like Twelve, he finally realized what he needed to do, and let go.
I absolutely loved Bradley’s performance as the First Doctor here, and I loved how they did the transition from the actual footage of “The Tenth Planet” to the Christmas Special; and vice versa in the end, with the Christmas Special transitioning to the actual footage of him transitioning to his regeneration into the Second Doctor.
I also love that the set on that planet they went to was very reminiscent of the sets that were used back in the day. It was obviously a made set, and I loved the red backlights they used as ambience. Many would find that cheesy, but since it’s “Doctor Who”, and I’ve already been through the entirety of the Fourth Doctor (Tom Baker), it’s actually pretty nostalgic.
I also love the fact that they showed all the faces of the Doctor, and I got a kick out of seeing them all there….including John Hurt’s War Doctor!
I love multi-Doctor stories as we get to see them interact with each other, how they react to each other, and how they react to each other’s TARDISes, and this one did not disappoint. I love how the First Doctor doesn’t like Twelve’s TARDIS (which I love and am sad to see go), and how he kept on telling him to STOP with the sonic sunglasses.
I honestly thought that the Twelfth Doctor would be the one to convince the First Doctor to regenerate, but in the end, it was Bill Potts (Pearl Mackie), or rather, her memories, that acted as a spirit guide for both of them. For the First Doctor, it was more of her suggesting things, with the Twelfth Doctor putting in the final push; and with the Twelfth Doctor, he did exactly as Bill asked, to save humankind, which, is precisely what he did, and in doing so, it made him remember why there always needs to be a DOCTOR around.
The Doctor is needed because he, “The Doctor of War”, fights the battles we do not see to save not just humankind, but the universe itself.
Capaldi’s performance was simply brilliant here. I will definitely miss all the nuances that Capaldi brings to the table. I loved the sheer look of disappointment on his face when he discovered that there wasn’t an overly complicated plot involving aliens wanting to take over the world, that look of tenderness in which he said goodbye to Bill, Nardole and Clara Oswald (Jenna Coleman), and that entire farewell speech, which, I believe, was just epic, and very him.
Oh, yes, Clara did appear, and I totally expected her to. After all, all of the regeneration episodes had the Doctor saying goodbye as well to the first faces they saw. For Nine and Ten, it was Rose Tyler (Billie Piper); for Eleven it was Amy Pond (Karen Gillan); and for Twelve, although Bill and Nardole were the last ones he technically did see, it was Clara.
I love that Bill gave Twelve his memories of Clara back, and that from here on out, the Doctor will remember her. I think it’s only fitting. And she was wearing her “Face the Raven”/”Hell Bent” outfit here, which makes me think that things have already come full circle.
I was surprised to see Rusty, but that, quite honestly, was just pure fan service. I knew that the Captain would be a Lethbridge-Stewart and I was right. I just love how that family, no matter what incarnation, has always been by the Doctor’s side, through thick and thin. No wonder the Brig is the Doctor’s best friend, despite the many companions he has had over the years.
This episode was a wonderful exploration about death and memory, and definitely softened the blow, as we were able to properly mourn Twelve’s exit.
Oh, and before I continue, that Christmas Armistice scene just gave me chills.
Interestingly enough, instead of being in total denial or sobbing throughout the episode, this time around, the tears came after the episode. It took several minutes for it to finally sink in, and I started tearing up a little. Well, let’s see how I’ll react when I watch it again right before Season 11 premieres.
I am now a little bit more excited to see what Thirteen will bring to the table. I did expect them to blow up the TARDIS, which they did, and it was interesting that she said “Oh, brilliant!”, and didn’t comment on any body parts like Ten, Eleven and Twelve did.
In the end, “Twice Upon A Time” was breathtakingly beautiful; and a wonderful, quiet, and personal send-off for the First Doctor, the Twelfth Doctor, and the entirety of the Moffat Era. Now, I am ready for what Thirteen and Chibnall will bring!
Just a note, I’ll be doing a full review of Season 10 and will be putting out character guides for Bill, Nardole and the Twelfth Doctor just before Season 11 airs, so look forward to that happening in the future!
What did you think about this Christmas special and Capaldi’s last go as the Twelfth Doctor? Were you okay with Clara and Bill appearing in this episode? Are you excited for the Thirteenth Doctor? Let me know what you think in the comments below!