So, the end of several eras and lots of nostalgia in a Christmas special combining multiple Doctors, plenty of reflection and the thinnest of stories supporting some great performances. Twice Upon a Time delivered what it promised, no less and perhaps no more.
There are many spoilers to follow; you’ve been warned!
Twice Upon a Time perspectives
The story / plot / characters
When even the Doctor notices the lack of actual villain (the glass figures representing the Testimony where something else) and makes his lack of direction clear, you know this isn’t about threat more about character. A wafer thin twist in timelines from two incarnations looping back to World War I to bring back both a familiar family name and a piece of Christmas is a contrivance too far, but we forgive it. Once more immortality (via the Testimony) plays against death and rebirth. It isn’t new territory for Steven Moffat, but given the context of this story, forgivable.
Personally I think more stories could be like this, but given the space I thought the character handling was uneven.
The Twelfth Doctor: had plenty to say and, fair enough, it’s his demise. Towards the end I felt this was amongst Capaldi’s best delivery in the role, though the long regeneration speech did ramble, until the succinct summary just prior to regeneration
The First Doctor: David Bradley was very strong, I liked the explanation for the change of face, didn’t like the overdone sexist dialogue. A fair amount of time was giving to comments around dusting the TARDIS, rather than showing the strength of the character
Bill: ok, it may not have quite been Bill, but the part worked, and I felt Pearl Mackie delivered a more mature performance than many. Given this was the only real twist, I felt there was more potential here in her being part of the Testimony
Captain Lethbridge-Stewart: let’s not beat around the bush, the obvious twist was the one Steven Moffat went for, not the popular on social media creator of the Police Box. Behind all the nostalgia, the coming of the first female incarnation, let’s just give Mark Gatiss some credit for a gentle, superb performance, congratulate Steven Moffat for his compact writing and just enjoy meeting the Brig’s ancestor (grandfather is my assumption)
Now the nostalgia, several short returns for some of those who have graced our screens. No Missy nor River Song, but:
Clara: I liked the memory return, thought Jenna kept it to the point, and the appearance was sweet not cloying
Nardole: as ever, Matt Lucas gives us counterpoint, and it worked for me
Rusty the Dalek: this didn’t work for me, it smacked a bit of the Eleventh Doctor’s ending having Handles. For a writer who seems to avoid overusing the Daleks, I was surprised at this, though it did give a look at mutant Kaleds.
Regeneration and the Thirteenth Doctor
With much preamble, Jodie Whittaker appeared. I really enjoyed the focus on the eyes and seeing her first look at the TARDIS, and her joy at being there, and after a moment’s processing, her delight in being a woman. A great, if short opening comment of ‘brilliant’ at least sets a direction of travel. Less is more, and this is good writing.
I was less taken by the explosion in the TARDIS (I understand a new team wants a new look) and the new Doctor being thrown out, back to Earth. It all seemed very much like Matt Smith’s arrival, and I’d have liked more.
So. Jodie is the Doctor, and I’m fine with that, as I always have been. The New Year promises to give us a new perspective on Doctor Who, and I for one look forward to it.
Merry Christmas and a Happy 2018 to all!