One More Adventure In Time And Space For The Twelfth Doctor
♦ Tripwire’s contributing writer ROB CAVE takes a look at the Doctor Who Christmas Special, which was on BBC1 on Christmas Day…
Doctor Who Christmas Special 2017
Twice Upon a Time
Director: Rachel Talalay
Writer: Steven Moffat
Stars: Peter Capaldi, David Bradley, Pearl Mackie, Mark Gatiss
Ah, that was lovely. It’s just what I wanted. No, I’m not just saying that to be kind, although the Doctor would certainly approve if I were. No, the latest festive episode of Doctor Who was like Christmas present from someone who knows vaguely what you like, but not necessarily what you want. I’d go even further to suggest that the best presents, like the best stories, have very little to do with what we might profess to want, but that is an argument for another Christmas.
The episode picks up where the last season left off, with Peter Capaldi’s Doctor, mortally wounded and attempting to hold back his regeneration amidst the snow and ice of Antarctica. Cut to David Bradley playing a much earlier Doctor who is on the brink of his own regeneration.
Bradley is, of course, no stranger to the show. He played the villain Solomon in 2012’s Dinosaurs on a Spaceship as well as William Hartnell in the 2013 docudrama An Adventure in Space and Time and it is a joy to see him take on the role of the First Doctor. It is also a joy to have Pearl Mackie back as a simulation of Bill. I would have like to have seen more of her on the show, but am certain Mackie will go on to bigger and better things in the future. Just remember where you saw her first.
Then there was Mark Gatiss playing not just any World War I soldier, but the ancestor of the show’s most prominent military man, Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart. This could have felt contrived, but I was sold in part because of Gatiss’s understated performance.
But what I liked most about this episode was the lack of a monster. Sure, there was that unexpected call-back to the 2014 episode Into the Dalek, but they were superfluous to the plot, as were the Testimony avatars, who served largely as a means for a few companion cameos and an opportunity to undo a piece of continuity showrunner Steven Moffat apparently now regrets.
This was really a tale of a Gallifreyan heart in conflict with itself. And although resolution of this conflict was never truly in doubt, it really did work as a conclusion and envoi to both Capaldi’s enjoyable run as the Doctor and Moffat’s rollercoaster tenure as showrunner.
As the series once again stands on the brink of change as Chris Chibnall takes over the reins, there are two top talents I hope will return under his regime. Firstly writer Sarah Dollard, whose episode, Thin Ice, was my standout favourite of the 2017 season. Secondly director Rachel Talalay, who brings the show a big screen sensibility and a wealth of experience.
What apparently won’t be staying the same is the Tardis control room set. I’m sorry to see it go, but its fun to view its destruction as more of a consequence of a delayed regeneration than an incoming show runner. It was also delightful to see the excitement in Jodie Whittaker’s face as she sees her own reflection for the first time. Wherever she ends up landing for her first adventure I’m confident it will be, in her words “brilliant.” And I cannot wait to see it.