What an exciting time to be a Whovian. We have a new showrunner and a female Doctor on the way, but before we get there, we had the final story of the highly interesting Peter Capaldi era, and by an extension Steven Moffat’s time as showrunner. By “interesting” I mean that no matter what you think of this past era, whether you think it’s a new Golden Age or a complete mess (I’ve seen strong arguments for both sides), it has been fascinating to watch. It has all come to an end with the incredibly low key adventure Twice Upon a Time. This story had a lot riding on it- it had to write off the Twelfth Doctor, give the First Doctor a good reason to regenerate, follow through on one of the absolute best Doctor Who stories and a very strong series and do all that whilst being cohesive. Did it do that? Mostly.
Let’s deal with the elephant in the room here- this was not the First Doctor. Whilst I’m not denying that David Bradley did a great job recreating William Hartnell’s tics and mannerisms, Steven Moffat’s writing just really let the side down. I understand what he was trying to do- he was using the First Doctor as a way to critique 60’s attitudes and mentality and show how far the show has come. The issue is that it goes against the First Doctor’s character. Yes, in Season 1 he was incredibly condescending, rude and abrasive to everyone. But this is supposed to be the Tenth Planet First Doctor in Season 4, who is a lot more like his future selves and accepting of everyone. Any sexist or discriminatory remarks or actions were a product of the time the stories were made, not the character himself. The First Doctor has been established as being the same as the others in mentality, as all the references to his childhood on Gallifrey refer to the idea that Time Lords have no set gender. So why One would be condescending towards women?
Another issue is that Moffat’s intentions are good, but not necessary because the show has done a fantastic job of moving away from the 60’s mentality. Having a female Doctor is a strong enough statement to show that the show has come far from the idea that the female companion was second tier to the masculine Doctor and companions (even then, Barbara is an excellent character who is a very strong female companion in the 60’s). We’ve had strong, diverse characters and the show has made great leaps in progress. Moffat really didn’t need to emphasise the differences between the 60’s and now because people know. Fans know that Toberman from Tomb of the Cybermen is not equatable to Martha, Mickey and Bill and that the modern era’s strong female characters are evidence of the show changing.
So, other than that massive issue, how was the episode? Pretty decent.
Whilst I would have loved the Twelfth Doctor to regenerate in The Doctor Falls, I was pretty happy with this episode. The best aspect of it is how it fixed one of my biggest problems with the Capaldi era and actually brought together all three seasons of his era together. His era had felt disjointed and unconnected, with no real continuity between them. This is probably due to Moffat completely changing Twelve’s behaviour and story arcs after Series 8 flopped with many people. After that you had Series 9, seen as an improvement by some but more of the same for others. Following this there was Series 10 which had a completely different tone and style again. In contrast to the other New Series Doctors, Capaldi’s run hasn’t been the most connected or well thought out.
So when everything got connected here, I was happy. Rusty the Dalek was a great callback, the stupid stupid memory wipe was erased and Clara returned briefly, which despite everything I’ve said about her I really liked. It was a great way to connect the era and I liked how Bill and Nardole were incorporated as well, allowing Twelve to say goodbye to all his companions. I would have liked to see Missy as well so that the Doctor would know she ultimately died fighting for him but that’s a minor gripe. Capaldi’s era has been retroactively improved by the inclusion of Clara in this story and the removal of one of the worst aspects of Hell Bent. I might actually like it now. Emphasis on “might”.
The story itself was very interesting and it had great ideas. The Testimony are a great idea which I would like to see again, and it’s great that they weren’t a villain and the situation were a misunderstanding. Although I am desperate for truly evil and memorable villains in the show again. The inclusion of the General was great, as he added some gravitas to the story and connected the plot to the wider Whoniverse. The Christmas Truce was a great touch with real meaning and weight to it, although I saw it coming. There isn’t too much to the plot, as there isn’t really one, but I can forgive it as it was more of a character piece. But again, I am so desperate for in depth stories and monsters again. It’s also great how this story brought Bill back without ruining her departure in the finale, which I thought was excellent.
Despite having many issues with the First Doctor, I did like some aspects of his interactions with the Twelfth Doctor. I loved how he learnt about change and how seeing his future set him on the path to regenerate, and the opening scene with The Tenth Planet was amazing. The Twelfth Doctor was utter gold, and it’s one of his best portrayals. The Doctor Falls was all about the Doctor earning his rest after so many years of fighting, whilst Twice Upon a Time is about him deciding he doesn’t need it and that the universe would be worse off without him. To top it all off, we get an amazing final speech and one final, brilliant performance from Peter Capaldi. Even in his worst scripts, he has shone.
So in conclusion, pretty decent. This wouldn’t make my Top 10 Capaldi stories or my Top 5 Christmas Specials but it was pretty enjoyable on the whole. Can’t wait for the next series.
Wait, there was something else?
Oh yeah, Jodie Whittaker as the Thirteenth Doctor.
I’ll be absolutely honest here and say that this is the quickest I have accepted a new Doctor. Excluding David Tennant, who was my first, it took me roughly around Vampires of Venice to truly “get” Matt Smith’s Doctor (now my favourite) and I don’t know when I accepted Peter Capaldi. It certainly took a while, but by The Zygon Inversion I truly got into his incarnation and until Series 10 before I consistently enjoyed him. With Jodie Whittaker, all it took for me to see her as the Doctor was her grin and proclaiming “Oh brilliant”, before being immediately thrown out of an exploding TARDIS in the most Doctorly sequence imaginable. I’m sold already.
Bring on Series 11.