Currently reading: Review: Doctor Who – Christmas Special 2017
Review: Doctor Who – Christmas Special 2017
Posted on 25th December, 2017 - By Jonathan Hezzlewood
Twice Upon A Time
It’s that time of year again. The time of The Doctor, and the highly-anticipated Christmas Special.
Not only has it been a while since The Doctor last graced our screens, but this feature-length episode marks the final outing for Peter Capaldi‘s Twelfth Doctor.
Please Note: This review contains slight SPOILERS, so if you haven’t yet watched the episode… be warned!
Review: Rundown & Verdict
As you hopefully agree, since Capaldi stepped into the shoes of The Doctor over 3 years ago; in the episode Deep Breath, I have been completely drawn in to his version of the Time Lord.
Overall, the episode was a satisfactory send-off for the Twelfth Doctor. Although there are elements of the episode that I thought were absolutely brilliant, I also found certain elements were either lacking or laboured to the point were I was close to losing interest.
That said, it did hit my nostalgic synapse, thanks to the inclusion of the First Doctor; and the original T.A.R.D.I.S.
So, lets breakdown what worked and what didn’t…
Written by long-time Doctor Who show-runner; Steven Moffat (who is also departing the series after this episode, alongside Peter Capaldi), we pick up immediately where the series 10 finale left off. With the Twelfth Doctor staving-off the need to regenerate, he crosses paths with the First Doctor – who is also refusing the succumb to his first death.
As a result of their stubbornness, whilst bickering in the South Pole; both Time Lords find themselves interrupted by a British World War One Captain, who asks:
“I don’t suppose either of you is a doctor?”
To which, Twelve replies:
“You trying to be funny?”
Role the excellent opening credits, the intrigue and excitement.
Now, although I found the story satisfactory, I was somewhat disappointed (as was Capaldi‘s Time Lord) by the lack of a major threat for both Doctor‘s to battle against. Instead, the episode is about them coming to terms with their impending demise, add to that the inclusion of the British Captain and also the return of previous companion; Bill Potts – each of which also have to accept there mortality.
I don’t want to spoil too much about the plot itself, as I’d rather you watch it and make you own mind up. But for me, the strongest element of the episode was how the two different generations of Time Lord play off, and also learn from one-another.
Lastly from a story point-of-view, it was bittersweet to see some old friends (and an ally) return to say goodbye, before new show-runner; Chris Chibnall, starts afresh with the entire new cast in series 11.
As I’ve stated earlier, Peter Capaldi is absolutely brilliant as The Doctor. His demeanour with others – especially the First Doctor – is superb. The delivery of his lines, especially when bouncing off the other cast members, is really strong.
Unfortunately, his final speech felt a little laboured, repeating certain elements more than once; resulted in me wanting the scene to be over, rather than feeling it tug on my heart-strings – as I am sure was the intention.
Loveable, grumpy and slightly eccentric – plus, lets not forget those angry ‘attack’ eyebrows. I am sad to see him go.
Clashing perfectly with Capaldi, is David Bradley‘s portrayal of the First Doctor. Stepping into the shoes of William Hartnell is no easy task, but as proven before – in the 2013 Doctor Who dramatisation; An Adventure in Space and Time – he is the perfect choice to take over the iconic role.
Although many of the things the first Time Lord expresses did make me laugh, they did turn into “eye-rolling” moments when they continued later on – although this is more a reflection of the writers feeling the need to labour certain points, rather than Bradley‘s performance itself.
He most-certainly looks the part, even down to his physical stance, but for me; some of the things his character says didn’t feel quite Hartnell.
That said, it has been a few years since I watched any Hartnell episodes – so I’m not 100% sure on this.
Mark Gatiss & Pearl Mackie:
Both supporting roles are good, with Mark Gatiss clearly enjoying playing the military Captain, and Pearl Mackie slipping comfortably into the role of previous companion; Bill Potts.
Each of them are strong on-screen, but the main focus is on both of the afore mentioned Time Lords.
The tone of Twice Upon A Time is quite mild, which for me; was disappointing.
I appreciate that not everything has to be about conflict and threat, and that sometimes – just sometimes – it can be about accepting defeat and coming together to be stronger.
A vast chunk of the 2017 Christmas Special focuses on nostalgia, having two very distant generations of The Doctor come together, has been something that fans have missed for quite a while. We also get to see each Time Lord step into the other’s T.A.R.D.I.S., which was a nice, and welcome touch.
Add to that, the incorporation of footage from William Hartnell‘s final episodes; The Tenth Planet, was fantastic and really did give me goosebumps.
Plus, when Mark Gatiss‘ character’s name is revealed, it will no-doubt give many of you a little jump inside; as it did me.
The closing shots of the World War One ceasefire (which really did happen) hit an emotional chord, as groups of soldiers ignored the commands of their Generals, and agreed to a truce – sharing handshakes, presents and games of football.
Lastly, the way the T.A.R.D.I.S. responds to the Twelfth Doctor beginning to regenerate reminded me of the final episode of Christopher Eccleston‘s Ninth Doctor; The Parting of the Ways.
The orange-gold glow of the centre console, plus the sounds the Police Box makes, shows that she is clearly in distress, and uncertain about what lies beyond that familiar face.
Twice Upon A Time was shot well, but there was only one main area of the episode that really let you appreciate the work that has gone into the camerawork for the episode.
From nice long shots of both T.A.R.D.I.S.es warping into view on the battlefield, the panning camerawork capturing the vastness of No Mans Land, to the more confined shots from inside each version of the T.A.R.D.I.S.
Director Rachel Talalaym and the camera-crew did a great job of immersing the audience in the midst of the First World War, and I can only hope that Chibnall (new Who show-runner) gets her back for future episodes.
Murray Gold‘s score is very good, with elements from previous episodes and iterations of the Time Lord working there way into the soundtrack, during certain scenes.
Unfortunately, due to the lack of threat and intense scenes within the episodes itself, this results in his score not being as memorable as I’ve come to expect.
That said, since joining Doctor Who in 2005, his work on the show has been really well received. Although it is unclear at the time of writing as to whether Murray Gold will be returning for series 11. I for one, hope he does.
Overall, Twice Upon A Time was a decent ending to the Capaldi era of Doctor Who.
Exploring the relationship between two generations of the iconic Time Lord, whilst incorporating footage from the original episodes that aired over 51 years ago, was brilliant.
The story was okay, but lacked the excitement and intriguing that I associate with the stronger episodes of Doctor Who.
Rather than simply investigate a force for good (Testimony), for me; it would have been cool to see both the Twelfth and First Doctor team-up to defeat an iconic foe, such as the Daleks, or perhaps the ultra-creepy Clockwork Droids.
Although I am looking-forward to what is in-store for the Thirteenth Doctor, I must admit; I have grown extremely fond of Peter Capaldi‘s grumpy, no-nonsense portrayal of the legendary Time Lord.
Farewell, Twelve. You and your “angry eyebrows” will be missed.
12 + 1 = 13
It seems rather fitting that the episode where the Twelfth and First Doctor meet; and subsequently team-up, should then result in the passing of the torch, from Peter Capaldi to Jodie Whittaker – welcoming in the Thirteenth Doctor.
Fingers-crossed, with a new leading lady, and fresh guidance behind-the-scenes in the form of Chris Chibnall; this will lead to a bright and exciting future for Doctor Who.
Time for Your Thoughts?
Do you agree with what I had to say?
Comments below and let me know what you thought of Peter Capaldi‘s final outing as The Doctor.
Let me know what you liked and didn’t like about Twice Upon A Time, and also; what you hope to see in the future of Doctor Who.
Master of Who?
Oh, and check out my Top 10 list of actors/actresses I’d like to play the next regeneration of The Master.
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