The 12th Doctor – Doctor Who Specials – “Twice Upon a Time” – Reflecting, Critiquing and Honoring the Old to the New to Bring the 13th Doctor

For Steven Moffat’s last outing as showrunner, this is an episode that manages to both honor and critique the show’s past while capturing a great deal about what made Capaldi’s run so enjoyable, even if it was often Moffat’s writing that ruined the early episodes of his run. This is a lot better than the last Christmas Special but not as good as “A Christmas Carol,” which managed to keep the Christmas feel without losing the Doctor Who feel either. This one keeps the Christmas at a minimum and it is truly the episode’s strength. Characters drive story so often in Doctor Who and this episode remembers that.¬† For my non-spoiler thoughts, I enjoyed it, especially everything with Capaldi.

“Twice Upon a Time” was directed by Rachel Talalay and written by Steven Moffat.

The story involves the 12th Doctor stumbling upon his 1st incarnation as both of them debate whether they should regenerate as a mysterious threat known as Harmony forces them to confront, what it means to be the Doctor.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros: The Sense of History – This is an episode that kicks off with the 1st Doctor’s final episode as a flashback and fills in the blank by having the 1st Doctor resist regeneration as well, which leads him running into 12 and a World War 1 captain pulled out of time, and revisiting Rusty, the good Dalek (From Capaldi’s “Into the Dalek,”) who hates Daleks and the Doctor and helps the Doctor learn who Harmony is. The sense of history is never lost as well as eventually the Captain is returned to the day he was pulled from by Harmony, the alien threat in this episode. The Captain is also significant in regards to history in relation to the Doctor, which I will go into later.

¬†Harmony¬†– Harmony is a program created by future humans who record copies of people at their point of death in order to create copies of them that can exist forever. This is how the Doctor gets to adventure with Bill once more and say good-bye to Nardole. Nardole and Bill both died at their time of meeting the Doctor and there is power in that as he is dying too. I’m glad Moffat did this, even though there is a moment that cheapens the finality of death a little bit.

World War 1 and the Christmas Resolution – The Captain, who we learn is a Lethbridge-Stewart and we see how he and the Doctor are connected as the First Doctor promises to keep an eye on his family, leading to that family’s relationship with the Doctors through history. Capaldi also saves him as he leaves him a few hours ahead of his death, and in turn they experience the Christmas Truce during World War 1, which also gives more power to the Doctor being The Doctor of War as his whole goal is to save people and make miracles when so much of the universe is things not working and people not being saved. It was a great way to make it a Christmas Special without the kitch nature that inhabited so many other Moffat Christmas Specials.

Twelve’s Good-bye – Twelve ends accepting that the universe would be a much worse place without him, and before saying good-bye makes himself promise to remember what it means to be the Doctor. It is a powerful moment and easily one of the best regeneration in the series thus far.

Thirteen’s Introduction – The Doctor needs to stop regenerating in the TARDIS. When 12 becomes 13 the TARDIS is wrecked and throws out Whittaker’s Doctor before disappearing and exploding as she falls. Before she has a beautiful moment where she sees her face, and says “Brilliant,” and after that it all goes to crap. Can’t wait to see how she survives and gets the TARDIS back. Chibnall has a lot of setup to go off of to make a great series and I can’t wait to see 13 in action.

Okay: Clara – Harmony gives the Doctor back his memories of Clara and she gets on his case for forgetting him. I wanted to hate this, but I couldn’t…I just wish Donna could get her memories back too. I may not have been a fan of Clara as a companion, but she was in some solid episodes and she had a great good-byes that were ruined, but that is not her fault, that is Moffat’s fault.

The Cons: The First Doctor Versus the Era He Lived In – David Bradley is great as the First Doctor, my only issue is they play up the sexism from the era he was in when the First Doctor wasn’t like that, as far as the episodes I remember. I could be completely wrong and I’m glad Capaldi and Bill show how wrong the sexist mindset that was so prevalent in that era was, but it could have been done with the Captain Lethbridge-Stewart. I could be wrong as well, it has been a while since I watched the First Doctor but I don’t remember him ever acting that way in the episodes I watched (from treating all women as domestic helpers, assuming men as always right, etc.). I liked what Moffat was trying to do, I dislike his execution. His execution failed and just made the episode awkward as well as taking away from real exploration of lore from the First Series of Doctor Who, and who the Doctor’s First Incarnation was.

I’m going to miss Capaldi. He is my favorite of all the new Doctors as his arc felt complete. He goes from not caring about humanity, to finding reasons to care once more, to the experiencing of loss and from that not wanting to regenerate so the pain can just stop as he feels hopeless in changing things as there are always more threats…to choosing to the be the Doctor once more and letting go of his ego so he can regenerate into someone new. 11 never changed, 10 just go more marose, 9 had a very short arc of working through his PTSD from the Time War…but Capaldi got the full arc. I may write more about his era and the Moffat era as a whole later, but for now…if you like Capaldi or are excited for Jodie Whittaker, give this episode a chance. She has a great introduction sent off from a fantastic good-bye.

Final Score: 9.3 / 10

 

Advertisements

12 Days of Doctors – The 1st Doctor – Season 1, Episode 1 – “An Unearthly Child” – An Okay Start

An Unearthly Child

“An Unearthly Child,” with William Hartnell is the first ever Doctor Who episode. The episode was broadcast on November 23rd, 1963. The writer for the episode was Anthony Coburn and Webber and the director was Waris Hussein. This was a big risk to take, no one had really done the concept of the time traveling man in a tv series before this. How does the episode hold up? Well I’ll get into that in the assessment.

“An Unearthly Child,” begins with two teachers Barbara and Ian worrying about their new pupil Susan who has been both super brilliant and in their minds oblivious on a lot of things. When they go to where she lives they find nothing there but eventually are drawn to a police box. From here they run into The Doctor her grandfather and the conflict unfolds.

Here is the assessment of the episode:

Pros: The idea – The idea is fantastic. A time traveling alien who looks like us visiting the present with his granddaughter. Why is he there? Why can’t he get home? These are the questions that are posed to us in the first episode as well as reveal how would a refugee alien interact with species that he is so much more advanced than technologically.

An Unearthly Child 13

The First Doctor – I like the First Doctor, you have a guy who tackles the world from a point of separation because for him most of this has already happened, not to mention he fears Susan getting hurt or people learning about who he is initially. It is only because of Susan that Ian and Barbara learn who he is and he deals with their denial of it (largely from Ian) for a good portion of the episode. I don’t know anyone who would willingly choose to put up with that. He is old but he is also childlike too, at one point he traps Ian and Barbara and when Susan says she will leave him with them…leaving him alone he turns on the T.A.R.D.I.S. (Time and Relative Dimension in Space) in order to run away from them revealing him to the world and running away from Susan leaving. This running is a major part of his character and why he wasn’t on Gallifrey in the first place. Hartnell is fantastic in the role.

TARDIS An Unearthly Child

The T.A.R.D.I.S. – Looks like a police box, inside is shows the larger interior of the space ship. It is a great introduction to this vehicle and we get to see it go back in time when the First Doctor runs away with them in it.

Okay/Con – The Companions – The teachers are concerned but are unable to accept the truth that is right in front of them, Susan is also pretty useless too. She is the innocent who must be protected and the one time she tries having agency leads to the Doctor running. Susan, Barbara and Ian are basically generic people in this…which is a shame since Susan is a Time Lord too, but we don’t really get that beyond her knowledge that she most likely got from the Doctor, making her no more than a generic human companion who those with agency (the Teachers and the Doctor) try to protect.

Execution – The teachers are stalking a student because they are worried, and Susan does not look 15. This would have worked much better at a British University or school where her disappearance tied to her age would be more noticed, or cast someone who looks like they are a teenager.

So, how is the first outing with the Doctor and our first time with the First Doctor? It is Okay. The T.A.R.D.I.S. and the Doctor are the best parts, but the script isn’t really elevated. I would have continued watching if I was watching it when it first aired cause I’d be curious where they were taken to and I would like to see more character development from the companions and learn more about the Doctor. I wish the Doctor had been introduced earlier in the episode, we don’t even meet him until it is already halfway though and Barbara and Ian cannot carry the script.

I recommend it because it is the first episode, but it is very average and forgettable. Going to give it an extra point because it does introduce us to the Doctor and the T.A.R.D.I.S. though.

Final score is 6 / 10.