About the only Christmas tradition which exists in our household is the Doctor Who Christmas Special – and that’s more a fact of life than our own little concoction. Everybody should watch Doctor Who at Christmas. Everybody should watch Doctor Who, really. The specials don’t tend to be very good – honestly, there are very few I like – but this was a particularly special event, one which hasn’t occurred since The End of Time on January 1st, 2010, really. The demise and departure of a Doctor, dragged kicking and screaming by a tired, fired head writer. First Russell T. Davies, paving the way for the era of the Grand Moff – and now he too is ascending to Doctor Who Heaven, leaving the driving seat warm for Chris Chibnall, Jodie Whittaker, and the whole new team.
It’s Twice Upon a Time, lads.
How was the episode? Good. Very good. Different – perhaps not everybody’s cup of tea, I suspect. Slow, thoughtful. A meditation on regeneration, and a little detour to stop some aliens who actually didn’t need to be stopped. Throughout his twelve (heh) years writing for Who, Steven Moffat has tried to subvert our expectations almost always, and he couldn’t resist one last go. This wasn’t really an episode filled with plot, of course. Moffat and co have earned the right to give that a rest, instead focusing purely on character, and it is greatly appreciated. Every regeneration story since the revival has been seismic. It’s fitting that this time around, things are a little more subdued and introspective, for a Doctor who isn’t quite as bombastic as his predecessors; the fate of the universe wasn’t at stake, nor of time, really. There was no sense of urgency, even though the premise (two Doctors refusing to regenerate, stopping time from progressing) is relatively urgent. That’s okay. The Doctor Falls was the grand finale – this is the epilogue.
Regeneration episodes are always odd. You’re watching an entire story with one actor, who suddenly transforms into somebody completely different. But they’re still the same person. Two different actors, playing the exact same character. It’s jarring, particularly so in this instance: the first female Doctor! It was inevitable, and it will be wonderful.
And yet, to say hello necessitates saying goodbye, and it is incredibly sad to say goodbye to Twelve (I refer to Doctors by their numbers). I’m one of those who thinks he’s been an absolutely brilliant Doctor, saddled with a creeping stench of stagnation. The era of the Twelfth has been nowhere near as imaginative or lively as Eleven’s, or even Ten’s. It’s gone by so fast, and there hasn’t felt like much more to it beyond Clara (an Eleven holdover), Bill, Nardole, and Missy. Perhaps that’s just my age creeping up on me, as it did for Twelve.
What a goodbye, though. Twelve will be remembered for his monologues, along with his pitch-perfect ‘Breaking the Wall’ theme from Murray Gold (another departure, sadly), so it was only fitting that he went out with both. Of course Twelve would bid this body goodbye with a message for the future – a message which could just as easily be coming from Peter Capaldi and Steven Moffat, scribbled across some psychic paper left over in a Cardiff quarry. Instructions. Don’t deviate. Don’t stray too far from the path of the Doctor.
There it is.. The silly old universe. The more I save it, the more it needs saving, it’s a treadmill. Yes, yes I know. They’ll get it all wrong without me. Well, I suppose, one more lifetime wouldn’t kill anyone.
Never be cruel, never be cowardly.
And never, ever eat pears!
Remember, hate is always foolish and love is always wise.
Always try to be nice, but never fail to be kind!
Doctor.. I let you go.
Bless you, Twelve, and goodbye. Thank you Capaldi, and thank you Moffat. For all of your faults. We’ll miss you both dearly, and the fans will no doubt be clamouring for your return after the Series 11 Premiere. “It’s gone so downhill since this Chibnall bloke took over.”
But for now…