“Twice Upon a Time”, a Doctor Who special episode written by Steven Moffat was the thirteenth Christmas special from the television series and was aired on 25th December 2017. Perhaps the team at Doctor Who decided to take it easy and that no one would notice because of the Christmas cheer, but the episode was bland and lacking in creativity. It was short of an adventure like other Doctor Who episodes, but giving credit where it’s due, it has a deeper and more subliminal meaning to it.

Final episode for characters

This Christmas special is the last appearance of the Twelfth Doctor played by Peter Capaldi. It doesn’t seem coincidental that the episodes “World Enough and Time” and “The Doctor Falls” teased the conclusion of the doctor’s life which ends in “Twice Upon a Time”. The doctor regenerates as Jodie Whittaker, which is the very first female incarnation of the Doctor in the history of the series. It is also the final episode of the Steven Moffat era and the final Doctor Who episode. The main story revolves around the Doctor nearing regeneration and accidentally meeting his younger self who refuses to change. It takes much convincing to assure the Doctors that the universe still needs them.

Lessons from “Twice Upon a Time”

There is a glaring lesson that Steven Moffat riveted into this episode as a kind of sendoff for his great writing career in Doctor Who. The lesson is that the younger a person is, the more seriously they take themselves. But as people get older, everything becomes idyllic and a charade, however good or bad the circumstance is.

This is evidenced by the Doctor’s regeneration and is played out many more times than in any other episode involving multiple Doctors. A few characters made their return to the series such as Pearl Mackie who was featured for only one season. Jenna Coleman also returns as Clara, and the Doctor gets back his memories of her as a final gift. Although Clara’s character was only briefly seen, it is nice to have her back and for the Doctor to get a proper send-off.

Villains lacking in the Christmas special

It is unusual for a Doctor Who episode to lack a “baddie” or a villain character. In this episode, Rusty who appeared in 2014’s Into the Dalek, turned his back on his kind and allies himself with the “good” side in an unusual alliance. The Doctor is paradoxically the villain in this episode since his refusal and resistance to survive brings unwanted consequences to everyone else. Although the universe constantly needs to be saved, which ultimately drains his energy and zeal, the Doctor is the only one who can prevent such a fatal mistake. Steven Moffat factored this in by making it a multi-Doctor story so that the Doctor is able to meet himself and reconsider his options.

Final plot twists

Moffat had a Christmas surprise for the fans and removed the sequence that introduces Jodie Whitaker from all the previews.  Apart from the production team and the actors, nobody else knew about it until Christmas Day. Capaldi’s final appearance also draws the audience emotionally since fans will miss him dearly. In a final plot twist, The Captain, played by Gatiss, is exposed as Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart’s relation.

Bah Humbug

It’s extremely sad when a dream is shattered and left on the ground in pieces. Unfortunately that is exactly what happened with this years Christmas edition of Doctor Who. Right from the beginning as the Doctor plunged through the vacuum of space (apparently without needing to breath at all) struggling to make his way into a space suit as it plummeted towards the Earth it was bad and just got worse as the episode progressed.

While I know that generally the Christmas specials are even more camp and family oriented than other episodes of this show (it is in fact the one time when my wife and both children join me in watching one of my favorite shows) and that I definitely should not expect their to be any actual “science” in this iconic Science-Fiction show this most recent episode was just annoying from beginning to almost the end.

Science doesn’t matter!

In a nutshell – The Doctor plunges to Earth in the borrowed spacesuit and somehow manages to get his helmet on backwards … surviving re-entry with nothing broken or damaged and only a very small and shallow depression, he is succored by a passing motorist (I’m not going to bother with names really as none were that memorable … well that’s not really the case – like most specials, the BBC has managed to rope in some of the best talent in the UK, but I really don’t care about them in this episode so I’m not going to mention their names!) who helps him back to the Tardis. She somehow manages to pick the lock of the Tardis (I’m not sure if she is actually picking the lock or not as they do show a scene seconds later where the Doctor seems to indicate he’s in the wrong place … I hope not as if she can pick the lock of the Tardis with a bobby pin, this episode is even more wrong than it would otherwise be!), and the Doctor thanks her for her help and says if she ever needs any help, she just needs to “wish” for him.

Returning home, the lady/wife/mother meets her husband who is reading a paper about the war (the 2nd world war) and says he shouldn’t be talking about it. Jumping ahead 3 years we see that the husband/father/man is now the pilot of a British bomber on its way back across the channel. With one engine blown out, his plane crashes somewhere over the channel and the lady gets a telegram informing her of his death. With two children in tow, she sets off to her uncle’s home so that the children can have a happy holiday and not think of Christmas as the day when their father died.

The Caretaker

Arriving at the home, they meet the Doctor – or as he calls himself in this episode – The Caretaker (I have to ask … I know that at the end of this most recent season, he (The Doctor) indicated that he needed to be more in the shadows … but is calling himself by a different name sufficient? After all, with all of time and space, eventually people will just realize that “The Caretaker” seems to do the same things that the The Doctor used to??) – who leads them around the house showing them lots of weird and wonderful things. Honestly though, what was the point of the room with the dancing chairs and while the children’s room was nice … it was not exceptional … I also know that Matt Smith is meant to be a bit manic as The Doctor, but he was talking much too fast when he was describing this room – it was just annoying.

Anyways, eventually he shows them a big box which is their Christmas present and everyone goes to bed.

The little boy sneaks down to open the Christmas present early (I know that all kids want to do this, but mine aren’t allowed to? Christmas is fun when you open the presents together around the tree and throw the wrapping paper all over each other … I think that most kids realize this also!) while his sister is upstairs talking to the Doctor. Long story short, the little boy climbs into the box which takes him to a planet inhabited by Christmas (Pine) Trees that are sentient. The trees are about to be mined by a company and need to figure out a way to save themselves … eventually the Doctor, little girl and mother make their way to the planet also through the Christmas box/portal and it turns out that the savior of the trees is the mother … because mom’s are “strong”. Somehow she is able to navigate the ship that the trees have created/grown for themselves through the time vortex back to Earth indirectly saving her husband also (yeah, happy Christmas!!). There’s lots of stuff here about the trees creating a wooden King and Queen in human form (why?) and the company that is strip mining the planet using acid rain to do so – umm, ok? – but pretty much what I said earlier covers it.

Back on the Earth, the mom tells the Doctor that he needs to see his family as everyone needs to be with family on Christmas and the Doctor listens to her. Pure and utter horribleness throughout … the only saving grace to this episode are literally the last 3-5 minutes.

Finally – the good stuff!!

The Doctor knocks on the door of a house and Amy Pond opens it – they have a very touching reunion and when Rory joins them, he states that they always set a seat at their table for The Doctor. Rory looks a bit older but Amelia looks exactly the same and The Doctor has a tear in his eye as he closes the door to spend Christmas with his family.

I know that Christmas episodes generally have nothing to do with the overall story arc/mythology of the Doctor Who universe, but I really, really hope that they never show another episode that is as disjointed and annoying as this one. Please listen to a lifelong fan of the show and give us more. Matt Smith was good, I’ve liked him almost from the first, but he needs to have the right materials to play with and you have really not given them to him here.

The End of Time – Part I

A Christmas two-part’er for the final episodes of the 10th Doctors incarnation sees The Master & The Timelords return!!!

Summary of Part 1

When The Doctor goes to visit the Ood, he is informed that The Master is returning and also that “something” else from the Darkness is returning also. Rushing off to Earth to stop the Master’s return, the Doctor arrives too late and a new – more monstrous – version of The Master has returned. His rejuvenation attempt not fully completed due to the intervention of Lucy Saxon – The Master is now voracious for Life Force and is feeding of humans to get it!!

The Doctor confronting The Master in this incarnation is unable to stop him and is forced to acknowledge that the drumming that The Master is constantly mentioning is in fact real (I love it when series authors are able to tie back a single plot device to something so much larger … I really have to give them credit for mapping it all out in advance in this way) and that The Master is not insane. Appealing to The Master to help him in dealing with the “something from the darkness” The Master is instead captured and The Doctor left behind.

The Doctor meets Wilfred Mott (Donna’s grandfather) – who acts as The Doctor’s companion in this episode and together they track down The Master who has been captured by Naismith. Naismith is using The Master to rebuild an alien device that he has come across called the Immortality Gate. Unbeknown to Naismith however is the fact that two of his assistants are in fact aliens in disguise – Vinvocci – and are there to salvage the Gate. The Master given access to the Gate by Naismith is able to quickly restore it to working order.

While this has happened, the Doctor has discovered where the Master has been taken and journeys there with Wilf to try and stop him. Once again, discovering too late what the Master is working on, he is unable to stop the Master from entering the Gate and imprinting himself on every Human being on Earth except – Wilf, The Doctor and Donna Noble!

Part One ends revealing that the Narrator, who has appeared throughout the episode warning of the end of humanity on Christmas Day is the Leader of the Time Lords, and he announces that this is the day that the Time Lords will return!!

My Thoughts –

OK, as mentioned … I love the fact that the Sound of the Drums is real and that it could portend something much greater. I love the fact that the Master is able to use his Life Force as a weapon (& a source of propulsion!) and the skull effect is brilliant. On the positive side … The TimeLords have returned! WOW … didn’t see that one coming at all. Throughout this new incarnation of the Doctor, the fact that he is the “last of the TimeLords” is something that has impacted him greatly … with their return … what’s going to happen now???

Now – on the negative side … while The Master taking over the whole human race in such a fashion is cool … the overall effect seemed very “Matrixy” to me – how about you? Didn’t it just seem like Agent Smith assimilating everyone?

The End of Time – Part II

Summary of Episode –

Captured and taunted by The Master, The Doctor and Wilf are saved by the Vinvocci. Escaping from the multiple Masters, they go into hiding in the Vinvocci ship that is orbiting the Earth. Quickly realizing that The Master could easily destroy the ship, The Doctor disables the ship and hides it from the Earth based sensors.

Unable to find The Doctor, the world of Master’s concentrate on the“sound of drums” – this sound amplified a billion times becomes clearer and The TimeLords are able to use it to send a focusing device through the Time Lock. This focus – a fallen Gallifreyan diamond, called a Whitepoint Star is immediately recognizable by The Master and The Doctor. As these diamonds are only available on Gallifrey, The Doctor realizes that The TimeLords have found a loophole and are going to escape from the Time War.

Contrary to expectations, The Doctor is NOT happy that the TimeLords are returning and he indicates in no uncertain way that in the Final Days of the Time War, the TimeLords changed from their more benevolent selves into a fanatical race, willing to do anything and everything to win.
The Doctor quickly rushes to stop The Master, but once again arrives too late as the Time Lord Council appears through the Immortality Gate. The Master plans to use the Gate now to imprint himself on all Time Lords, but the Time Lord President stops him and undoes the previous change by the Gate and restores humanity. The President then reveals that now freed of the Time Lock, the Time Lords will end time and creation itself in order to live eternally as pure consciousness.

The Doctor tells The Master that that is why he had to stop the Time Lords at the end of the Time War, as he knew they were planning that. Gallifrey begins to materialise by the Earth, and the Doctor reveals that it will soon be followed by all the other horrors from the Time War.
The Doctor determines that instead of killing The Master or the President, he can instead use Wilfs gun to destroy the diamond that is maintaining the link.

Doing so and reversing the process so that the TimeLords are sent back into the Time Lock, the Doctor is further threatened by the President, but is instead saved by The Master!! Furious that he had been manipulated since a child by the President, The Master attacks the President in a rage. Gallifrey, The Master and all the Time Lords disappear back into the Time Lock. The fate of the Master, who also vanishes, is unclear.

Surprised to still be alive, The Doctor starts to rejoice only to hear 4 knocks … Wilf has been trapped in the isolation chamber which will soon be flooded with lethal radiation, killing him instantly. The Doctor initially rages about his fate – stating that“I could do so much more” and that Wilfred is “unimportant”. However, realizing that his fate is pre-ordained and that he cannot leave Wilfred to die, The Doctor sacrifices himself to save Wilf, and in the process suffers a massive dose of radiation.

Although he survives initially, the healing of the Doctor’s wounds show that his regeneration has started. He takes Wilfred home and brief scenes show him fleetingly visiting several past companions. Not wishing to change and stating that he doesn’t want to go, the Doctor completes his regeneration in an unusually violent manner with the TARDIS windows shattering and the console room bursting into flames. The newly-regenerated Eleventh Doctor explores his new body before eventually recognising that the TARDIS is hurtling back to Earth, taking the controls and gleefully shouting “Geronimo!”

My Thoughts –

Sad that David Tennant is gone … really liked him as The Doctor and he definitely made the role his own … however from what I understand the new Doctor has signed on for at least 3 years which means there are going to be some good stories coming and hopefully further details. Also, despite my previous comments about the Time Lords – quite cool that they were “bad” at the end … however, being the last Time Lord, also means there is no one else with the same amount of power as the Doctor, which also means that he really can’t lose. Also with the Master gone, the Daleks gone and Cybermen gone, this is even more true! Also really good scenes between Wilfred and The Doctor where initially Wilf said he’d be happy if the Doctor was his son and then The Doctor saying he’d be proud if Wilf was his dad. Really good. The tie in of “the sound of drums” from such a long time ago to this point – really well done.

I look forward to seeing what’s coming … it should be interesting!!