TV Show Review: Doctor Who: Twice Upon a Time

Details: Aired on the BBC in 2017. About an hour long. This is the Christmas special.

And so we’ve arrived at Peter Capaldi’s last episode as the Doctor. This final episode is our opportunity to take one final look at Capaldi’s portrayal of the Doctor. It is also Capaldi’s opportunity to say his goodbye and leave his final thesis on who his Doctor was meant to be. While there were some episodes in Capaldi’s tenure that I did not enjoy, there were some that I did enjoy immensely. Twice Upon a Time was a surprisingly emotional goodbye to a Doctor who was not as good as his predecessor (in my opinion), but left a meaningful and distinct mark all the same. It is also a goodbye to the Moffat era of Doctor Who.

If you are unfamiliar, Doctor Who is a show that has been running in the same continuity for about the last fifty years. It is a science fiction show meant for the young and the old that many English men and women grew up watching. It mostly focuses on a space faring, time traveling alien known only as the Doctor. We follow the Doctor as he goes on adventures.

The way that they’ve managed to continue this show despite this long period of running time is that a new actor generally takes over the role of the Doctor through a process of “regeneration.” Regeneration, in the context of the show’s narrative, is like a death and a rebirth of the Doctor where the old persona dies and a new person takes hold. For the purposes of the writers and the actor playing the Doctor, regeneration allows the cast and creators to take the show in new directions. For instance, the actor that is subsequently taking the reigns over the character is the first woman to ever play the role in the show’s half century long lifespan.

In this episode, we near the current Doctor’s (played by Peter Capaaldi) regeneration, and he does not want to go. The Doctor has endured a lot of pain and suffering throughout his existence and has decided that he will not regenerate, but will instead die. It is at this moment that he meets his younger self; the first incarnation of the Doctor through some mishmash of the time space continuum. This first incarnation is in the process of regeneration too and has decided he wants to die, which would cause problems since that would erase the existence of all the incarnations that come afterward, including Capaldi’s. So the two go on an adventure and must decide whether or not they go through with the regeneration or not.

Since I already revealed that another actor will be taking over as the Doctor, it’s safe to say that they somehow do decide to go through with it. You should still watch the episode though as it’s the journey to that decision that matters in this episode. In comparison to Matt Smith, Capaldi is a more serious Doctor, less inclined to characterize a Peter Pan like steward (like Smith did) and more willing to hurt or force things to comply with his will. He’s a less charming Doctor. And yet throughout his tenure as well as this episode, he reminds you that the core of the Doctor consists of laughter and kindness, never cruelty.

I was surprised at how emotional this episode made me, but Doctor Who goodbyes are the best kind of goodbyes. The regeneration of a Doctor is the best of the best of these kind of goodbyes because it’s so final. We say goodbye both to the character and to the actors who helped portray the stories of this character. And unlike in many pieces of fiction, Twice Upon a Time gives us absolution. We see the actors that were the Doctor’s greatest friends one last time. We hear Capaldi give his final monologue, his final performance on what his Doctor was meant to be. And we also get to see a glimpse at the future of this show and the themes that are intrinsic to this beloved show.

Overall, I loved this episode. There have been many regenerations in the history of Doctor Who and this lived up to them, at least to the ones that I’ve seen. We said our goodbyes and were told stay kind and stay hopeful, because while this Doctor is ending, the show must go on. If you’ve had a tough time embracing Capaldi’s time as the Doctor, you really shouldn’t. He did a great job and added his own spin on a prolific character that many actors have portrayed before. Twice Upon a Time is a great episode and a fitting goodbye to Capaldi. We also get to say goodbye to Steven Moffat, the longtime show runner of Doctor Who. While these goodbyes may be sad, I’m also delighted at the potential of a new future for this show.

Score: 7.5/10

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