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Doctor Who: Twice Upon a Time (Review)

“What was that?”

“To be fair, they cut out all the jokes.”

– the First Doctor and the Twelfth Doctor discuss the power of editting

Snow escape.

Twice Upon a Time bids farewell to Peter Capaldi, perhaps to Murray Gold, and to Steven Moffat.

It does all of this within the context of a holiday special, much like The End of Time, Part I and The End of Time, Part II bid farewell to David Tennant and Russell T. Davies with a two-part bonanza split across Christmas and New Year’s. In a way, this makes sense. Christmas is a time for indulgence, and these sorts of grand farewells lend themselves to a certain sense of self-congratulations and celebration. Davies went bigger and bolder for The End of Time, Part I and The End of Time, Part II, opting for a cameo-stuffed blockbuster affair, his style turned to eleven.

Cooler heads prevail.

Twice Upon a Time does something similar, albeit in the style of Steven Moffat. Davies tended to jump from set piece to set piece with his bombastic Christmas specials like The Runaway Bride and Voyage of the Damned, with only the thinnest of plots holding them together. Moffat’s Christmas specials like A Christmas Carol or The Husbands of River Song have set pieces, but they often feel incidental to the characters and dialogue. Twice Upon a Time is a collection of witty banter and wry observations held together by a plot that even the Doctor has to admit does not exist.

In some ways, this feels like an appropriate way to bid farewell to Steven Moffat’s tenure as showrunner on Doctor Who, to draw down the curtain on an impressive and momentous six seasons (and almost eight years) that radically redefined what the programme could (and even should) be. Twice Upon a Time is a Christmas indulgence, but one that feels earned. It is an adventure that doesn’t really need to exist, and one which accepts that premise as its starting point. It is an episode dancing around the inevitable. It is not especially graceful, but is charming nevertheless.

The Twelfth Day of Christmas.

The most striking aspect of Twice Upon a Time is that the episode has no reason to exist. Peter Capaldi’s entire final season feels like a coda to Moffat’s tenure on the show, a very polite holding pattern waiting gracefully for his successor to take the reins. Moffat arguably wrapped up everything that he might want to say about the Doctor and about Doctor Who in Heaven Sent and Hell Bent at the end of Capaldi’s penultimate year, even finally resurrecting Gallifrey and restoring the last vestiges of the status quo from the original run of the series.

This is not to belittle or diminish the final year of Moffat’s tenure. The season has a number of interesting episodes and ideas, with an endearing and refreshing energy that often feels refreshing when stepping away from the big bold themes that defined the previous two seasons. It often seemed like the two seasons with Peter Capaldi and Jenna Louise Coleman spent so long defining the identity of the Doctor and playing with the concept, so the final season felt like a “back-to-basics” approach right down to the present-future-past trifecta of The Pilot, Smile and Thin Ice.

Far afield.

Even in the context of the coda season, Twice Upon a Time feels like a coda itself. The Doctor’s journey arguably wrapped up in World Enough and Time and The Doctor Falls, in which the character effectively went through another iteration of the basic sacrifice in The Time of the Doctor, choosing to lay down his life in order to protect a bunch of random strangers. It would be perfectly reasonable for this iteration of the character to bow out on that note. It certainly seems like an appropriate note on which to draw down the curtain.

However, Twice Upon a Time exists to fill a gap between what would seem to be the last story of the Moffat era and the first story of the Chibnell era. In some respects, like the entirety of the season before it, it exists as an obligation. It exists so that Moffat might afford his successor the necessary time to figure out a direction for the series, and to put a proper production apparatus in place. Davies did something similar for Moffat, producing a year of seasonal specials designed to buy his successor time to figure out what he wanted Doctor Who to become.


Moffat has conceded as much in interviews, arguing that Twice Upon a Time largely exists because Chibnell was not ready to assume control of the show at this point and because failing to produce an episode to fill the broadcast slot would mean surrendering prime position in the Christmas schedule:

“I learned at a drinks event somewhere that Chris didn’t want to start with a Christmas, so at that point they were going to skip Christmas. There’d be no Christmas special and we would’ve lost that slot.”

Moffat suggested that, if Doctor Who had skipped Christmas in 2017, it might never have got its much-coveted December 25 slot back.

“Doctor Who would’ve lost that slot if we hadn’t [done a special] because Christmas Day is now so rammed. So I said, probably four glasses of red wine in, ‘I’ll do Christmas!’ and then had to persuade Peter [Capaldi] that’s how we were leaving.

“Then I had to work out how you could get mortally injured in one episode and spend an hour regenerating on Christmas Day, which I hopefully have done!”

As such, Twice Upon a Time is a product of compromise. It is not so much the culmination of Moffat’s tenure on Doctor Who as it is an afterword tagged on to the end of what was already an extended epilogue.

“Well, this is embarrassing.”

In some ways, then, Twice Upon a Time represents the culmination of one of Moffat’s more intriguing legacies. When Davies resurrected Doctor Who, he defined the show as event television. Davies structured his seasons in such a way as to consciously build towards spectacular conclusions; an early two-parter with a toyetic (and usually retro) monster, a darker late-season two-parter, and a massive apocalyptic finale. Davies successfully turned Doctor Who into appointment viewing that often felt like a blockbuster.

The first four seasons were all geared towards spectacle and scale; the reintroduction of the Daleks in the first season leading to an epic showdown in Bad Wolf and The Parting of the Ways, the reinvention of the Cybermen in Rise of the Cybermen and The Age of Steel culminating in a fantastic Dalek-Cyberman battle in Army of Ghosts and Doomsday, the return of the Master in Utopia, The Sound of Drums and The Last of the Time Lords, the crisis crossover of The Stolen Earth and Journey’s End, the return of Gallifrey in The End of Time, Part I and The End of Time, Part II.

White out.

In contrast, Moffat made a conscious choice to steer the show away from that sort of template. Under Moffat, the Daleks became a recurring menace rather than a central foe. Davies treated every Dalek episode as the end of the world, while Moffat incorporated them into the background fabric of the series. Victory of the Daleks reestablished a new Dalek Empire, while Asylum of the Daleks, Into the Dalek, The Magician’s Apprentice and The Witch’s Familiar suggested Daleks belonged at the start of a season more than at the end.

While the Daleks were a galactic threat in three of Davies’ four season finales, Moffat tended to force them into the background of his big event episodes. The Daleks were part of a broad alliance of evil in The Pandorica Opens and a lone Dalek wandered the British Museum in The Big Bang. The Eleventh Doctor disinterestedly consulted the Daleks in The Wedding of River Song. The Zygons were arguably more important to the plot of The Day of the Doctor than the Daleks. They were a background element of The Time of the Doctor and Twice Upon a Time.

The day of the Doctors.

Moffat effectively demythologised a lot of the epic signifiers of the Davies era, arguing that these elements of Doctor Who were not simply blockbuster story beats to be broken out at the end of a season. Moffat seemed to suggest that every aspect of Doctor Who should be available to use whenever and wherever it might work. Moffat himself played with this idea, teasing the Doctor’s childhood on Gallifrey in Listen, an early standalone of the first season with Peter Capaldi. He resurrected Gallifrey in a decidedly off-hand manner in Heaven Sent and Hell Bent.

Twice Upon a Time seems to continue that tradition in a number of interesting ways, featuring a number of story elements that should mark the narrative as “epic” or “blockbuster”, and then largely brushing them aside in favour of smaller character beats and witty exchanges. Most notably, Twice Upon a Time is arguably a subversion of the idea of the “multi-Doctor special”, picking apart the idea that Doctor Who needs a particularly strong reason or justification for having various iterations of the character cross over.

The OTHER two Doctors.

Traditionally, “multi-Doctor specials” have been reserved for big anniversaries or for charity specials. The Three Doctors marked the tenth anniversary, The Five Doctors marked the twenty-fifth anniversary, and The Day of the Doctor marked the fifth anniversary. Dimensions in Time and Time Crash were both produced for Children in Need. As such, Twice Upon a Time stands out as a rare team-up between various iterations of the iconic character. The Two Doctors is perhaps the only other comparable episode, which certainly gives Twice Upon a Time an interesting pedigree.

More than that, Twice Upon a Time subverts the expectations of such a narrative. The First Doctor spends most of Twice Upon a Time contemplating whether or not to regenerate, which obviously would have catastrophic implications for the current incarnation of the character. While their overlap does have some strange side effects, the biggest impact is the disruption of a single time-travel event, resulting in Captain Archibald Hamish Lethbridge-Stewart getting diverted on a return trip towards the moment of his death. It is a surprisingly intimate story for the premise.

Captain, my Captain.

Then again, this is very much in keeping with how Moffat has approached writing Doctor Who, often tweaking the noses of fans who expect and demand epic narratives for the character. This has been reflected by a number of major plot twists during his tenure, but perhaps most obviously in the “Impossible Girl” narrative that introduced Clara Oswald. The Bells of St. John teased the idea that Clara was a mysterious and important figure in the Doctor’s history, only for The Name of the Doctor to reveal that she was simply a character rather than a plot device.

Moffat has repeatedly scaled down his Doctor Who narratives, steering away from the sorts of apocalyptic destruction that defined a lot of popular culture, including the show as produced by his direct predecessor. In Journey’s End, the meglomaniac Davros ranted wildly about “the destruction of reality itself” as he prepared “the reality bomb.” In contrast, the character ruminated rather quietly with the Doctor in The Witch’s Familiar, goading him over his own perceived failings and on the weakness of compassion.

Chilling developments.

In The Time of the Doctor, the Eleventh Doctor surrendered his life not to save the galaxy or the universe, but instead to protect a small town from encroaching evil. In World Enough and Time and The Doctor Falls, the Twelfth Doctor laid down his own life in order to protect another small community from the threat of the Cybermen. In some ways, Twice Upon a Time takes this idea to its logical extreme. As two versions of the Doctor face their own mortality, they fight to protect the life of one lone officer on a single battlefield of a long-ended war.

There are times in which Twice Upon a Time feels almost frustrating in its refusal to wallow in the sort of heightened drama suggested by its basic premise. Twice Upon a Time accepts the basic premise of the First Doctor’s regeneration to the point that his arc seems to unfold mostly off-screen. There is some faint suggestion that the First Doctor is unsettled by the fact that he becomes “the Doctor of War”, but the episode never truly dwells on it. He talks about being “afraid” of regenerating, but only briefly.

Certain preconceptions are entrenched.

However, at the end of the episode, the First Doctor turns to his successor and concedes, “I think I’m ready now. But I should like to know, are you?” It is a plot beat that just about works, and only barely. It works because the audience understands that the First Doctor’s regeneration (and the dozen that follow) are inevitable, and so any attempt to wring suspense out of that would be disingenuous. It also works because it feels earned. The First Doctor has seen the compassion of which his successor is capable, even if he does not articulate it in those terms.

This small moment feels like a logical culmination of the Twelfth Doctor’s story arc that began with Deep Breath. One of Steven Moffat’s recurring fascinations is the gulf that exists between great men and good men, and exploring how his protagonists reconcile this divide. This conflict plays out Moffat’s treatment of both the Eleventh Doctor and of Sherlock Holmes, but was particularly foregrounded with the Twelfth Doctor. The question was articulated a number of ways, such as what it meant to be a “good Dalek” in Into the Dalek, a challenge repeated here.

“Not a hugger.”

At the centre of the dynamic between the First and Twelfth Doctors is an anxiety about how each iteration sees the other. The Twelfth Doctor see the man that he used to be, a man with views very much in step with sixties television. The Twelfth Doctor clearly worries about what his predecessor will make of him, particularly when the “Testimony” labels his as “the Doctor of War.” The ending of Twice Upon a Time offers a nice subtle resolution to the Twelfth Doctor’s arc, suggesting that he is the kind of man that the First Doctor might hope to be. He is always getting better.

As reflected in the quietness of this story beat, the plot of Twice Upon a Time is so slight that it barely exists. Doctor Who‘s plotting is rarely ambitious in its Christmas episodes, with good reason. Christmas is a time for families to eat, drink and be merry. The Christmas Special cannot be overburdened with plot or detail, because a significant portion of the (wider than usual) viewership is on the verge of a late afternoon nap. This was as true of the Davies era as it is of the Moffat era, to the point that Doctor Who Christmas Specials are largely high concepts with set pieces.

Together again.

Even by these standards, it seems absurd to describe Twice Upon a Time as an episode. It plays almost as an extended short story, a number of clever ideas extended with playful dialogue and good jokes. Even the action set pieces in Twice Upon a Time feel rather low key, such as the Doctor’s improvised escape from “the Testimony” by lowering the TARDIS from its grasp or the journey through the ruins of Villengard. Indeed, the special effects in Twice Upon a Time are somewhat underwhelming, even likened to The Return of Doctor Mysterio.

Episodes like The Runaway Bride and Voyage of the Damned might of been a series of set pieces threaded together, but Twice Upon a Time is a set of scenes threaded together in the loosest possible way. Twice Upon a Time is effective three extended scenes run together, with a bit of padding between them; the Doctor confronts “the Testimony”, the Doctor visits Villengard, the Doctor returns the Captain to Ypres. These scenes are drawn out by extended sequences in the two TARDISes, which serve a springboard for various jokes and exchanges.

Light relief.

Twice Upon a Time is explicit in the fact that it does not have a plot. Initially, the framework of the episode seems quite clear; the Doctor has discovered some nefarious alien harvesting something from the dead in their dying moments, and sets out to stop them. However, for all his righteous anger and energetic pursuit, Twice Upon a Time ultimately reveals that there is no sinister plot at work. There is no monster. This is not that kind of story. It is barely a story at all. “It’s not an evil plan,” the Doctor admits. “I don’t really know what to do when it’s not an evil plan.”

Of course, even the non-plot of Twice Upon a Time is filled with familiar Moffat plot beats. Listen was already an episode without a monster. More than that, this could be seen as a slight subversion of one of Moffat’s core story templates: technology runs amok by doing exactly what it is programmed to. In some ways, Twice Upon a Time is a logical companion to stories like The Empty Child, The Doctor Dances, The Girl in the Fireplace, Silence in the Library and Forest of the Dead.

Steer clear.

Appropriately enough, Twice Upon a Time is filled with all sorts of continuity references and shoutouts, acknowledging its position as the coda to an extended era of the series. The Forges of Villengard make their first appearance here, having first been mentioned in The Doctor Dances. There is an acknowledgement of the First Doctor taking “the long way round” to get to his distant successor, a throughline of the Moffat era that runs from The Girl in the Fireplace to The Day of the Doctor.

Of course, the episode is packed with continuity references beyond that. The Doctor’s reflection that the universe cannot take care of itself without him harks back to Moffat’s first televised script for Doctor Who, The Curse of Fatal Death. At one point, the Twelfth Doctor urges the First Doctor, “Up and at them, Corporal Jones.” This is an obvious shout-out to Dad’s Army, but may also be a nod to William Hartnell’s role on The Army Game as Sergeant Major Percy Bullimore, a BBC comedy about army life.

Keep soldiering on.

Twice Upon a Time is not really a story of itself. It isn’t even really a set of scenes. Instead, Twice Upon a Time plays as a collection of conversations. It is the last hour of a bittersweet Christmas party when the music has been turned down and the host is circling the room trying to catch up with everybody before the lights come on and its time to tidy up. Steven Moffat is bidding farewell to Doctor Who, and so Twice Upon a Time feels like the writer’s last opportunity to have these conversations.

Moffat even explicitly writes this idea into the script with “Testimony”, the automated entity that visits people in their final moments to document their experiences and their legacy. It seems like an appropriate plot element for the last episode of the Moffat era, with Twice Upon a Time serving as something close to Moffat’s own testimony on his place within the broader history of Doctor Who. With that in mind, it seems only appropriate that both version of the Doctor in Twice Upon a Time are aware of their own mortality.

No Time Lord’s Land.

More than that, “Testimony” explicitly offers up facsimiles that the Doctor may address as stand-ins for “real” characters. Of course, testimony!Bill rejects the notion that she is any less real than the person from whose memories she was built. “Life is just memories. I’m all her memories. So I’m her.” In its own way, this reflects the Moffat era’s recurring suggestion that people are ultimately just extended stories, and that we are all the culmination of the stories leading to our present moment.

Appropriately enough, there is something cheeky and winking in the way that Twice Upon a Time uses “Testimony” as a way to offer the Twelfth Doctor farewell scenes with characters like Bill, Nardole and Clara. However, there is also something sly in the use of this concept in an episode that explicitly recasts David Bradley as the First Doctor. “Who has been stealing the faces of the dead?” the Doctor demands of the mysterious artificial intelligence, but he could just as easily be talking about the opening scenes that morphed William Hartnell into David Bradley.

“I’m the Doctor. Simply the Doctor! The one, the only, and the best.”

Twice Upon a Time acknowledges its own distortion of the historical record, albeit one with the historical precedent of casting Richard Hurndall in The Five Doctors. The Twelfth Doctor acknowledges that the First Doctor doesn’t look quite like himself. “You’re mid-regeneration, aren’t you?” he demands. “Your face is all over the place.” Later on, the First Doctor picks up on the idea that “Testimony” is a digital recreation of a real person because the face is slightly “asymmetrical.”

The casting of David Bradley is a conceit, but a justifiable one. The presence of the First Doctor allows Moffat the opportunity to converse with the show’s past and its own history, in a way that recalls the gift from “Testimony” to the Doctor. Of course, David Bradley is not really playing the same character embodied by William Hartnell in those early episodes. Instead, David Bradley is embodying the pop cultural memory of the character, the legacy of the show that arguably only really amassed after he departed.

Talking to himself.

This perhaps explains the jokes about the character’s sexism. Pointedly, the joke about a “smacked bottom” is a direct lift from The Dalek Invasion of Earth, a line spoken by the character to his own granddaughter. There are no real examples of the Doctor being as bluntly sexist as he is presented here. Indeed, the early show’s use of Barbara Wright was relatively forward-thinking for an early sixties British television show.

However, these repeated asides do serve a purpose within the context of Twice Upon a Time. The Doctor may have been a Time Lord from Gallifrey, but he was also a product of sixties popular culture. He comes with baggage that cannot be ignored from a modern perspective. It may be hard to single out precise instances of dialogue as bluntly sexist as “older gentleman, like women, can be put to use”, but the truth is that the series picked up a lot of baggage from its surrounding cultural context that cannot be ignored.

The Bill comes due.

As much as Barbara Wright might have been relatively forward-thinking in the context of the sixties, the series still delegated most of its action beats to the traditionally masculine hero Ian Chesterton. When the series wrote out its female companions like Susan in The Dalek Invasion of Earth or Jo Grant in The Green Death or Leela in The Invasion of Time, it tended to do so by romantically pairing them off with a one-shot male guest character.

All of was expected in the context of sixties and seventies television, but needs to be addressed in the context of nostalgic appreciation. Loving engagement with the past should not distract from these issues, and these aspects of pop culture should not be glamourised or romanticised. Of course, the mere fact of acknowledging these issues does not a particular scathing condemnation of beloved cultural institutions. Even in Twice Upon a Time, it is clear that both the Twelfth Doctor and Bill have a great deal of affection for the First Doctor and the Captain, in spite of their sexism.

Who’s on First.

Indeed, a certain amount of this discussion takes place in the shadow of the regeneration waiting at the end of the episode, in the casting of Jodie Whittaker as the successor to Peter Capaldi. The modern internet has been very supportive of and very enthusiastic about this change, but certain fans act as though this represents a violation of the core premise of the series. Those fans are correct to state that it never would have happened during the first thirty years of the franchise, and it is counterproductive to pretend otherwise.

Instead, it is better to acknowledge why this transition would not have been possible in the context of the show’s history, why Doctor Who could not have transitioned from William Hartnell or Patrick Troughton or Jon Pertwee to a female actor. The jokes about sexism in the context of Twice Upon a Time serve to underscore how much progress Doctor Who has made as a television series, by acknowledging its failings and pushing forward. This also applies to Moffat’s history as producer, and his efforts to get better at writing female and minority characters into the show.

Stewarting the show goign forward.

With that in mind, there is something slightly cheeky in the mid-episode conversation between the Twelfth Doctor and “Rusty.” Certainly, it seems rather strange to have a callback to Into the Dalek inserted into the last episode of the Moffat era. However, it seems like another teasing engagement with the show’s history, allowing Moffat the chance to write a conversation with a character who shares a nickname with his direct predecessor as showrunner.

In particular, the Villengard segment of the show seems to be built around the sort of spectacle and action that defined so much of the Davies era; there is an apocalyptic hellscape wherein an eternal war wages, surroundings decorated by the exploded remains of dead Daleks, the Doctor trading on his own reputation as currency against a much stronger foe, reiteration of the rage and hatred that defines the relationship between the Doctor and the Daleks. The Villengard sequence is basically a big Dalek “event” episode that exists as a ten-minute segment in Twice Upon a Time.

Burn with me.

It is perhaps revealing that the Villengard sequence serves to tie the “Testamony” back to New Earth. New Earth remains one of Russell T. Davies’ most iconic original contributions to the mythos, a thread running through the future episodes of the first three seasons from the destruction of Earth in The End of the World to the visits to the colony in New Earth and Gridlock. As such, there is a solid and tangible connection between Davies’ run and the end of the Moffat era.

Twice Upon a Time even finds the Moffat era in conversation with itself. One of the nicer subtler touches at the end of the episode suggests that the Doctor is conversing briefly with the TARDIS before he starts laying out a manifesto for his successor. “Yes, I know they’ll get it all wrong without me,” the Doctor concedes in response to a hum from the TARDIS. It is a note of pride at the end of what has been a momentous run, a sense of how difficult it must be to let go of the controls after so long.

First of All.

There is a sense of fatigue and exhaustion to Twice Upon a Time. “Can’t I ever have peace?” the Doctor asks. “Can’t I rest?” This is a television series that has taken almost a decade of Moffat’s life, and which the showrunner has treated as a solemn responsibility in his final years of service. At the same time, there’s also a bittersweet quality to it. “Letting go of the Doctor is so, so hard,” reflects testamony!Bill. “Isn’t it?” This plays almost like a much more extended and nuanced discussion of everything suggested by the Tenth Doctor’s lament, “I don’t want to go.”

Twice Upon a Time says very little new or provocative about Steven Moffat’s interpretation of the Doctor, with its thematic arc largely reiterating ideas suggested by earlier episodes like A Good Man Goes to War or The Day of the Doctor or The Time of the Doctor. There is a sense that the Doctor is a magical and inspiring imaginary figure. “I regret, Captain, that the universe generally fails to be a fairy tale,” the First Doctor concedes to Captain Archibald Hamish Lethbridge-Stewart. However, Moffat argues that the Doctor exists to make the universe a fairy tale.

Looking closer.

Moffat announced his arrival of Doctor Who with the promise that “everybody lives!” in The Empty Child and The Doctor Dances. In some ways, Twice Upon a Time boils that idea down to its essence. It is a story in which two versions of the Doctor live, but it is also a version in which two versions of the Doctor find the compassion to go on living by finding a way to bend the rules so that just one person gets a happier ending than they might otherwise have. It is a small gesture, particularly in the context of the horrors of the First World War, but it still has meaning.

As with a lot of Twice Upon a Time, there is something indulgent-yet-forgivable in the casting of Mark Gatiss as Captain Archibald Hamish Lethbridge-Stewart. Gatiss has been one of Moffat’s most reliable companions during his stewardship of Doctor Who, writing regularly and reliably for the series while also co-creating and co-running Sherlock. It makes sense for the pair to acknowledge one another in this fashion, for Gatiss to get an invitation to this particular farewell party.

Railing against the dying of the light.

Indeed, Moffat allows himself the indulgence of writing his own eulogy, in the Doctor’s final conversation that is delivered in anticipation of his future self. The scene plays like Moffat cheekily passing notes to his director successor, but it also feels like one last attempt to draw a line under his tenure and to summarise his vision of what the Doctor should be; it is a not as much for the audience as it is for Chris Chibnall. “Hate is always foolish and love is always wise. Always try to be nice, but never fail to be kind.”

When the time comes to pass the torch over, in an introductory scene starring Jodie Whittaker and written by Chris Chibnall, Twice Upon a Time seems to acknowledge its debt to Moffat and the grace with which he has surrendered the reins. Much like Moffat introduced Matt Smith with a joking reference to the Tenth Doctor’s weird interest in regenerating as a redhead, Chibnall introduces Jodie Whittaker by having her crash the TARDIS and getting flung out its doors in a nod to The Eleventh Hour.

All fired up.

More boldly, the final scene of Twice Upon a Time turns the TARDIS on its side and shakes it. The console is blown up, and sheets of paper are scattered to the wind. The closing scene of Twice Upon at Time represents a proverbial cleaning of the house, something of a cheeky nod to two earlier gags in the episode; the First Doctor’s reflection on how dusty the TARDIS had become and the Twelfth Doctor’s insistence on the importance of remembering “where you parked.” It represents a clean break from the Moffat era, and quite rightly so.

Twice Upon a Time finds Moffat’s Doctor Who in conversation with its past, its present and its future. In its own weird way, it feels like a strangely appropriate Christmas episode.

8 Responses

  1. “They’ll get it wrong without me…” Such a gracious exit for our most humble of showrunners.

    I’m afraid the Moffat era just wasn’t for me.

    • Ah, he’s allowed his “I don’t want to go…” moment, and it’s nice to put that at the start with the ridiculously rambly bits rather than the important stuff.

  2. It would have been nice if World Enough and Time/The Doctor Falls was Moffat and 10’s final story-both would have exited on an astonishingly high note, an all-time classic. This episode is still a nice addition to canon though, despite not really having a plot. In hindsight, I wouldn’t be surprised if this was the last time I was majorly invested in ‘Doctor Who’-I recall many others saying the same thing about The End of Time. Maybe Series 12 will bring me back on board and maybe it won’t…but I’m not feeling optimistic and at this point, it’s hard to care.

  3. Well I know for sure you’ll be tweeting about it. So there’s that.

    I might not even watch at this point though-my interest is at an all-time low. Series 7 didn’t work for me, but I knew at the time that Moffat was burning himself out with the 50th, Sherlock, and Doctor Who at the same time-so it’s somewhat understandable. I had a feeling that if he could just regain his footing, focus on Doctor Who, and hinge the Capaldi era on character development instead of mystery box plotting, he’d have me again. And lo and behold.

    I don’t feel this with Chibnall. He’s been writing for this universe for 13 years now, with no real signs of improvement. I think I’m just done, unless you write positive reviews. I swear, Darren, you’re the only Doctor Who reviewer I trust right now.

    • Ha! I worry if that’s the case, Joe!

      I do think Chibnall has improved, actually. He had a sharp drop in quality when Davies left, which leads me to suspect Davies had been heavily rewriting him. Then he did get better over the Moffat era, perhaps reflecting Moffat’s tendency to give notes rather than do page-one rewrites. But seems to have dropped off again. (The Chibnall scripts in his season are – relatively speaking – a roller coast running from “fine, but with serious problems” to “how the hell did this make it in front of cameras?”)

      • I forgot that he wrote ‘Adrift’, probably the best non ‘Children of Earth’ Torchwood episode. It’s telling that Torchwood’s only truly great season was the one RTD was most involved in.

        I suppose Chibnall is competent. I kind of struggle with that though. I think the fact that his episodes are so staid and dull papers over their flaws, ironically enough. Whereas RTD and Moffat’s worst episodes did engage me enough to also realize their glaring flaws. With Chibnall’s run I’m checked out for most of each episode.

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