It’s time to say farewell to Doctor Who star Peter Capaldi.
And what better way than with a visit from the very first Doctor.
Twice Upon A Time is an emotional episode – not just because it brings Peter Capaldi’s tenure as The Doctor to an end. After a rather cool introduction via a vintage TV clip, we find that the First and Twelfth Doctor’s stories are intertwined. They both face a choice – to face the finality of death or to regenerate.
And it’s the first time we’ve seen it as quite such a conundrum.
Twice Upon A Time begins exactly where The Doctor Falls left off – The Doctor is attempting to stop his own regeneration in the snow at the South Pole, when he finds himself approached by a familiar face.
It’s the First Doctor – expertly played by David Bradley.
And it seems they’re about to embark on an adventure that will help them both make a very important decision.
Peter Capaldi’s Doctor is clearly tired. He doesn’t want to carry on. He’s lost loved ones left, right and centre… and he truly believes that now is that time it must all come to an end. It’s a sobering thought – The Doctor deciding to die rather than gallivant around the cosmos, with a new companion in tow.
And it’s almost as thought we finally see him laid bare.
He’s wrestled with his conscience many times over the years, but this time it feels different. There’s a more thoughtful approach in Peter Capaldi’s indecision… and it feels as though he might actually decide to end it all. Of course, we know that he doesn’t.
Importantly, we find that the First Doctor is faced with the very same decision.
And after learning everything that he becomes, he isn’t so sure he wants any of it to happen. The Valeyard, The Doctor of War… there are some very sobering names attributed to The Doctor, that the First isn’t sure he can live with.
And if he chooses not to regenerate, none of that will come to pass.
But as the two Doctors wrestle with their thoughts, a third gentleman is thrown into the mix – a World War I soldier plucked from the timeline and accidentally brought back to the wrong time and place. Who is this man? And why is he important? At first, it seems he might not be. It wouldn’t be the first time The Doctor has saved a random person from mortal peril. But it eventually transpires that he’s a very important man indeed… but more on that later.
For now, he’s known only as The Captain (played by Mark Gatiss) and his stiff upper lip and stoic ability to take one for the greater good makes him such a wonderfully heroic character. And when it transpires that he can trade his own life for that of a stranger, he doesn’t hesitate – after all, he was due t die anyway… and he believes his death might as well do some good.
Of course, the layers of subtlety here are fantastic.
We have two Doctors wrestling with whether or not they should choose to live on, while another non-Time Lord is willing to sacrifice himself in an instant to save a stranger. It’s a subtle and perfect allegory for the Doctor’s continuing adventures…
And of course, it convinces both the First and Twelfth to carry on.
The World War I backdrop is a fantastically emotional hook, and when you begin to realise that the Doctor has used the Christmas Day truce of 1914 to save a man’s life, it really rams home the fact that, for all his faults, the Doctor is a good man at heart.
And if there were any doubts, there’s a rousing speech by Peter Capaldi as he’s on his way out… and it’s a good one.
On top of all the heart-warming and emotional beats, there are plenty of geeky spots too, with tons of hidden references and even short clips of previous Doctors making an appearance in a natural way. Not to mention, a lovely reunion between The Doctor, Bill and Nardole, as well as the reappearance of Clara Oswald – albeit in a rather obscure form. Oh, and let’s get back to the good Captain – Captain Archibald Hamish Lethbridge-Stewart. That’s right, he’s none other than the grandfather of Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart, one of the founding members of UNIT – a regular ally of The Doctor.
All in all, Twice Upon A Time was a nostalgic jaunt down memory lane for long-term Doctor Who fans… and a bloody good send off for Peter Capaldi, too. And with an appearance from Jodie Whittaker as the Thirteenth, it finished off by introducing the next generation in a way that Doctor Who fans will no doubt appreciate – yes, the new Doctor has (once again) crashed the TARDIS.
But will she prove to be a hit with Doctor Who fans? For now, we’ll have to wait and see.
Doctor Who stars Peter Capaldi as The Doctor alongside Mark Gatiss and David Bradley as The Doctor, as well as the first appearance of Jodie Whittaker as The Doctor.
Doctor Who returns to BBC One in 2018.