Doctor Who X-Mas Special Review – Twice Upon A Time

For Peter Capaldi’s farewell voyage, we get a bonus Doctor, as he (twelve) meets himself (first) before becoming herself (thirteenth).


Director: Rachel Talalay
Writer: Steven Moffat

Peter Capaldi as The Doctor
David Bradley as The Doctor
Pearl Mackie as Bill
Mark Gatiss as The Captain
Nikki Amuka-Bird as Helen Clay
Toby Whithouse as German Soldier
Lily Travers as Polly
Jared Garfield as Ben
Nicholas Briggs as Daleks (voice)
William Hartnell as The Doctor (archive footage)
Anneke Wills as Polly (archive footage)
Michael Craze as Ben (archive footage)
…and introducing Jodie Whittaker as The Doctor


Two Doctors stranded in a forbidding snowscape, refusing to face regeneration. A British army captain, seemingly destined to die in the First World War but taken from the trenches to play his part in the Doctor’s story. In the final chapter of the Twelfth Doctor’s epic adventure, he must face his past to decide his future. Along the way he realises the resilience of humanity, discovering hope in his darkest frozen moment. It is the end of an era, but the Doctor’s journey is only just beginning. (From Trakt.)

High Point:

Just seeing The First Doctor again, and see him done well, was enough to be my high point.  The entire episode does a great job of capturing what makes The Doctor special.

Low Point:

While I appreciate that this is a goodbye to Peter Capaldi, and to Steven Moffat, the goodbyes have begun to seem too indulgent if The Doctor is supposed to truly be the same person.  When the main story ends, it does this, getting more meta and talking to the viewers more than the characters talking to each other.

The Scores:

Originality: 5/6 We don’t have an enemy this time, and while we saw afterlife based stories before, not just when we meet Missy but as far back as the Sixth’s Doctor’s visit to Tranquil Repose, it was fresh to see how this played out.  It was also nice to see The Doctor work with himself without the begrudgement, as if the First Doctor was from before he hated himself.

Effects: 5/6 I did not see this in 3D, but I can see how nice it would be to see it that way.  In 2D, there’s a few shots that seemed to need the depth perspective to work better.

Acting: 6/6 David Bradley has a tough job, having to not only act, but act like a famous character, but also act like another actor playing a famous character.  He nails it.  Not only that, both he and Peter Capaldi manages to play it like a middle aged man trying to impress his teenage self, and his teenage self not quite being as experienced as he is once he matures.

Production: 5/6 Everything works, but the some of the sets feel a bit small when they should be open spaces, and there’s more lens flare than a Star Trek (reboot) movie.

Story: 6/6 When watching this, I was able to call most of the reveals well in advance of them happening.  While discussing this episode with my wife, I realized everything made perfect sense, despite having three time travelers meeting up and wandering across time and space.  The premise is as fantastic as you can imagine, but the internal logic holds up perfectly.

Emotional Response: 6/6 While I didn’t weep the way I suspect they wanted me too, I was properly sorrowful when the ring falls from Jodie’s hand.

Overall: 6/6 After a second viewing, I think I enjoyed it even more than the first time.

In total, Twice Upon A Time receives 39/42


Additional Note: There are plenty of moments where they recognize the shortcomings of the early show with respect to societal norms and address it head on.  They don’t actually apologize, but it has a definite air of “When you know better, you do better.”

7 replies on “Doctor Who X-Mas Special Review – Twice Upon A Time”

  1. See, this is why I avoid spoilers.

    I’ve read so many reviews saying “We knew X would happen” and “We knew Y would show up” and “Z would have probably had more of an impact if I didn’t know” etc.

    I knew what happened in the previous episode/series, and I knew we’d see Jodie for a few seconds at the end, but that’s it.

    I pretty much agree with just about everything you said, too (:

  2. Good review. Yeah, sometimes the Christmas specials only really work for people who watch the show.

    How many other people called the identity of the British officer?

    David Bradley previously played William Hartnell in Adventure in Space and Time. He absolutely nails the first Doctor here, the good, the bad, and the unlikely.

    • I didn’t call the identity of the British officer, but when it was revealed, I realized that was exactly who it had to be. (I didn’t really think about who he was for the most part. Maybe if I had, I would have guessed, but I think probably not.)

    • As soon as they started making a big deal of “who he was” I knew.
      It really wasn’t a concern before then, but, when they started down that path.
      He’s HIS ancestor! Who ELSE could it have possibly been?

  3. That “709 episodes ago” caption at the start was a nice tough. It’s also accurate. I did the working out. Episode 4 of “The Tenth Planet” really was 709 episodes before “Twice Upon a Time”. The sequencing counts everything that is part of the mainline series as the number of episosdes it was originally intended to be. The unaired “Shada” is not counted. “Resurrection of the Daleks” is counted as the 4 episodes it was intended to be rather than the 2 episodes it was original broadcast as. The 1996 movie is counted as well.

    I also liked the fade into the original regeneration footage from “The Tenth Planet”. That was about as well done as it could have been.

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