Unfortunately, my co-blogger on these reviews, Kevin, has some added responsibilities and won’t be able to continue doing these with me. As a thank you for his previous contributions, why not buy his excellent book All You Want to Know About The Bible in Pop Culture.
I’ll keep the format the same for my review of “Twice Upon a Time” with the hope that by the time the new season of Doctor Who begins, I’ll have another quality co-reviewer.
If you are curious about our thoughts on last season of Doctor Who, you can read our full season 10 review and see links to our discussions after each episode and you can see our thoughts on the reveal of Jodie Whittaker as the Thirteenth Doctor.
Let’s keep this simple. What did you think of “Twice Upon a Time”?
In our house, Doctor Who has become part of our Christmas tradition. Usually, it includes making cookies decorated like a Tardis or a Dalek and then watching the Christmas special.
On the whole, I much prefer lighthearted, fun romps to somber goodbyes for Christmas episodes. But this was a necessary evil with new showrunner Chris Chibnall not wanting to start his run during the Christmas special, so Steven Moffat had to drag out the Doctor’s regeneration for one extra episode.
Because I’m going to critique it, I have to say I enjoyed it. In isolation, it was a compelling story about wrestling with the inevitability of change and our response to it.
I’m almost always a sucker for fun and quirky interactions between multiple Doctors. This episode was chocked full of those moments. But I was a bit confused as to why the First Doctor behaved more like a 1960s British chauvinist than an ancient alien time traveler.
Still, seeing the current Doctor embarrassed about his previous self is a fun gag and one to which virtually anyone can relate—especially those of us who have our written words from decades earlier floating around the Internet.
I’ll never not enjoy watching Doctor Who on Christmas, but I can enjoy more or less. This was somewhere in the middle for me, but it did make me anxious for the new season—if for no other reason than I miss having the Doctor on my screen.
Did you glean anything from the few seconds we had with Jodie Whittaker’s Thirteenth Doctor?
We got an “Oh, brilliant!” and an exploding Tardis. That’s about it from Whittaker’s first appearance on screen.
But that’s pretty much the Doctor: an exclamation and some world-ending danger. I do hope they don’t stay too long with the exploding Tardis, as that was much of Matt Smith’s run, even figuring into his regeneration story.
What were your favorite quotes or one-liners?
First Doctor (about the Tardis): It seems to have expanded!
Twelfth Doctor: Well, it’s all those years of bigger on the inside. You try sucking your tummy in that long.
First Doctor: Do I … become you?
Twelfth Doctor: Well, there’s a few false starts, but you get there in the end.
First Doctor: But I thought …
Twelfth Doctor: What?
First Doctor: Well, I assumed I’d get … younger.
Twelfth Doctor: I am younger!
First Doctor: What’s so important about one captain?
Twelfth Doctor: Everybody’s important to somebody, somewhere.
Twelfth Doctor: The universe generally fails to be a fairy tale, but that’s where we come in.
Twelfth Doctor: A life this long … do you understand what it is? It’s a battlefield, like this one. And it’s empty. Because everyone else has fallen.
Twelfth Doctor: Well I suppose one more lifetime won’t kill anyone … well, except me.
Were there any spiritual takeaways from this episode?
While it was a foregone conclusion that the Twelfth Doctor would choose to regenerate, I still connected with his hesitancy to go on despite all of his relationships having ended and will always be ending.
That’s something we don’t often think about in terms of immortality—the continual sense of loss. It’s also something that we as Christians do not have to fear. In Christ, we will live forever with all those who are also in Christ.
While the Doctor had to force himself to continue on out of a sense of obligation, we can and should continue in this life knowing that we grow in our relationships here and that we will never truly have to tell another believer “Goodbye.”
There’s also the Twelfth Doctor teaching the First Doctor about the inherent value of the individual person. The captain may not have seemed significant—after all, what’s one more death on a bloody battlefield—but he played a vital role in the Doctor’s future.
But even if the captain had no value to the Doctor, he was important to his wife and family. And beyond that, he, as is each person, was important to his Creator. That gives him and us worth and value, no matter who else does or does not recognize it.
Since this was the end of Peter Capaldi’s run as Doctor, what was your favorite moment from his run as the Doctor?
On the whole, it was seeing his evolution as a person. That seemed to be a new experience for the Doctor. He began his run asking Clara if he were a good person and she wasn’t sure how to answer him. He ended his time on the Tardis with the praise and adulation of several companions, including Clara.
He took over the role at a difficult moment and brought critical acclaim and increased attention to the show. Capaldi gave gravitas and weight to a role he clearly loved.
If there is one episode that sums up his run, it would be “Heaven Sent” — essentially a one-man virtuoso performance by Capaldi. If you boil it down to one moment of one episode, it would be his impassioned plea for peace during “The Zygon Inversion.”
This was also Steven Moffat’s last episode with new showrunner Chris Chibnall coming in for next season. Do you have a favorite Moffat episode?
I soldiered through some of the early, cheesy episodes of the new Doctor Who, but when I saw “The Empty Child” I was hooked. The gas mask faced boy wondering around repeating over and over again, “Are you my mummy?” was so creepy I almost could not convince my wife to keep watching the show. I loved it.
But the crowning, unique achievement of that episode—the Doctor triumphantly yelling, “Just this once, everybody lives!”—became a trope under Moffat. It wasn’t just that once, it was virtually every time. Moffat refused to let conclusions stay conclusions and give a sense of permanence and consequence to decisions and actions.
So I agree with Hannah Long, it’s time for Moffat and Doctor Who to go their separate ways. The show needs new ideas and different perspectives moving forward.
But Doctor Who viewers will always owe Moffat a debt for such great episodes like “The Empty Child,” “The Girl in the Fireplace,” “Heaven Sent,” basically everything with River Song and the introduction of the greatest villain of the new Who era: Weeping Angels.