TV REVIEW: Doctor Who: Season 11, Ep. 0 (Twice Upon A Time) - "The Doctor has Regenerated. Lon
We have a new Doctor. May long she reign.
Christmas Day came and went. But for many of us the gift under the tree we wanted the most was the Doctor Who Christmas special.
The introduction of the episode is top notch- providing both a great nod to the past and a seamless transition into the present. For instance, the Doctors engage in some witty conversation when they first meet and there is also a cool effects shot of snow falling frozen in mid-air. Oh, did I also mention that we have a new Doctor? Yes, Jodie Whittaker. In this episode, we do see and hear her first words right before she is plunged out of the TARDIS (no doubt a plot mechanism to provide her with a new TARDIS).
Unfortunately, the episode feels bloated as Stephen Moffat (also outgoing as show runner) packs the episode with a new alien threat (the Testimony), the return of Bill Potts, Rusty the Dalek, Nardole, a WW I British Soldier (played by Mark Gatiss), and yet another turn by Jenna Coleman. Because of this issue, the Mark Gatiss character is revealed to have a key background detail that provides importance to his character, while another role lacks a reason for WHY the First Doctor should be in the story. Additionally, I don't think anyone was clamoring for the return of Rusty (was the Paternosta Gang off solving a case?).
Another issue I saw pop up were the many culturally outdated references to the role of women in society by the First Doctor. The first time seems funny in an outdated 'can't believe people said that' sort of way. However, by the fourth or fifth time, it becomes very distracting and raises the open question of why the writers are doing this, especially considering who we - as the viewers - know the Doctor will regenerate into. Lastly, we have the appearance of a former Companion (this time Jenna Coleman) which is recycled from a trick that was used already with Matt Smith's regeneration.
Bill Pott's storyline should have been allowed to end with the season finale.
All in all, this had the potential to be one of the GREAT Doctor Who Christmas Specials, but unfortunately falls short. The idea of what could have been if there were no Doctors should have been explored more. "It's a Wonderful Life" approach might have fared better than using an alien threat no one had heard of before (were the Zygons on Holiday?). It is a shame that Capaldi decided to end his tenure before the new showrunner (Chris Chibnall) came aboard. His run on Doctor Who has been uneven, and I think part of it was that Moffat's direction of the series had become repetitive and tired. Capaldi is a strong actor and it would have been interesting to see what he could have done with a fresh showrunner.
It is a critical time for the Who Universe to have its first female Doctor. In some ways it might have been an easier introduction to have a Female Doctor start at the end of the Matt Smith years when the show was strong. The final Moffat years have weakened the show a bit. But a new show runner and a bold choice in the Doctor could be just the Regeneration the show needs.
The Doctor has Regenerated. Long live The Doctor AND long may the show reign.