Doctor Who Christmas special 2017: Twice Upon a Time | Television & radio

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Spoiler alert: this blog contains details of the Doctor Who Christmas special, Twice Upon a Time.

“Love hard, run fast, be kind…”

Merry Christmas! Despite the sense of occasion, we must offer a little critical analysis. This wasn’t really a Doctor Who adventure, since it was barely an adventure at all. This was something… perhaps less, but perhaps more. At the nub is the First Doctor (played here with unsettling skill by David Bradley, who portrayed William Hartnell’s portrayal in the 50th anniversary biopic) equally unsettled by his future as ‘the Doctor of war’, and our 12th’s horror at the unreconstructed 60s humanoid he used to be.

Twice Upon a Time

Twice Upon a Time Photograph: Simon Ridgway/BBC/BBC Worldwide

There is one thing I know for certain about people – and I probably learned it from Doctor Who. The younger you are, the more seriously you take yourself. The older you get, the more everything becomes a hoot, and frankly a bit ridiculous – however happy or sad the circumstance. Twice Upon a Time plays this out more than any other multi-Doctor story we’ve seen. And Moffat has a lot of fun playing the first Doctor’s political incorrectness against the 12th’s electric-guitar-and-sonic-shades midlife crisis. Bravo, frankly.

“Don’t die, because if you do, I think everyone in the universe might go cold.”

Doctor Who

Doctor Who Photograph: Simon Ridgway/BBC/BBC Worldwide

It’s wonderful to see Pearl Mackie back. It was simply an accident of scheduling that this character had to be a one-season wonder. But there’s little danger of her future being less bright than the rest of her Nu-Who alumni. (Mackie’s next project sees her join Zoe Wanamaker and Steven Mangan in a West End revival of Harold Pinter’s The Birthday Party.) Glorious, too, see the return of Jenna Coleman as Clara, Bill’s final gift being the return of his memories of her. I know she was divisive, with many thinking Clara too big for her boots, but personally I loved the partnership. Although, it must be said, all that time playing Queen Victoria has poshened up her Blackpool accent – and it showed.

Fear factor

Unusually for this series, there’s no actually ‘baddie’ as such. Even the Dalek (Rusty from 2014’s Into the Dalek) has been turned against his own murderous kind and become a strange sort of ally. In some sense, the villain of the piece is the Doctor himself, resisting survival, and the consequences of what his carrying on means for everyone else. That blasted universe keeps need saving – a man could get exhausted. Indeed, the only opponent surely capable of preventing such a grave mistake is ….himself. And so it is, perhaps the only reason to do a multi-Doctor story. To give him a reason to meet himself (gender pronouns are about to become a nightmare from hereon in).

Christmas continuity

Doctor Who

Doctor Who Photograph: Simon Ridgway/BBC/BBC Worldwide

It’s hardly a surprise that Moffat knows his Who-lore, but it’s still rather delightful that so many retro-references are thrown in – the Tardis windows being wrong shape, the First’s insistence on calling it ‘the ship’.

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