Wednesday, April 4, 2018

TV Review: Doctor Who: Twice Upon a Time (2017)

Doctor Who: Twice Upon a Time (2017) written by Stephen Moffett and directed by Rachel Talaley

The Twelfth Doctor (Peter Capaldi) winds up in Earth's arctic at the same time as the First Doctor (here played by David Bradley though in the 1960s by William Hartnell). They both refuse to regenerate and might have gotten into an interesting conversation about it if a British World War I officer hadn't blundered into their meeting. Naturally, that's quite odd for the arctic in 1986. The Doctors begin to investigate and find that some crystalline people have been snatching other people on the brink of death for mysterious purposes. The adventure is afoot!

This Christmas special features several old standbys for Doctor Who--multiple Doctors, the regeneration (which is a farewell for one actor and an introduction of another), and tying off some loose ends. The two Doctors are fun together even though it is a bit odd to have a different actor playing the First Doctor (Bradley had played William Hartnell before in a TV movie about Doctor Who's early years). Bradley does a good job though the script goes out of its way to portray him as sexistly old-fashioned (mostly for comedic effect), something that rings false with what I've seen of the Hartnell episodes. The First Doctor's resistance to regenerating is also something shoehorned into the story (it had little basis in The Tenth Planet, when Hartnell's Doctor regenerated). It makes an interesting parallel to the Twelfth Doctor, so it's less bothersome. The rest of the plot is rather run of the mill for Doctor Who--fun but ridiculous. Some old companions (and one old nemesis) show up so Capaldi can have a farewell and some closure. Capaldi does a good job with his big final speech before regenerating. The one or two really beautiful moments are outweighed by a lot of weaker moments in the story. The whole episode feels a bit perfunctory and follows the recent trend of good actors trying to make the best of mediocre to poor writing in the show.

The new Doctor (Jodie Whittaker, who played the mom in Broadchurch) shows up for two minutes and tries to keep the TARDIS from falling apart. She has hardly any dialogue, just bits of action (though not picking out a new outfit as new Doctors often do). It's hard to make an assessment of her, other than it seems like a desperate ploy to be trendy and relevant by having a female take over a male role (which really isn't an assessment of her as an actress but of the situation in general). It looks like a politically correct choice rather than an artistic choice, which generally means we'll get bad art. I hope I'm wrong but only time will tell.

Overall, this hasn't inspired me to jump back into Doctor Who. I can't quite recommend it.

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