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Doctor Who Showrunner, Steven Moffat doesn’t do things by halves. If you’ve read anything about the nightmare that was writing the Doctor Who 50th Anniversary special, you’ll know the Press Gang writer really likes to fly by the seat of his pants. Soon to be stepping down to make way for new showrunner, Chris Chibnall (Broadchurch), Moffat had originally planned to leave Doctor Who after The Doctor Falls, a regular episode that saw the Doctor ready for regeneration. It was only after hearing that Chibnall didn’t want his first episode to be a Christmas special, that Moffat agreed to oversee one more episode. In doing so, he probably added some undue pressure onto himself.

For not only is Twice Upon a Time his last episode, it’s also the last episode of Peter Capaldi as The Doctor. When Doctors regenerate, the show’s audience demands it be epic. You gotta go out big! Inverting those expectations, Moffat has crafted an episode that manages to be much more personable than other Christmas specials under his watch, and it’s all the better for it.

True to his rebellious nature, the Twelfth Doctor is refusing to regenerate. Holding on with every ounce of strength he has, The Doctor escapes to the South Pole in 1986 where he meets someone extremely familiar. The First Doctor (David Bradley) has just defeated the Cybermen and looks set to regenerate. However, like his future incarnation, he won’t go down without a fight. Realising that if his first incarnation doesn’t regenerate then none of the good things he’s achieved will come to pass, the Twelfth Doctor looks set to go all Wonderful Life and show the First Doctor the true meaning of Christmas. But then there’s the small matter of the World War One Captain, played by Mark Gatiss, who most definitely shouldn’t be roaming the 1980s tundra. Along the way, the trio will meet creatures made of glass, see the return of Bill Potts (Pearl Mackie) and witness the Christmas Armistice of 1914. Honestly, it’s not as grandiose as it sounds.

Considering the weight that hangs over Twice Upon a Time, and everything mentioned above, the plot Is actually rather light. It doesn’t matter how many Doctors you throw on the screen, the whole mystery of Gatiss’ Captain being plucked out of time is merely an excuse for Moffat to allow the Doctors to rub each other up the wrong way. Grumpy, but a bit more in tune with 21st century ideals, Capaldi’s Doctor clashes somewhat with the equally grumpy, but old fashioned First.

The First Doctor may look the eldest, but he’s still a youngster learning about the universe. No one is inherently born woke and it takes the 12th doctor all his strength to stop from throttling the First over his problematic comments. All of which plays into the thread that runs through Twice Upon a Time; our past may define us, but we are who we are in the moment. We all still have chances to learn and grow. We will make mistakes, and some of them will be terrible, but we will overcome them and keep pushing forward.

This idea of acceptance plays nicely in Capaldi’s eventual regeneration. Having helped the Captain, and encouraged the First Doctor to get on with his lives, the Twelfth Doctor is afforded an opportunity to come to terms with his own end. ‘Doctor,’ he says tiredly, but content. ‘I let you go.’ If we cast our net further, past Moffatt’s tenure, this contrasts nicely with Russell T Davies’ send off for David Tennant, which sadly saw the Oncoming Storm reduced to a whining ‘I don’t want to go.’ It was a line that never sat well with me, and I can’t help thinking that it didn’t with Moffatt either.

Whilst Capaldi’s performance was excellent, time must be taken to give Bradly his dues. Having originally played William Hartnell in Gatiss’ Adventure in Space and Time, the actor was more than ready to cross the line and go full Doctor. It’s not the first time the First Doctor has been recast, but it was certainly the best. The Five Doctors saw Richard Hurndall take over the reins from Hartnell and, to be honest, it never felt more than a pencil sketch of the character. In Bradley’s hands, the First Doctor felt real, like he’d never really been away. The Doctor who once threatened to beat a caveman to death, was just as problematic when faced with ‘modern’ society and he was wonderful. Equally, Mackie appeared to be having just as much fun as Capaldi, clashing with Bradley’s pomposity. I’m not saying I want a series of adventures where the Frist Doctor and Bill travel together, but I am.

Surprisingly streamlined and as emotional as you would want it to be, Twice Upon a Time was – to quote the Thirteenth Doctor (Jodie Whittaker) who made a cheeky appearance – brilliant. Moffat certainly had issues during his time as showrunner, his overly complicated sixth season will never be one of the classics, but it amazing to watch how the show has evolved. It’s going to be fascinating to see where Chibnall goes from here.

And so it ends. Series 8 has possibly been one of the more satisfying series of Doctor Who under Moffat’s reign. Stripped of its recent dependence on timey wimey nonsense, the show has felt reinvigorated. It’s been suggested that Moffat doesn’t listen to the fans, and nor should he, but it couldn’t have escaped anyone’s attention that this series has had more in common with the first four than anything else.

In Dark Water/Death in Heaven, several story arcs came to an end as an old enemy returned to cause havoc upon planet earth with a little help of the Cybermen. It was big, it was brash, but it also managed to be highly emotional in way that Doctor Who hasn’t been for a long time. These two episodes have seen Moffat doing what he likes to do best: referencing the past (a lot) and messing around with everyone who has access to the internet.

Danny Pink joins the ranks of Rory and Mickey as people get caught in the crossfire when the Doctor and his companion are in town. Hit by a car, facing your demons in a fake heaven and being cyber converted is not the first thing one would ask for in the event of their death. But here he was, defiant in the end. His final scenes with Clara were heartbreaking. When the Doctor appeared on the scene, his anger was well and truly justified. Through no fault of his own Danny was about to pay the ultimate sacrifice. And as he proved The Doctor’s skepticism of soldiers was unwarranted, my heart broke further. Danny probably deserved more in life. He was a tortured man, who didn’t need to prove anything, but found himself having to do so.

And poor Clara. There was no glory in death for her. Remember the bubbly wide-eyed innocent we met in Series 7? It’s fair to say the Doctor has chewed her up and spat her out. Handing her a lottery ticket with next week’s numbers on it, ala the Tenth, is just not going to cut it this time. She tried to do by right the Doctor, by Danny and more importantly by herself. She was clever and resourceful. Look how she handled the cyber men by pretending to be the Doctor (further acknowledgement that Moffatt sees a future for a female Doctor): she deserved better. And she knew this too. As they both lied to each other in that final scene, her relationship with the Doctor is like that metaphorical ball of paper. It can be flattened out, but you’re still going to see the marks.

UNIT returned to boss the Doctor around and make him the President on Earth. A storyline that didn’t really go anywhere, but at least gave us an excuse to see? Kate Lethbridge-Stewart and Osgood again. There are accusations that Moffat can only write one type of female character, which I find to be completely unfounded. Moffat can’t write ‘sexy’ femme fatales very well. See Irene Adler and Melody Pond in Let’s Kill Hitler. However, in this series we had four distinct female characters. Four? Yep four. And if you don’t know what I’m talking about, stop reading now.

Missy was in fact the Master!

Those who brush away the reference to the Corsair’s gender-swapping antics in season 7 are going to struggle now. It’s official. Time Lords can and will change gender. Maybe one day we will have a female Doctor too and I look forward to it. I will be there cheering on the change, as well as warming myself by the heat of the anger from Twitter. Did the dynamic change with Michelle Gomez in the role? For me, not really. Once I quickly accepted her preference of pronouns, I was fully on board. When the Master first resurfaced under RTD’s reign, he was a coward, having hidden himself away from the Time War. He forced his regeneration to put him on par with the Tenth’s youthful appearance. No goatees here, my good man. Except something wasn’t right. With youth cam a little bit of madness. He was erratic, sexual and not shy of abusing his wife. Even in defeat, he had to get the upper hand on the Doctor by refusing to regenerate. And then, after some Harry Potter BS, he was back as blonde jacked-up super villain. The drumming that drove him mad, revealed to be the work of Rassilon.

The last appearance of the Simm-Master saw him fighting against Rassilon and weirdly defending the Doctor. And where was the Doctor? Well, he got a poorly tummy from radiation sickness and went off to cry about Rose. So, it’s understandable that the Master might have been a bit pissed to have been left in the lurch. And so here she is, having orchestrated the meeting of Clara and the Doctor simply to prove a point. That The Doctor is basically The Master. Two sides of the same coin. And to prove it, she gave him control of her cyber-army. As she pointed out several times, she’s bananas.

Gomez’s portrayal of the Master was superb. Channeling a touch of Simm as well Sue White from Green Wing, she was a whirlwind of villainy and 80s pop songs. It’s good to know that no matter what happens to the Master, they love their Earth pop culture. Then there was that kiss. It could be argued that Moffat was injecting some heteronormative behavior in the role, but another way to look at it is that the Master is bloody enjoying the fact that The Doctor doesn’t recognize her. And whereas the Eleventh Doctor might have been up for the snog, Twelvy clearly wasn’t. If you wanted further proof that Moffat has put the pretty-boy Doctor to bed then that scene was it.

Sadly, we couldn’t enjoy her company for too long before she had back against the wall and the Doctor being called upon by Clara to take her out. Not just in revenge for Danny but for everyone that has died at the hands of the Master because the Doctor always lets them get away. Would the Doctor have gone ahead with it? Who knows because someone did it for him. Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart did the job for him. Now you may not have liked how he was brought back, but I certainly think it was in character. If Danny Pink was going to override his cyber-programming to find Clara, then the Brig was not going to stand away and be told what to do by the Master. And like Danny’s sacrifice, it proved once again that the Doctor needs to ease up on his armed forces bashing. His solitary salute was beautiful.

Then there was the Doctor. Ah Twelvy. You wanted to know if you were a good man and you realized like the rest of us, that we’re capable of being anything at any time and as long as you keep fighting the good fight, you have nothing to fear. Too bad the Master managed to give him the finger one last time by giving fake coordinates to Galliffrey. When the told The Master she had won, he didn’t know the half of it.

And then there was a further tip of the hat to the Davies era, with a credit sting leading into the Christmas special, with Capaldi’s raised eyebrow replacing the Tenth’s triple what.

It’s been a fantastic series and I look forward to revisting it over the next couple of weeks to catch things I may have missed. If Moffat can keep up this momentum for series 9, things can only get better.

I wish I had reams of things to say about this weeks, but unfortunately there was very little there to hook me. Bugger.

This was the chill out room of episodes. Not even the threat of the world being set ablaze by solar flares could stop you from thinking, ‘Everything is going to be okay.’ Which is a bit of a problem when you’re trying to create tension, isn’t it?

As I sit here typing, I’m struggling to think of anything to say aside from ‘fine.’ The performances were fine, the script was fine, the denouement was fine. It was all just… fine. At the time, I was caught up in it all. London had succumbed to tree squatters. There were wolves. There was a tiger. Nelson’s Column nearly crushed some kids. But in the cold light of day, I’m thinking there wasn’t much else to it. It wasn’t a bad episode of Doctor Who. It was just… and episode of Doctor Who. Something I imagine the Fifth Doctor getting involved in. ‘Oh look, Tegan. Trees. Is it nap time yet?’

A large part of why I stuck around was because of Sheree Folkson’s direction which was magical. Often positioning the camera to look up to the Doctor, we were reminded how daunting he must be to children and how much he is just like one of them.

In the Forest of the Night was very much like getting trapped in a forest of wonder – bear with me – in that whilst it was fun to get lost in and appreciate everything that was going on around me, once I’m was back in the real world, I’m not sure I want to go back.

About The Author
My name is John Noonan. I’m a freelance writer that specialises in arts and entertainment. From genre flicks to chick flicks, I love the stuff. So much so, I started a film review blog at earlybirdfilm.wordpress.com. I also contribute to online and hard copy press, including FilmInk magazine.

If you like what you see, I am available for hire. You can contact me via the social media channels above or the form on my home page.

It feels like forever since we had a Doctor-Lite in Doctor Who. Flicking through my memories, the highly emotional Turn Left – aka That One Where Rose Talked with a Lisp – was our last one. And whilst Twelvy had a considerably larger presence on-screen this week than during Tenth’s time, you would be a fool, and potentially a dirty liar, to suggest that Flatline was anything but Clara’s episode.

Thrown off course to the far reaches of Bristol, The Doctor is held prisoner in his rapidly shrinking TARDIS. Clara, having vacated earlier to scout for clues, is left in charge, armed with psychic paper and the screwdriver. Oh, and the Doctor’s gadgetry allowing him to see and hear everything she does.

Unearthing a plot by two-dimensional beings who may or may not be peaceful, Clara planted herself firmly in the Doctor’s shoes, much to his chagrin. Ostensibly, this was the episode’s running gag; the much grumpier and pompous Doctor refusing to identify anyone outside of himself as having his portent personality. But there was something more there. Clara, who I love more with each new episode, ticked all the boxes in a list of timelord prerequisites. She was quick-witted, fearless and, tellingly, she was willing to hide the truth from those around her for the greater good. Something she’d had practice with in the episode before.

Once the monsters were put to bed – Peter Capaldi finally being given a Doctor speech on par with the Eleventh’s ‘Come and have a go if you think you’re hard enough’ at the Pandorica – and the regular humans went back to their regular homes to drink their regular cups of tea, Clara, the impossible girl, sought the Doctor’s approval. And he struggled.

There’s been some comments about Moffat’s agenda and wagging a finger at feminism. That the Doctor’s lack of acknowledgement was a tip of the fedora to the male fans in the crowd.

‘Hey! She was good, but she’s no Doctor! Right guys?! Pwoah! Misogyny, fedoras, Sherlock!’ is what I imagine some people thought the Moff was saying as he packed Jamie Mathieson off to write his script. But that’s not the case. The Doctor didn’t struggle because of pomposity and bluff and glass ceilings, he struggled because of what he saw.

Since the resurrection of Doctor Who, Davies and Moffat have stoked the fires on the danger the Doctor puts people in. Particularly those he holds dear. Donna acknowledged it in The Runaway Bride and the Eleventh Doctor was given a talking down to by Rory in Vampires of Venice. I’ve mentioned before that I feel the Doctor has been taking stock of his life/lives and uprooted a barrel of angst. With Clara taking control so deftly, The Doctor isn’t worried about being replaced, he’s worried about the legacy he’s leaving behind.

All the way through this series, Clara has been making her own decisions, even when being fought over by two chest thumping alpha-males. That doesn’t mean all those decisions have been wise. Clara is no longer the Impossible Girl: A facsimile of a woman always ready with a cheeky, flirty one liner. She’s now a well-rounded and fallible human being. And these kind of human beings, i.e. the best ones, mess up all the time. She wants to impress her friend, as we have all done from time to time, and she’ll do anything to achieve that. The Doctor’s influence is great, as it has been with all his companions. Maybe this time, he’s taking a step back and truly realizing what he’s done.

About The Author
My name is John Noonan. I’m a freelance writer that specialises in arts and entertainment. From genre flicks to chick flicks, I love the stuff. So much so, I started a film review blog at earlybirdfilm.wordpress.com. I also contribute to online and hard copy press, including FilmInk magazine.

If you like what you see, I am available for hire. You can contact me via the social media channels above or the form on my home page.

At the end last week’s fairly decent – and politically charged depending on how long you stayed on Twitter – episode, Clara had ripped the Doctor a new one, leaving him to shuffle off unsure as to where it all went wrong. So, it came to a surprise to a lot of us, I’m sure, when this week the Doctor was seen stepping out of the TARDIS with… Clara in tow. Had the Moffat-haters begun sharpening their wits ready for a full on attack on the importance of continuity later that evening? Probably. Had continuity been forgotten? Nope.

Clara and The Doctor were calling it quits. Clara had decided to stake her claim in her time, with Danny by her side and a bunch of young minds to inspire. If she had been with the Tenth Doctor, he would have probably beaten the concrete, crying that life was so unfair and wondering where Rose was. The Seventh would have probably said goodbye, and then tricked her into overthrowing a dictatorship. The Third would have sloped off and driven Bessy around in a strop. The Twelth was just awkward. But oh, it was beautiful.

Taking her on board a space-bound recreation of the Orient Express, he struggled to understand what Clara was feeling. Something he’d been doing for some time, but now he’s beginning to see what he’s doing is a problem. Not, that he was going to let Clara realise that. He continued to bluff his way through his emotions, trying to cut her short on any topic to do with her leaving.

And then people started dropping dead, crying they could see a mummy stalking them. That’s always going to rain on your parade. Not that the Doctor was going to jump into the mystery with both feet. No, seemingly having learnt his lesson about dragging Clara into danger, the Doctor slinked off to his bedroom to have a good think and argument with himself. Whilst we’re on the subject, can we please have more of Capaldi’s Fourth Doctor impression, or even just hinting that he’s talking to his past selves. It’s a lovely little quirk and anchors the new to its past without alienating the casual viewer.

Obviously this is Doctor Who, so of course the Doctor made the decision to get involved. As did Clara. As I’ve hinted at in previous reviews, particularly The Caretaker, the monster of the week shenanigans the duo get caught up in aren’t necessarily the A-Story this season. Whilst the Doctor went toe to toe with a Mummy, the real monster in Jamie Mathieson’s superbly written episode was addiction. For the Doctor, it’s the thrill of the chase. When the space-train is revealed to be a lab, the Doctor wastes no time in allowing people to die in order to collate data. There was no ‘I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.’ Just calculated collateral damage, with the help of TV’s Frank Skinner.

Meanwhile, despite her protestations at once again being manipulated by the Doctor, Clara finds that she can’t quite shake the habit of time travel. Discussing her return home with Danny, in actions that echo previous companion Amy, she lies to both to him and the Doctor so she can continue to bounce around time and space. A number of comments on the internet have pointed to The Caretaker as being an episode where a woman’s choices take a backseat to the men in the room. I actually think that was a deliberate choice on the part of the Danny/Clara/Doctor triangle story. Previously Clara was flustered and allowed herself to be caught up in Danny and the Doctor’s pissing contest. Here though, Clara is fully in control of what she wants to do. I don’t think it’s her wisest decision, but for now, she does and who’s the one to take that away from her.

But she’s not the only one lying. After the Doctor tells Clara about their fantastic escape from the Orient Express, she asks him if he’s lying. He jokes that, yes, he was making it up and he left people to die. I’m with Clara. I think he’s lying too. Whilst Missy wasn’t to be seen this week, it is unusual that we didn’t get to see the Doctor being all heroic. At the end of the episode, he may have been smiling, but the days are counting down when something is going to come and bite him on his time lord posterior.

About The Author
My name is John Noonan. I’m a freelance writer that specialises in arts and entertainment. From genre flicks to chick flicks, I love the stuff. So much so, I started a film review blog at earlybirdfilm.wordpress.com. I also contribute to online and hard copy press, including FilmInk magazine.

If you like what you see, I am available for hire. You can contact me via the social media channels above or the form on my home page.