Liverpool Sound and Vision Rating 9/10
Cast: Peter Capaldi, David Bradley, Mark Gatiss, Pearl Mackie, Lily Travers, Jared Garfield, Toby Whithouse, Jenna Coleman, Jodie Whittaker, Matt Lucas, Nikki Amuka-Bird.
How many regenerations have you lived through? It could be a question in which the critics decry as nostalgic, one that avoids a sense of action or purpose to the story line, the conclusion to a life is the only thing worthy as a new set of eyes to see the universe with fresh hope and a new catch phrase. To do this though misses the point, it shows that arguably you might not have been paying attention, or consumed with eager optimism for the fresh face to appear at the end.
Once upon a Christmas Day there has always been a sense of the melancholy that comes with watching Doctor Who, especially in recent times when the much loved character returned to grace the evening schedule and take on the task of regeneration from Christopher Eccleston onto the next inhabitant of the man who ran from his own people in a stolen Police Box, David Tennant. Twice Upon A Time though perhaps holds more significance than at first viewing, not only do the fans and casual viewers get to see history made by the appearance of Jodie Whittaker as the first woman to take on the titular role but they see history repeat itself in a brand new way.
The passing of any Doctor is perhaps a time for reflection in the soul for anyone who has taken the man from Gallifrey to the hearts, and since the series returned in 2005, the soul has lost four, five if you include the great John Hurt who was introduced during the shows 50th Anniversary celebrations, yet none perhaps have felt as momentous a shift as the one in which Peter Capaldi left the show, from grey haired older statesman with a particularly great sense of humour and a smile you could bathe in, to the previously unexplored in the title role and yet one that even with less than a minutes screen time, already feels comfortable and brilliant.
History repeats, and with the much missed William Hartnell having laid down the groundwork over 50 years ago on how the serial would go, a chance to revisit and add colour to the first passing of the torch was a wonderful opportunity in which to have fun, to reflect and seek some answers, to wave goodbye and say hello briefly to Jenna Coleman, a companion that has caused deep divisions but to whom much praise must be offered.
Twice Upon A Time might be seen as convoluted, such is the nature of time travel, but there is a shining star of beautifully played out performances in the episode that make it glow with the sincerity of a four billion year old sun. In David Bradley as the original Doctor there is sublime homage to William Hartnell, the framing of a different time and way of thinking perfectly capturing what was thought to be acceptable mannerisms and words, to be nothing more than out dated fashion; quite rightly we have moved on from such days but we cannot dismiss them either, we must not airbrush them out of existence, neither must we demonise, we learn, we seek out a higher purpose and we move on, we smile at what we was once and relish how far we have come.
A tale of war, of memory and being kind, not to the universe but just once, maybe twice, being kind to yourself, the Doctor in any incarnation is still the same person; a lesson we could all learn when accepting people no matter what skin they wear.
Ian D. Hall