Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Doctor Who Review: Twice Upon a (Mediocre) Time

Twice Upon a (Mediocre) Time
a Doctor Who Review
Warning: *Spoilers*

We were fortunate this holiday season to be able to see the Doctor Who Christmas special on the night it broadcast in the U.S. I'd like to say we were fortunate to have seen a first rate send-off for Peter Capaldi's Doctor, but sadly we did not. 

First thing I have to mention is that I can't stand the sheer amount of commercial interruptions BBC America incorporated into the episode. Possibly there was a decent story hidden somewhere in between the copious amount of ad breaks, but they were enough to zap any interest either one of us had in the show from one scene to the next. And that says something for itself right there--if there had been a engaging storyline, then no amount of commercial interruptions would have caused us to channel surf and lose interest.

While David Bradley's portrayal of the First Doctor is superb, was his character really necessary in the story at all? Was the character of Bill necessary? Essentially, the premise is about the Christmas Truce of 1914. We have an English captain, played by screenwriter/actor Mark Gatiss, come along for a ride in the TARDIS, but there is surprisingly little mayhem or shooting.  There is a lot talking, however, and most of it could have been said and done within ten minutes tops, end of story.

The Christmas Truce is not a bad idea for a Christmas special. Can the Doctor bring a little "peace on Earth" during the Great War? But it's not a big enough story idea by itself for an hour show, so there was a lot of padding added, and the story's pacing slowed to a crawl. The preponderance of talking scenes didn't really make us feel all that nostalgic about Peter Capaldi's last time on screen as the Doctor, either. We were looking for more "action" and less "chatter."

The "atheists' heaven"--with dead companions walking around like spirits--came across as maudlin and an all-too-convenient plot device for the Doctor to say good-bye to his companions and deal with his fear of "death". While the recreation of the First Doctor's TARDIS interior was fantastic, we wished we could have seen more of it or had it worked into the plotline more. Once again, if you're going to add characters to flesh out a thin plot, perhaps you could have used them for greater affect? Otherwise, the viewer feels cheated. The promos tricked us into thinking there was going to be more to the story.

So, essentially in Twice Upon a Time we have a great actor in Peter Capaldi (and a great Who fan himself) who has been given a rather mediocre send-off after some rather mediocre seasons of Doctor Who. What a shame.
Somehow, I wasn't surprised to see the writer of this episode was Steven Moffat. His writing has really suffered since he took the helm as showrunner. (Is this the same person who wrote Blink?) Perhaps it's good he's retiring the gig and moving on.

Speaking of moving on, we were expecting to see a lot more of the new Doctor, Jodie Whitaker. She appears in the very last minute of the episode and promptly tumbles out of the TARDIS. As classic Who fans, we long for the more dignified regeneration scenes (such as the First Doctor experienced) instead of the showy pyrotechnics the modern Who series goes in for. Blowing up your time ship every time you regenerate gets messy--and predictable now that it's been done four times since 2005.

Let's cross our fingers for a better run for the "lucky thirteenth" Doctor!
We didn't see her in this outfit at all. It was a let down.

Available now--Book 3 in the Loving Who series, Losing Who. And coming in January--a short and sweet story featuring John Smith and Cici from the Loving Who series. All available from Devine Destinies Books and wherever fine ebooks are sold.



A J said...

Slow and mediocre are the right terms. Peter Capaldi deserved a far better send-off than that. David Bradley's a great actor too, and really deserved to strut his stuff as the First Doctor. Unfortunately he wasn't given the material to work with. The whole episode had a maudlin streak running through it which sapped the energy from the story line - such as it was. All in all a let-down. I'm so glad Moffatt is leaving the show. May the next incumbent as show-runner do justice to Doctor Who and its new star, Jody Whittaker.

Cindy A. Matthews said...

I really wish Peter Capaldi (like Christopher Eccleston) could have had at least one more season of playing the Doctor... Great actors, but the showrunners didn't seem to take their abilities to make the show evern greater into account. (At least Christopher's scripts were more polished than Peter's.)Let's keep our fingers crossed that Jodie's tenure will be of a higher quality overall, or else I fear this could mean the end of TV's longest run sci-fi adventure series.

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