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Goodbye Doctor - Hello Doctor

A review of "Twice upon a Time," the Doctor Who Christmas Special.


Warning: the following article contains a few spoilers. Duh.

So on Christmas day, we saw the new Doctor Who, and quite good she seemed to be, too. Honestly, that’s all I’m going to say about the whole gender thing, for one reason: I don’t care about it. Not a jot. Male, female, unicorn or dolphin, I just don’t care. What I care about are the scripts the main actor gets landed with.

If there was one thing I disliked about the Stephen Moffat era, it was his insistence that “Doctor Who” is a fairy story. It always had a touch of tinsel and magic dust scattered over his episodes. When you took away the grindingly repetitive attempts at morality, the stories were just simple nonsense where stuff happened because it would be cool. Fairy stories don’t need logic or consistency, they need to keep moving forwards.

That was why we ended up with stories like “Kill the Moon”, where Earth’s moon turns out to be a giant egg, from which a dragon hatches. That’s OK because it lays a new “egg” or “moon” or – what? Could Brian Cox please explain to me how the physics of that might work? Or “In The Forrest of the Night” where the Earth grows a whole new surface of trees to protect it's from a comet. There are wolves. I get it. Fairy tales don’t need to make sense. Cool stuff just happens.

On the other hand, science fiction does. It needs some kind of logic or people like me sit there bemused and go “yes, but what about…”

Which brings me back to the Christmas special, and the two glaring faults in its plot. Firstly, the current Doctor finds himself at the South pole refusing to regenerate, and meets the first incarnation of the Doctor. We get some lovely dialogue and I can forgive the BBC for making Hartnel’s Doctor a bit of a misogynist, assuming that a female assistant would be cleaning the TARDIS etc. It’s not entirely fair but it’s funny and no one really remembers how he played the part in 1963. Most of his episodes were wiped after transmission. They then find themselves facing a monster called Testimony which …

Which actually exists to have a little chat with people about to die, and then pop them back into their allotted time frame to expire as planned. Testimony presents no threat to anyone. It’s kind of the intertemporal version of a library. To find this out they have to visit a planet filled with crazed nudist Daleks but basically, there’s no threat. Some people think this is OK, because, why should everything throughout time and space be hostile? I agree. On the other hand, I assume the Doctor meets friendly aliens between the episodes. If the characters are in no danger, then where’s our involvement? To put it another way – if the Doctor did nothing at all, the result would be the same. That’s just bad writing.

Bad writing but within a good setting. There is a World War One Captain who has landed in the wrong timespace, and the Testimony wants to put this right. Hm - I wonder if we might somehow find ourselves in the Christmas truce of 1914, I thought? And I did ask how a Captain in the Royal Artillery found himself in a shell hole in No Mans Land, pistol to pistol with a German. He should have been a mile back looking after the guns. Small niggle. History geek.

There’s a dilemma. If the Captain is allowed to keep on living it could make a terrible mess of Earths timeline. Now he’s been rescued by a miracle, he’s not quite prepared to die, but stiff upper lip and all that. The Doctor understands the necessity of maintaining the timestream but because it’s a Christmas episode, it all ends happily and the Captain lives. It’s beautiful. It’s clever. It’s eternally wrecked the future of time and space and the Reapers from series one should be arriving to clear up the mess, but hey, it’s Christmas! So everyone lives happily ever after, just like in a fairy tale.

I sat with my head in my hands watching this mess. Just once, for me, for old time’s sake, could we please have a Moffat run episode where the internal logic of the series is maintained? Where the Doctor finds a clever solution that solves the problem, rather than ignoring it? At least Moffat didn’t bring back Klara Oswald, because…

No, I’m kidding. He did. Of course he did. It was just for a very brief goodbye scene but after Klara was killed, resurrected, ran off with a TARDIS, moped about and was mentioned repeatedly, I really hoped I’d finally seen the last of her. But no. Because she was Moffat’s finest creation. He was never interested in the Doctor, an ancient demi-God who can travel through time and space. The show was always about a cute little English teacher.

Well, that’s it. We are done. Stephen Moffat has finally packed his bags and left the production office. Over to you, Mr Chibnall. Please - please - do better than this...

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