Doctor Who | Twice Upon A Time

From the moment Twice Upon A Time opened with the original recording of The Tenth Planet, I knew Whovians were in for a treat. But whereas sometimes Moffat has promised much and not quite delivered, here he gives in spades.

The classic recording morphs to David Bradley as the Doctor, Jared Garfield as Ben and Lily Travers as Polly, with the production staff finding a ton of original props to turn that Classic Who feel up to eleven. That the end of the episode switches back is a lovely touch.

In fact, Twice Upon A Time is dripping in Who lore both old and new

  • there are strong parallels to The Time of the Doctor, with the Doctor resigned to (and even eager for) his death. And as Eleven sees a memory of Amy at the end, Twelve sees Clara.
  • the Doctor seeks knowledge from Rusty, who last appeared in Into The Dalek and now lives on Villengard, mentioned in The Doctor Dances as the weapon factories where Captain Jack got his gun, before they were destroyed by the Doctor to be replaced by banana groves.
  • the mysterious force of Testimony was born on New New Earth and is basically a massive databank of memories extracted at the end of a person’s life. It’s like Missy’s Heaven, only far more benign.
  • a “clipshow” provided by Testimony features bubbles of footage. It’s all comes a bit fast, but classic Doctors Tom Baker, Peter Davison, Jon Pertwee, and Paul McGann are seen, alongside Matt Smith, David Tennant, Capaldi and, in touching tribute, John Hurt.
  • Eleven’s “We’re all stories in the end” is revisited by Bill Potts’ welcome return. Now part of Testimony, she exists in the form of her memories given an avatar, though the Doctor refuses to accept this version of her. But what are we, if not a collection of memories and experiences?

Memory and recollection then are the driving forces behind Twice Upon A Time, which is perfect given the story of the Doctor under Moffat. The episode is both a celebration and a definite closing chapter. Particularly poignant is how Bill proves to the Doctor that memories matter. Her kiss restores his memories of Clara, and the glass avatars then bring both her and Nardole back to say goodbye.

Also saying farewell, abet in a subtle way, is Murray Gold. The composer has provided the soundtrack to every episode from Rose onward; 12 years of on-the-button tracks such as the wonderful The Majestic Tale [Of A Madman In a Box] and the iconic Doomsday. Of all those leaving Who with the close of this season, Gold’s departure hits me the hardest.

Going back to memories, Twice touches on one of the Doctor’s greatest friendships. Rumour had it that Gatiss was playing Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart, but when the first trailer mentioned World War I, that was clearly impossible, much to the relief of many Whovians, including myself.

Yet rumour wasn’t completely wrong. I twigged just after the First Doctor realised Bill was part of Testimony, so when he gave his full name as Archibald Hamish Lethbridge-Stewart – the Brigadier’s grandfather – I was unsurprised and immensely satisfied. Having the Captain involved in the Christmas Truce of 1914 was a fantastic touch that was both uplifting and moving.

And that sums up Twice Upon A Time. Beautifully filmed, abounding in references both visual and audible, it is, in my opinion, the best Doctor Who special to date. And that’s before the epic regeneration and Thirteen’s arrival.

[aw brilliant]

It’s going to be a long wait until autumn.

The Master Rewatch – Logopolis

Written by: Christopher H. Bidmead
Original airing: BBC One, 28 February – 21 March 1981
Rewatched: BBC Store

Synopsis: The Doctor goes to Logopolis to repair the TARDIS’ chameleon circuit, unaware that a shadowy watcher is spying on him. Meanwhile, the Master has a plan of his own for the planet; one that could mean the unravelling of the causal nexus and the end of the universe itself.

Logopolis is the first episode of Doctor Who that I vividly remember watching, and the reasons are threefold.

First, while episodes based in London are always recognisable, there’s something special about one where you know the scene intimately. The “Pharos Project” on Logopolis is a model of the Lowell Telescope at Jodrell Bank, which my parents had taken me to at some point before; me being completely obsessed with all things space. I’ve been several times since, and it remains wonderful in itself, with the added Whovian bonus.

Second is the arrival of the Master. For a seven year old, the wilfully naughtiness of the Master was an instant draw, and I quickly found myself rooting for him rather than the Doctor. That he brought about the third point was icing on the cake, which brings me to…

Third. The regeneration. This was the first I’d seen, though I knew it happened. (I honestly don’t get fans who moan every time the Doctor changes face. It’s the entire basis of the character for crying out loud!) News had broken on Tom Baker’s replacement, and it was an actor I already knew and loved, so was quite excited about it.

Rewatching Logopolis at 43, I was still very much Team Master, though his casual regard (or lack there of) for life impacted rather more than it had at 7. And his manipulation of Nyssa is nasty. Yet. His blithe attitude to everything is as intriguing as it ought to be off-putting. I wasn’t wondering what made him tick at this point, but the spark of curiosity was lit.

The Master Rewatch – The Keeper of Traken

keeper1Written by: Johnny Byrne
Original airing: BBC One, 31 January – 21 February 1981
Rewatched: Horror Channel

Synopsis: the Doctor and Adric learn from the wizened Keeper of Traken that a great evil has come to his planet in the form of Melkur – a calcified statue. The Keeper is nearing the end of his reign and seeks the Doctor’s help in preventing the evil from taking control of the bioelectronic Source that is the keystone of the Traken Union’s civilisation.

I don’t remember watching The Keeper of Traken as a child, though I most probably did. It has a very different feel to most Doctor Who stories; with its slow-burn plot and intricate costumes, it has more in keeping with an historical play than a sci fi series. It’s extraordinarily lovely.

The Master only reappears towards the very end of the last part, with Anthony playing the very sweet Tremas for the majority of the story. I like Tremas. He’s a decent bloke and I always feel a slight pang at his death.

There’s some debate on the Master’s physiology in the Ainley years. Is he Traken, Time Lord or a blend of the two? It’s not a question answered directly by the show. What is known is that Tremas gets visibly younger on being taken over by the Master. The fact he continues to pursue a new set of regenerations would suggest his DNA is altered enough to allow for one.

But what is a Time Lord? As far as the Doctor goes, he has two hearts and a stolen Tardis. It’s never clear that he needs to have two hearts to regenerate (if we look at NuWho, the Doctor’s daughter Jenny has two and can resuscitate after death, whereas River can regenerate in full but I don’t recall her physiology mentioned.)

As far as the Master is concerned, I’m not sure it matters. Even with a new body – and the ability to recall some of Tremas’s memories – he’s still the same selfish, power-obsessed person he was beforehand. The only difference is his sudden affinity for black velvet and a sharp line in snark.

The Master Rewatch

Ahh, the Master. As noted here, I grew up with – pretty much literally – Anthony Ainley in the role and fell deeply in love. It’s a feeling which abides despite him being long gone, and which I’ve decided to celebrate for no reason other than I can by rewatching his Who episodes. For those with less-than-perfect recall of said episodes (which is probably everyone but me), they are as follows:

The Keeper of Traken
The King’s Demons
The Five Doctors
Planet of Fire
The Mark of the Rani
The Ultimate Foe

So join me, if you dare, on a voyage celebrating villainous shenanigans, ridiculously convoluted schemes and improbable escapes from certain death, with a new episode every Monday.