Christmas is approaching fast and the traditional Doctor Who Christmas episode will be on the schedule for many as the festive day winds to a close. This year’s episode, titled Twice Upon a Time, will be bittersweet for Whovians as this will be the episode where Peter Capaldi turns his TARDIS key over to Jodie Whittaker and she assumes the iconic role of The Doctor.
As each actor who plays The Doctor departs the show there is a little uncertainty that accompanies the new actor selected for the role. Looking back, when Capaldi was announced to play The Doctor he had already established ‘Who-cred’ since he had appeared in The Fires of Pompeii and Torchwood’s Children of Earth. Fans were also delighted to learn that Capaldi was a true fan who had even written to the show’s producers as a child (he showed a copy of the letter during an interview). Each Doctor is unique in their own right and Capaldi portrayed his Doctor with an interesting approach. For me, his second and third seasons were his finest.
I had the pleasure of interviewing the cast of Doctor Who during San Diego Comic Con and also attended the panel in Hall H. Personally, I was in awe as a fan and also honored to have the opportunity to speak with the cast about their roles on the series.
Capaldi described saying goodbye as ‘emotional’ and when asked about Whittaker taking on the role he described it as “great” and “lovely”. He felt that the gender change will propel the show forward. When I asked Capaldi about the likelihood of him reprising his role in the future he said, “if the time and story are right”.
Twice Upon a Time will not only see the departure of Capaldi but it will also be the last episode for showrunner Steven Moffat. His tenure with Doctor Who has been invigorating with unique plotlines, stories that not only were an adventure but allowed the characters to develop, and very memorable aliens. The Weeping Angels and The Silence are standouts by far. Moffat also had the occasional callback to the classic Doctor Who series such as the Mondasian Cybermen.
When asked if there was another villain he would have liked to have brought back or with which he had wanted to do more, Moffat immediately replied The Autons and also stated that he would have wanted to do more with The Silence. Looking back at his tenure as showrunner, Moffat described one of his biggest accomplishments as being the 50th anniversary episode. With Moffat’s departure, Chris Chibnall (Broadchurch) will be taking over as showrunner and I look forward to seeing his vision for the next series.
The role of The Doctor requires more that just acting out scenes to a camera. There is a global fan base for the series and Moffat described the role of The Doctor as being an ambassador for the series for the ‘rest of your life’. He recalled having this conversation with Matt Smith prior to his joining the series. For Capaldi, playing the role of The Doctor fulfilled his childhood dreams as a Whovian (I wish I was so lucky). In my interview with Capaldi, he described the importance of upholding the image of The Doctor to fans with whom he would interact.
Looking back at the past season, the stories were imaginative and engaging. The season started off with The Doctor taking on the role of professor at a university and decided to work with Bill Potts as a student, which was a perfect segway for her to become the latest companion. When the series was introduced, The Doctor was viewed in some cases as a teacher and the lecture scenes were a perfect callback to that history. For me, the highlight of the last season was Pearl Mackie as Bill. The relationship and chemistry between Mackie and Capaldi was perfect. Bill’s character presented a unique viewpoint from the start with her energy, wit, and sense of wonder. Bill’s most notable scene was her first entry into the TARDIS, which she thought was a “knock-thru”, and she did not seem all to impressed with the TARDIS as The Doctor was delivering his monologue. Although Mackie was a playfully secretive about whether she would return to series during my interview, it was revealed later in the day during the Hall H panel that she would indeed be returning for Twice Upon a Time. Her appearance was met with an enthusiastic response from those in attendance.
Series 10 also featured Nardole (Matt Lucas) as a companion to The Doctor while he assumed the role of Professor at a university. It was later revealed that The Doctor was on Earth to guard a vault hidden underneath the university. Nardole was The Doctor’s “parent” to keep him to his word to guard the vault. Lucas described initially portraying Nardole as a bit broad when he was first introduced during The Husbands of River Song. When he joined series 10, his character was given more depth and complexity. Lucas credited the writing team for their work in bringing Nardole to life.
Another highlight of the Capaldi/Moffat era was the choice of Michelle Gomez as Missy (aka The Master), which was simply brilliant. Missy was a fantastic frienemy of The Doctor and in the end met her demise via an earlier version of herself, played masterfully (no pun intended) by Jonn Simm. Gomez summed her final weeks on the series jokingly as “a series of sadnesses that were very touching”. She described acting opposite John Sim as an interesting ‘tug of war’ where one was actually talking and interacting with their inner voice.
The final episode of series 10, The Doctor Falls, featured a few emotional moments and pivotal scenes which included The Doctor taking a full blast from a Cyberman (that scene still got to me as I re-watched the season recently) and Missy getting a full blast from The Master’s laser screwdriver. Gomez’s Missy will certainly be missed.
Looking ahead, Twice upon a Time will be uniquely special with the addition of David Bradley who will portray THE Doctor, taking on “The Original” Doctor persona he portrayed in An Adventure in Space and Time. Bradley was fantastic in this dramatization of the origins of the series and I couldn’t imagine another actor who can take on William Hartnell’s Doctor.
Also joining the adventure will be Mark Gatiss, who is no stranger to the Whoniverse, stated that, “just being part of the series was incredible” and that he was honored to be part of this Christmas episode.
Without giving much away (no spoilers) the story takes place in an Arctic location with Capaldi’s Doctor refusing to regenerate. He runs into his old self, The Doctor, and both embark on an adventure to avert a crisis. The highlight of this episode will be a watershed moment for the series as Jodie Whittaker (Broadchurch) will assume the titular role of The Doctor. The gender switch is not the first for a Timelord, however, it will be a first for The Doctor.
For me, Doctor Who has always been about change and pushing the boundaries of our imagination since it first aired 54 years ago. Farewells are hard but inevitable. It will be sad to see this upcoming regeneration but I am extremely optimistic for the series future as a new Doctor and creative team take over.
I would like to thank Peter Capaldi and Steven Moffat for the fantastic escapes from reality that Doctor Who has offered. I also extend my appreciation to Pearl Mackie, Michelle Gomez, and Matt Lucas, along with the team behind the scenes who help make this series a must-watch adventure through time and space.
The Doctor Who Christmas Special, Twice Upon A Time, premieres Christmas Day, Monday, December 25 at 9/8c on BBC AMERICA. Stay tuned immediately following Twice Upon A Time, for an all-new special Doctor Who: Farewell to Peter Capaldi. The special, narrated by actor Colin McFarlane (The Dark Knight, Doctor Who), will feature archive footage and interviews, looks back at Peter Capaldi’s era as the Twelfth Doctor. It also features Steven Moffat reflecting upon his time as a writer and then later as Executive Producer, revealing some of his best and worst moments from his tenure, as well as his favorite episodes.
Here is a sneak peek at the next series of Doctor Who. The future in the TARDIS certainly looks bright.
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