Vworp… Vworp… Vworp… Spoilersss!
Yes, it’s that time of the year again. Doctor Who’s Christmas Special happened and with it we have Peter Capaldi’s final bow as The Doctor. For some, an epic last hurrah to his tenure as our favourite Time Lord. For others, a lukewarm letdown for the Twelfth Doctor’s swan song.
But for every fan, it was also the first on-screen appearance of Jodie Whittaker as the new Doctor. And yes, it all ends in a cliffhanger.
To bring it all to a close, we have David Bradley as the First Doctor. That means he gets to impersonate the late great William Hartnell as well as deliver a few lines from another time long ago with mixed results. Mark Gatiss is also along as the Captain, a little easter egg for long time Whovians. I should add that quite a few people will determine his lineage on appearance alone. We also get Pearl Mackie reprising her role of Bill Potts for the entire episode.
In the end, we get a final episode of Doctor Who with a twist. Testimony, the supposed antagonist, is not the big bad. There is no big bad. And with that, we get a surprisingly emotive retelling of the Christmas armistice of 1914 during the First World War plus the passing of the torch from Capaldi to Whittaker. Does it work? Yes, it does! I’m not sure why some people hesitate or consider it subtle. A few things work, a few things seem a bit unnecessary but there’s no bloated filler. It’s a good, lean and filling last meal of a Doctor Who Christmas special.
Highs, Lows and Vworps:
- Peter Capaldi is given his times to shine both as the Twelfth Doctor taking on seemingly unsurmountable odds and being flummoxed by Bill Potts or The First Doctor. He also sends advice to the next Doctor in line as his time for regenerating finally comes.
- David Bradley’s plays William Hartnell playing the Doctor. There’s really very little “The Doctor” moments with him. He never really does dispense advice as much as he criticizes Capaldi’s Doctor, but he’s still fun to watch. There’s a couple of dated remarks that are supposed to be lightly sexist and end up cringy. I’m not asking to revision history but you could’ve had the First Doctor learn from those mistakes and evolve a little more.
- Pearl Mackie plays the always fun and unbreakable Bill Potts. And yes, it’s still her and her memories formed in Testimony. She still challenges and moves the Doctor to action and/or emotion. I’m sad she’s not hanging around as a companion.
- Mark Gatiss plays the Captain, who only gets to state his identity at the end. It’s Captain Archibald Hamish Lethbridge-Stewart. It’s extremely obvious from the beginning that he’s related to the Brigadier, Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart, the leader of UNIT played by Nicholas Courtney who has made appearances in the show from 1968 to 2008.
- There’s a brief but meaningful appearance of Jenna Coleman as Clara Oswald, finally giving The Doctor back his memories of her. I guess Clara Oswald eventually gets added to Testimony, but as we know she’s still out there. I wonder if we could put Ashildr and Clara’s diner in a future episode. (See: Series Issues: Doctor Who 9×12 – Hell Bent)
- There’s also a brief cameo by Matt Lucas as Nardole. Of course, Nardole gets no respect as usual.
- The face-hugging things were stupid. Sorry, that has been overdone. Only Aliens gets to keep using facehuggers from now on.
- The secret stash of Aldebaran brandy in the TARDIS is not known by Twelve until River Song reveals the secret panel to him before learning he’s the new incarnation. Does this mean that the First Doctor learned this and then forgot it? The Doctor is supposedly immune to paradox (so is the show, let’s be honest).
- And finally, it’s Jodie Whittaker’s first on-screen appearance as The Doctor. She doesn’t quite get to stretch her wings as Thirteen though. With the TARDIS broken up and her new occupant in free fall, we’re left where all the Doctor’s adventures begin again: a cliffhanger.
That will do for now.