Twice Upon a Time
Doctor Who Christmas special, 2017. It is the final episode under showrunner Steven Moffat’s tenure, and featured the regeneration of Peter Capaldi’s Twelfth Doctor, into Jodie Whittaker’s Thirteenth.
The First Doctor had his first full appearance on the program since The Five Doctors. Here, he was portrayed by David Bradley, who had previously played William Hartnell himself in An Adventure in Space and Time. This was the first televised interaction between a “classic” Doctor and a BBC Wales era Doctor since 2007’s Time Crash. Archival footage from The Tenth Planet is used to bookmark the First Doctor’s place in this story. The special also introduced Archibald Hamish Lethbridge-Stewart, credited as “the Captain”, a new member of the Lethbridge-Stewart family.
Ben Jackson and Polly Wright make a brief re-reappearance in the program for the first time since their exit in 1967’s The Faceless Ones. Bill Potts joins the two Doctors, and Captain Lethbridge-Stewart, as a Testimony glass avatar. Past companions Nardole and Clara, briefly, make similar appearances. The “good Dalek” Rusty, from Capaldi’s second episode, Into the Dalek, makes his second appearance.
Previously on… 709 episodes ago: we see clips from The Tenth Planet. The First Doctor is on Earth, at the South Pole, after meeting the Cybermen for the first time. He begins to regenerate and tells Polly and Ben that he needs to return to the TARDIS. On his way there, he is refusing to change. He hears a voice in the distance.
The voice belongs to The Twelfth Doctor, who is also resisting his own regeneration. They each introduce themselves and begin to talk about the repercussions of The First Doctor deciding not to regenerate. The snow stops. Something is wrong with time. They hear a third voice. This voice is from a World War One Captain, who asks if either of them is a Doctor.
The Captain had been in a crater, pointing a gun at a German soldier, telling him that he doesn’t want to kill him but will in self defense. Time freezes. He is taken by a glass figure and is accidentally dropped near the two Doctors. They enter the TARDIS. The First Doctor quips about how much he hates it and finally finds out that the Twelfth Doctor is a future version of him.
The TARDIS is lifted into another spacecraft and told it is the Chamber of the Dead. The First Doctor exits the TARDIS to speak to a disembodied voice when Bill emerges. The Twelfth Doctor exits to find her and does not believe that it is the real Bill. He is convinced that she is a duplicate. The two Doctors walk up the stairs to find a glass figure, similar to the one that the Captain had seen. They decide to escape. When they do, the TARDIS is taken again. The two Doctors, Bill, and the Captain run to the First Doctor’s TARDIS. Entering, he takes off. The Twelfth Doctor is able to get the TARDIS to go to the center of the Universe, billions of years into the future.
The planet is in ruin and full of Daleks without the shell. One attacks the Captain and the Twelfth Doctor insists that he and Bill return to the TARDIS. He and the First Doctor find their way to a tower in the center of the ruins. Only the Twelfth Doctor enters the tower and finds Rusty, the Dalek he saved in “Into the Dalek”. He utilizes Rusty’s connection to the Dalek database to discover that there is no evil plan, just a method to extract memories from those who are in their moment of death for posterity. Bill reveals that she is, indeed, a glass avatar, and the Twelfth Doctor decides that he needs to bring the Captain back to his moment of death.
As he brings him back to the battlefield, he shifts the timeline by a couple of hours. The glass avatar erases the Captain’s memories, and when time restarts, it starts at the beginning of the Christmas Truce. The Captain is saved, and the First Doctor begins to understand what he will eventually grow to do and become. He decides that he will regenerate. He returns to his TARDIS to regenerate, later to be found on the floor by Ben and Polly.
The Twelfth Doctor speaks to Bill, who insists that everyone is a collection of memories and that means she is the real Bill. To illustrate the importance of memories, she kisses him and restores his memory of Clara. She appears to him and tells him not to forget her again. Bill reappears and Nardole follows. They tell him how important it is to the Universe that he regenerates and continues to live. He says his goodbyes and enters the TARDIS. He leaves some final words for “The Doctor”:
“Never be cruel. Never be cowardly. And never ever eat pears! Remember, hate is always foolish, and love is always wise. Laugh hard. Run fast. Be kind. Doctor, I let you go…”
The regeneration begins. The TARDIS begins to break apart as a female form emerges from the glow of the regeneration energy. The Thirteenth Doctor, played by Jodie Whittaker, pulls a screen toward her, looking into it. Noticing that she is now a woman, she smiles. “Aw, brilliant!” she exclaims, and presses a button on the console. The TARDIS lurches. She falls to the floor and slides toward the doors, trying to grab hold of anything she can to stay inside. From outside the TARDIS, we see that it is shaking her out. She falls from high in the atmosphere of a planet and watches the TARDIS disappear. As she falls, we see the words, “To be continued…”