Regeneration episodes are tricky beasts. When I was about eight years old I can recall sitting cross legged on my parents living room floor and watching transfixed as Tom Baker (my Doctor) regenerated into a dashing Peter Davison. They still really hadn’t got a handle on a natural fluidity of the regeneration process so each death was as different as the Doctor was who was regenerating. This year sees the end of Peter Capaldi’s 12th Doctor and show runner Steven Moffat in Twice Upon A Time and as stories go it’s, well, it’s alright.
Capaldi is an exceptional Doctor who has been time and time again let down in the writing of his tenure. His first season was the weakest of all the new Who, yes there were some crackers like Listen, Flatline and Mummy on the Orient Express but most of the season was lop sided and badly conceived. It was as if they had no idea themselves as to what this new Doctor was about. He was gruff and unapproachable. An alien and that was all they seemed to have. However, all that can be said of the seasons failing one of them is not Capaldi. He is truly brilliant and his own long history with the character, and the love he has for the role shines through in every scene and I wish that he had been given something truly magical, something a little more moving as his final run. While the 10th Doctor shared much of the same moments with both David Tennant and Russel T Davis jumping ship that version was given a long love letter goodbye and it truly is heartbreaking when he also regenerates against his will. “I don’t want to go” is a beautiful last line before the devastation of his change into number 11. Moffats own first go at a regeneration storyline when Matt Smith left. while not as emotive as Tennants. it did have some lump in the throat moments. Capaldi never got that level of feeling and I think that’s such a tragic end.
Twice Upon A Time finds Capaldi’s Doctor at the South Pole refusing to regenerate after battling the Cybermen and losing both Bill and Nardole. Here he crosses paths with the first Doctor (the always brilliant David Bradley) who is himself on the verge of his first ever regeneration and, in fear of not being himself anymore, also refuses to move on. Here they meet long time Who contributor and Moffat’s Sherlock collaborator Mark Gatiss as the Captain, Pearl Mackie returns as Bill (well kind of) and adventure ensues. Which is kind of the problem. The story is just not that memorable, it’s serviceable yes but it was written by the man who wrote The Day of The Doctor for the 50th anniversary which is a story that hits all the notes you could want. It showed thought, it showed love and it showed a true understanding of the characters. There was little to none of this here. Bradley’s Doctor was only there for the nostalgia and Capaldi’s wish to somehow have the first Doctor in his run, Bill wasn’t really Bill and Clara showing up had no point and meant very little and at the end of it all, 12 is left alone on the battlefield with everyone gone and nothing left. Once back inside the TARDIS he decides that maybe one more lifetime wouldn’t be so bad and stops fighting, and waits for the change to take him. Matt Smith had some awesome lines in his final moments as the Doctor and Capaldi should have been given something equal to sink his teeth into, to be able to show the depth and feeling of his Doctor but his lines were one dimensional and flat. The only line that had any true worth (apart from not eating pears) was his final line, “Doctor, I let you go”, which as much as elevens last lines of “I shall always remember when the Doctor was me”, was written as much for Capaldi as anyone else. So we are left, as the dust settles and Jodie Whittaker waits to fully take her place in the TARDIS and with moments of brilliance from the 12th Doctor, it is with true sadness we say goodbye to him.
Bring on 13!