Well, here we are folks, the final Doctor Who review of 2017…and the final time I’ll be reviewing Capaldi’s irascible, incorrigible Twelfth Doctor. I’ll tell you what, though–there’s a part of me that feels as though he hasn’t stopped being the Doctor. I know Jodie Whittaker has officially taken over the role now, but it hasn’t quite sunk in yet. It still feels that in some corner of the universe, Twelve is still roaming around time and space making wisecracks about pudding brains and playing riffs on his guitar.
Maybe it’s because his stubbornness from “The Doctor Falls” is a holdover of sorts, and we got a double dose of it in the form of the First Doctor (portrayed here by David Bradley). Both Doctors are refusing to change; both Doctors insist they have the right to die as they are. And this stubborn insistence is creating a paradox and interfering with the normal flow of time, which is part of how Captain Archibald Lethbridge-Stewart (none other than the Brigadier’s father and Kate’s grandfather) finds himself involved in their escapade. An organization known as the Testimony extracted Archibald from his timeline temporarily in order to harvest information about his life before he died, and when they tried to return him, the regeneration paradox caused them to accidentally strand him at the South Pole. The Testimony offers the Twelfth Doctor a deal–return the Captain to them, and they will return Bill to the TARDIS. But is it really Bill? And what exactly is the Testimony’s motive?
This wasn’t a loud, bombastic, edge-of-your-seat episode; it was quiet and understated, and that mood really seemed to fit the story. It allowed the focus to be more on Twelve and his final days, and it also served as a farewell tour for Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss (who has been both a writer and an actor on the show since the 2005 revival; here he portrays the Brigadier’s father Archibald). It was a fan’s farewell to the show, from the inclusion of the First Doctor to Rusty’s return to allowing Twelve to say goodbye to Clara and Nardole. There was passion and enthusiasm and genuine love…and Twelve’s final words are the most heartbreaking yet.
It’s difficult for me to give my impressions on Thirteen yet because, well, she didn’t really do very much. She saw her new appearance in the console screen, pushed a button, and triggered something in the TARDIS that results in her sliding out of the console room and plummeting to the world below. Honestly, I’m a little disappointed they’re going with the whole “The Doctor just regenerated, and now the TARDIS is wildly out of control” theme again–they’ve been doing this since Tennant, and it’s getting old! Do something different already!
It’s been a wild ride, and I will miss every moment of Capaldi’s tenure. Following his powerhouse performance will be no easy feat, and I wish Jodie Whittaker the best of luck. I hope for her sake that Thirteen isn’t an unlucky number.
I have to admit, though, that a part of my heart will always belong to Twelve. I could never choose a favorite; I loved them all…but Twelve, now and forever, is my Doctor.