The Doctor Who Regeneration Review is a weekly column cataloging all the times Peter Capaldi’s 12th Doctor nearly regenerates, or dies, in the latest episode of BBC America’s popular science fiction show. Since this is the
Scottish “cross” character’s final season — a fact the showrunners have enjoyed teasing in the promos — we decided to tease back. Most items are serious, some silly, and all measured with the Doctor’s ?.
After a nearly six-month wait, Doctor Who finally brought this column full circle with the regeneration of Peter Capaldi’s 12th Doctor into Jodie Whittaker’s 13th incarnation. The former, who stubbornly refused to accept his fate at the very end of “The Doctor Falls,” manages to find the time for one last adventure with the First Doctor (David Bradley playing the character originated by William Hartnell) and Pearl Mackie’s Bill Potts. The latter, meanwhile, continues a “NuWho” tradition established by Christopher Eccleston’s transformation into David Tennant in 2005 — appearing briefly and delivering a single line before all hell breaks loose.
Even so, “Twice Upon a Time” feels more like a long buildup to Capaldi’s regeneration. Since Doctor Who first rebooted, the annual Christmas specials have been a mixed bag of standalone episodes and triumphant entrances and exits for numerous regenerations. For example, 2005’s “The Christmas Invasion” was essentially an overly long introduction to Tennant’s 10th Doctor, while 2009’s “The End of Time” signaled his departure in two parts. Four years later, showrunner Steven Moffat borrowed predecessor Russell T. Davies’ model for Matt Smith’s 11th Doctor in “The Time of the Doctor.”
In other words, that “Twice Upon a Time” doesn’t feel like a Christmas special (Tennant’s “The Next Doctor” or Smith’s “A Christmas Carol”) isn’t without precedent. Nor is it an error committed by Moffat and his outgoing creative team, for the runup has been all about one thing — the passing of the Doctor Who mantle from Capaldi to Whittaker. Sure there’s a plot involving historical figures being abducted from their timelines mere moments before death, but as Capaldi’s Doctor declares, “It’s not an evil plan. I don’t really know what to do when it isn’t an evil plan!” All we can do is watch and wait.