Peter Capaldi Makes A Brilliant Exit In The Doctor Who Christmas Special
“Ah, brilliant!” were the first two words we heard out of the Thirteenth Doctor’s mouth as Twelve (following an episode full of intentionally outdated sexist remarks comically tumbling out of Doctor One’s mouth at every turn) regenerated into the very first female Doctor. Somewhere Missy is wondering what the hell the big deal is, but for us watching—709 episodes in—it was pretty monumental.
Exiting showrunner Steven Moffat surprised Whovians with a feel-good episode in which we get two Doctors, dozens of jokes, zero deaths, and where the bad guys are basically non-existent—despite the appearance of a single Dalek (Rusty, the one that hates all other Daleks, thanks to an up close and personal experience with Twelve in “Into The Dalek”).
By heading to the South Pole in an effort to halt his regeneration, the Doctors (both versions) have created a glitch in the time/space continuum, which has messed up the machinations of a future memory-preserving project run by some glass people calling themselves Testimony. The result is that a WW1 Captain (Mark Gatiss) has been displaced in time and wound up in Antarctica with the Doctors.
Testimony needs to get him back to his rightful place (a battlefield in Ypres, 1914) or all of history will be FUBAR. The group offers Twelve an incentive to hand him over: a reunion with Bill—or something that looks, sounds, and acts like Bill.
To learn more about Testimony (who have inconveniently confiscated Twelve’s TARDIS) both Doctors, the Captain, and the Bill-esque thing take off in One’s Police Box to get some more information about their harvesting techniques—from the Dalek database. There, at the centre of the universe, is where we find out that the Bill-thing is a Testimony-thing, a collection of Bill’s memories, but not the real Bill… or is she? Because beyond our physical selves, what else do we have? Hmm.
The Doctor isn’t completely satisfied by Testimony’s sales pitch, but he does accept that their project isn’t evil, and so Twelve agrees to return the Captain (whose name, Archibald Hamish Lethbridge-Stewart, will be one that Who fans recognize) to his proper place in space/time. Back the battlefield, they all look on as Allies and Central Powers soldiers put down their weapons and sing “Silent Night” during the famous Christmas Armistice, which inspires One to keep going.
As a more personal gift to the Doctor, Testimony Bill restores Twelve’s memories of Clara before taking her leave (with Testimony Nardole). All that’s left to do is for Twelve to return to his TARDIS and make his decision: to go on, or not to go on? Lucky for us (and all of humanity) he chooses the former, taking his last seconds in Peter Capaldi’s body to pass on some important advice to Thirteen: never be cruel, never be cowardly…
There’s a flash of light and suddenly it’s Jodie Whittaker in Capaldi’s clothes, flying out the open door of a TARDIS she’s clearly forgotten how to pilot.
See you next season and watch the full special below: