Doctor Who

Episode 29

Twice Upon A Time

Aired Saturday 8:00 PM Dec 15, 2017 on BBC America

Episode Recap

Previously on Doctor Who... 709 Episodes Ago

After confronting the Cybermen, the exhausted Doctor tells Ben and Polly that he must get back to the TARDIS. Staggering back through the snow, the Doctor vows that he won't regenerate. He hears calling, and goes to find the Twelfth Doctor kneeling in the snow outside of his TARDIS. When he says that he's the Doctor, the First Doctor says that he is the Doctor. Twelfth realizes where he is and it's where he regenerated for the very first time. He realizes that First is trying to hold it back, and First asks if Twelfth has come to take the Ship back. First complains that it's larger than his, and Twelfth asks why he's trying not to regenerate. When he says that he plans to live and die as himself, Twelfth tells him that it's started and in a few minutes they'll both have to choose where they die as they are, or live and go on.

As Twelfth realizes that his earlier incarnation has to regenerate to avoid a paradox, time around them freezes. He warns that something has gone wrong with time... and a World War I British Captain staggers out of the storm and asks if either of them is a doctor.

Ypres 1914

The Captain and a German soldier in a blast crater aim their guns at each other, and the Captain explains that he would only shoot in self-defense. The German soldier doesn't understand English, and the Captain doesn't speak German. As they prepare to shoot each other, time freezes but the Captain is unaffected. He realizes that the entire battlefield is frozen in time, and a crystal female humanoid appears behind him. The Captain goes to it and it turns to look himself.

Standing in a void full of colors, the Captain hears a voice saying that there's a timeline error. He then finds himself at the South Pole, time similarly frozen. He hears the Doctors talking and approaches them, and a light shines behind him. The Captain mutters that she is coming, and the Doctor tell the female that they're on Earth and Twelfth says that it's protected. The female disappears and First wonders who protects Earth.

First leads the Captain into the TARDIS and stares at the changed interior in shock. Twelfth points out that the Captain is a World War I soldier, and the Captain wonders what he means by "One." Avoiding the question, Twelfth shows First his regenerative energy that he's holding a bay, and tells Twelfth to get some brandy for the shocked Captain. First says that Twelfth is his nurse, and they argue about the TARDIS redesign. He complains that the interior is dirty, and figures that Polly isn't around to clean.

The TARDIS shakes as a huge space ship hovers above it and picks it up with a tractor line. The TARDIS engines won't start, and a female voice says that the Chamber of the Dead awaits them. First goes out to keep the voice talking, and finds the TARDIS in a vast chamber. Alcoves on the walls are filled with lights, and the woman says that the Doctor is known to all as the Doctor of War. Twelfth hears her over the monitor, while First says that he is no Doctor of War and he never will be. The woman says that if First gives her the Captain then he can speak with "her" again. Bill comes in, and Twelfth comes out.

Bill runs over and hugs Twelfth, and he scans her. He then says that his Bill was turned into a Cyberman and gave her life for people she barely knew. Bill insists that it's her, and explains that Xxx came for her and turned her into water. Twelfth doesn't believe her, and insists that there are three markers showing that she's a duplicate.

The Doctors walk into the next room and discover that it contains far-future time-travel technology. The crystal female appears and says that her kind are those that await at the end of every life. She explains that as every living soul dies, they--the Testimony--appear, take what they need, and return them to the moment of their death. Lighted figures appear in the alcoves.

The female explains that they were returning the Captain to the moment of his death, but an error ejected him into the wrong time zone. His death must proceed as history demands. Twelfth theorizes that the "female" is a computer interface, but First points out that the female's face is asymmetrical, meaning it wasn't created by computer. The Captain comes out and points out that Bill's life was exchanged for his own. He figures that he has to die and offers to take Bill's place. The female accepts, but Bill insists that it won't happen. Twelfth asks her what to do, and she tells him to do what he always does: serve at the pleasure of the human race. Twelfth turns back to the female and says that first they're all going to escape, including Bill and the Captain. Then he'll find out what the Testimony are doing, and if he doesn't like it then he'll come back and stop them.

The Testimony activates hundreds of memory spheres, showing figures from the Doctor's past. She knows of the Doctor of War, and the spheres return to their places. Twelfth tells the others to do what he does when he does it, opens the hatch beneath the TARDIS, and drops the line. He jumps onto the line and the others do so as well, and the Testimony stops the line just before the TARDIS touches down. The Doctors slide down, and Bill and the Captain join them. They jump off as the Testimony pull the TARDIS back to their vessel.

The group goes to First's TARDIS and First takes off. He warns that the navigational system doesn't work properly, and points out that Bill needs to clear Twelfth's TARDIS. Twelfth explains that First is one of his old faces, and figures that they should identify Testimony's face. The past TARDIS database has barely anything in it, and Twelfth figures that they need something bigger than the Gallifrey Matrix.

Testimony watches the group through a memory sphere.

Bill tells First and the Captain that she's had experience with the "fairer sex", much to both men's shock. The past-TARDIS lands at the center of the universe, and Twelfth says that it's the most comprehensive database in the universe. However, it wants to kill him. Twelfth leads the others out onto the planet Forges of Villengard, once containing weapon forges and now home to the dispossessed. A slug-like creature leaps onto the Captain's head, and Twelfth knocks it loose with his sonic. As it runs off, First says that it looks familiar. He takes the Captain back into the past-TARDIS, and Bill watches as more of the creatures scurry through the ruins.

Twelfth tells Bill to wait in the TARDIS, and says that in case she is real he won't put her in danger again. She calls him an arse, and First comes out long enough to admonish her for her language. Once he goes back inside, Bill tells Twelfth that she hopes they spend years laughing about it together. She tells Twelfth to come back alive and goes into the past-TARDIS.

First offers brandy around, and tells Bill to look after the Captain while he goes outside. As she reaches for the brandy bottle, her hand turns into crystal.

The two Doctors go through the ruins, and Twelfth explains that the creatures are old friends of theirs. He wavers in exhaustion and explains that he died a few hours ago and refused to regenerate. First says that he did the same out of fear, and asks why Twelfth is hanging on. Before he can answer, something fires on them from a tower. Twelfth says that it's his friend and runs to the tower, and yells at the shooter to scan him. He says that he's dying, and the shooter scans and confirms that it's true. Twelfth asks if the shooter would like to see it up close, and a door opens in the base of the tower.

In the past-TARDIS, the Captain's hand shakes. He tells Bill that he wasn't afraid in the world, and explains that his wife will miss him. He says that what happened felt like a miracle, but he figures Testimony will put him back in the crater to die and he's not ready anymore. The Captain looks up to realize that Bill has transformed into the Testimony.

First refuses to let Twelfth go up alone, but Twelfth warns that the shooter would gladly kill both of them.

The TARDIS lands in the tower and the Testimony steps out.

First notices a flashing green light in a bush. He bends to examine it as Testimony approaches him.

Twelfth reaches to the top of the tower and calls to the shooter that it's a bit of a legend because he turned against his own kind.

First discovers that the flashing light is coming from a Dalek eyestalk.

Twelfth says people don't believe that there's any such thing as a good Dalek. Rusty turns to him and says that it's not a good Dalek. It says that the Doctor is a good Dalek and shoots in his direction.

First turns and finds Bill there.

Twelfth tells Rusty that he will have to stop shooting at him so he approach him. Rusty agrees and ejects its gunstick as a sign of good intentions.

Bill asks what he was running to.

Rusty tells Twelfth that he taught him to hate the Daleks. Since then he has been destroying the Daleks that came to destroy him. Twelfth figures that Rusty is linked into the Dalek hive mind and he wants to access their database. Rusty wonders why it should help him, and Twelfth points out that helping him hurts the Daleks.

First tells Bill that he left Gallifrey to determine why good prevails against evil despite its disadvantages. Bill says that perhaps there's some bloke putting things right, but First warns that the real world isn't a fairy tale. He asks if he ever understands in the future, and Bill figures that he doesn't. Bill hugs him and tells him to never forget that he's amazing. She says that they just needed to understand him as her arms transform into glass.

The Doctor finds the face of Testimony: Professor Helen Clay, the University of New Earth, 5 Billion and 12.

First realizes who Bill is, and Bill says that she's part of Testimony now.

Footage of Clay explains that the Testimony Foundation uses time travel and memory extraction techniques to lift the dead momentarily from the timestream. Testimony then returns their physical bodies to the moment of their death, and the dead can speak again. The recording stop and Twelfth realizes that Rusty has shut down. First comes in and says that he stopped the recording, and explains that testimony has frozen time. The Testimony avatar comes in and Bill speaks through it, saying that not everything is evil. She insists that she's "real", and demands to know why he won't regenerate. She points out that the Captain has to die at his appointed time, and Twelfth says that it was their fault so they should take him back. First wonders what he means, and Twelfth says that both of them tried to die twice in the same lifetime. They caused the timeline error that put the Captain in the wrong time and place.

The Doctors return to their TARDISes and travel to 1914. Twelfth asks the Captain if he's all right, and the Captain says that he told his wife he'd be home for Christmas. The TARDISes materialize in 1914 and help the Captain to the blast crater. He thanks them for their graciousness, and the avatar says that when time resumes the Captain won't remember what happened and a perception filter will render them invisible. The Captain asks them to look in on his family from time to time, and gives his name: Captain Archibald Hamish Lethbridge-Stewart. First says that he will make it his business, and Twelfth assures Archibald that he can trust First on that.

Time starts again and as Archibald and the German prepare to fire, they hear men on both sides singing Christmas carols. Twelfth explains to First that he adjusted the timeframe by a couple of hours. Both sides wave white flags and approach each other, and Archibald holsters his gun and whistles for medics. Twelfth tells his earlier incarnation that it never happened, but for one day both sides put down their weapons and started to sing. First realizes that's what it means to be a Doctor of War, and the two Doctors look on as the two sides celebrate together. First and Twelfth shake and their regeneration energy glows. The earlier incarnation says that he's ready and asks if Twelfth is, and wishes him luck whatever he decides. With that, First goes back to his TARDIS. Archibald sees Twelfth, who tips him a salute and Archibald salutes him back.

Back in his TARDIS, First sets course for the South Pole as he begins to regenerate.

Bill finds the Doctor sitting, his hand shaking. He invites her for one last stroll, and she helps him back to the TARDIS. She tells him that the hardest thing about coming back was letting go of him, and the Doctor says that the real Bill wouldn't say that. Bill insists that she is the real Bill, and has a goodbye present for him to prove it. She kisses him on the cheek, and transforms into Clara wishing him a Merry Christmas. Nardole appears as well and Bill explains that they're everyone that all dead. The Doctor wonders if he can ever have peace and rest, and Bill and Nardole tell him that it's his choice. He says that his testimony would shatter all of them, and his life is an empty battlefield because everyone else has fallen. The Doctor thanks them both and wonders what happens now. He tells them that where he goes, he has to go alone, and they hug. The avatars disappear and the Doctor leaves the battlefield.

The TARDIS departs and looks at the universe on the monitor. He figures that one more lifetime won't kill anyone except him, and the Cloister Bell chimes. The Doctor talks to his future self, reminding him of what he is, and then regenerates.

The energy explodes out of the Doctor, ripping through the TARDIS interior. The Doctor's ring slips off of his new female body, and she looks at her reflection in the monitor screen. Smiling, she touches a control and the TARDIS spins wildly out of control. The Doctor slides toward the opening doors and falls out into the void.