Doctor Who Christmas Special 2017: What ‘Twice Upon A Time’ Really Means
2. Were Bill, Clara And Nardole Really There?
Throughout the episode the Doctor and Bill argue about how
real she is. Even after she is revealed to be a glass avatar, Bill insists that
since she is the sum of the character’s memories, she isn’t a duplicate. Both
Bill and Clara’s fates have already been complicated by their unnatural
resurrections, but the memory extraction provides at least a theoretical
possibility that this time their resurrection is eternal. It’s as close to a
concept of the afterlife as Doctor Who is ever likely to get – the heavenly
equivalent of Missy’s hell in Death in Heaven, and the real world equivalent of
River Song’s virtual resurrection in the library.
Although the Doctor misses out on the chance of one last hug
with Clara, he embraces Bill and Nardole despite remaining unconvinced that
they can be described as the real deal. A touch of guilt remains for the
Doctor, given that Nardole’s appearance here suggests that he did indeed eventually
die along with the children he stayed to protect on the Mondasian ship.
A common criticism of Steven Moffat’s tenure has been his
alleged propensity for undoing the finality of death. But such a charge has not
stood up to scrutiny until now. Danny Pink, Clara and Bill all died. Danny
refused the chance to be resurrected, Clara knew she must return to Trapp
Street after her stay of execution, and Bill will have almost certainly chosen
to return to her mortal life on Earth despite the offer made to her by the
After death a person can only live on through the memory of
others. Testimony, whilst questionably bypassing consent allows the memories of
the Doctor’s friends to live on unmediated. The Doctor probably doesn’t accept
this as being alive, because in his estimation we are not memories but stories.
Paul Driscoll is a freelance writer and author across a range of subjects from Cult TV to religion and social policy. He is a passionate Doctor Who fan and January 2017 will see the publication of his first extended study of the series (based on Toby Whithouse's series six episode, The God Complex) in the critically acclaimed Black Archive range by Obverse Books. He is a regular writer for the fan site Doctor Who Worldwide and has contributed several essays to Watching Books' You and Who range. Recently he has branched out into fiction writing, with two short stories in the charity Doctor Who anthology Seasons of War (Chinbeard Books). Paul's work will also feature in the forthcoming Iris Wildthyme collection (A Clockwork Iris, Obverse Books) and Chinbeard Books' collection of drabbles, A Time Lord for Change.