Doctor Who: Twice Upon a Time by Paul Cornell: Saying Good-bye to the Twelfth Doctor All Over Again

Doctor Who: Twice Upon a TimeDoctor Who: Twice Upon a Time

by Paul Cornell
Series: Doctor Who

Paperback, 156 pg.
BBC Books, 2018
Read: July 24, 2018

He sent a wide-beam sonic pulse at exactly the right frequency all the way down that path between him and the tower, and was rewarded with a very satisfying series of detonations. The First Doctor skipped about at every fireball that burst into the sky. Finally, the smoke and flame died down. ‘There you go, all done.’

‘There could have been one right underneath us!’

‘Yeah, but it’s not the kind of mistake you have to live with.’ That was the other thing about his centuries of additional experience, he was a little more willing to roll the dice. Or perhaps it was just at this point he didn’t give a damn. What the hell, his clothes were already ruined, might as well mess up the bodywork too. It wasn’t like he was planning to trade the old thing in.

Okay…if you want to read me ramble on a bit about the place of these Target novelizations of Doctor Who episodes to me as a young’un, you can see my post about Doctor Who: Christmas Invasion by Jenny T. Colgan, one of the other new releases in this old and cherished line. Which means we can just cut to the chase about this one, right?

Cornell was tasked with bringing the Twelfth Doctor’s last Christmas Special to the page — which includes the challenge of dealing with his regeneration in to the Thirteenth Doctor, which is no small feat. But we’ll get to that in a bit. First, he’s got to deal with the challenge of having two Doctors meet up — and the extra fun of telling a story where two characters share the same name (and are sort of the same person, but not really), while not confusing the reader.

Cornell did a great job balancing the two Doctors, both going through some doubts about regenerating; while dealing with the question of Bill’s identity and the soldier from World War I. One thing I appreciated more in the book than in the original episode was the Doctor’s consternation when he realized that there wasn’t actually a bad guy to fight for a change. Not sure what else to say, really.

Now, the regeneration? Wow. He nailed that one, and got me absolutely misty-eyed in the process. I could hear Capaldi very clearly as I read these pages — the narrative added just the right amount of extra depth without taking away any of the original script/performance. It wasn’t my favorite part of the episode, but it was my favorite part of the book — he hit all the notes perfectly. The aside about the pears — great, I loved that so much. And then — a nice little bit with Thirteen, which has got to be so hard because we don’t know anything about her, so even those few seconds of screen-time with her have to be tougher than usual to capture. These few paragraphs, incidentally, made Cornell “the first person to have written for all the Doctors” — which is just cool.

In Twice Upon a Time Cornell has captured the letter and the spirit of the original episode, added some nice new bits and pieces for the fans and generally told a great story in a way that made you feel you hadn’t watched it already. This is what these books should shoot for, and Cornell (no surprise to anyone who’s read any of his previous fiction) hit his target.

—–

3.5 Stars

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