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The Last Battle

From the Western Front to the weapon forges of Villengard, Twice Upon a Time gave the First and Twelfth Doctors one final fling…

“I’d often wondered if we could do the Christmas Armistice in Doctor Who, but I always worried about trivialising that event”, says Steven Moffat. “By making the Doctor a material part of it, are you saying that he was responsible, rather than the people who were actually there? By making it a minor strand in the story, however, I sort of felt that we could justify it – so that’s what I did.”

The resultant adventure, Doctor Who’s 2017 Christmas Special, is Steven’s last-ever episode as showrunner and head writer, after almost eight years in charge. “Also, I like the idea that this is where the Doctors make peace with each other, and the First Doctor comes to realise what a ‘Doctor of war’ actually is. And maybe, potentially, if we get away with it, in an episode that scrupulously avoids Christmas until that moment, we make Christmas a surprise when you start to hear those carols on the battlefield…”

It’s Tuesday 27 June 2017, and a field in Pontyclun, South Wales, is standing in for Ypres, West Flanders, in December 1914. We’re on the set of Twice Upon a Time. It’s a bustle of activity, and excitement, and a hundred conversations happening at once. “I’m worried it’s going to rain”, director Rachel Talalay tells the crew. “Can we keep things moving?”

“We’ve got the cloak and hat coming in”, calls out Chris Thomas, the third AD (assistant director). These belong to David Bradley’s First Doctor – or Mary Berry/Mr Pastry/Corporal Jones, if the Twelfth Doctor is to be indulged. For Scene 52, both Doctors, One and Twelve, are returning Mark Gatiss’ First World War captain, Archibald Hamish Lethbridge-Stewart, to his rightful place in time – well, thereabouts.

“How shall we spend the money we earn?” sings Mark, as Babs from Make-Up gives his side-swept locks one final hairspray. “Oh, oh, oh, it’s a lovely war.”

A few feet away, David is donning the First Doctor’s black woollen cloak.

“Great, isn’t it?” he grins. It all aids his performance: “Once I put on the costume, I’m halfway there”, he says, sliding his astrakhan hat into place.

“Look at us”, marvels Peter Capaldi, joining David on the battlefield. “Wee Billy Hartnell and Jon Pertwee!” The Third Doctor vibe is unmistakable. It’s the unruly grey barnet. The white shirt and billowing cuffs. The red-lined black jacket; battered and war-torn, but hanging on in there. “You’ve got to look the part”, reasons Peter. And go out in style? “Yeah, well, something like that.”

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About Doctor Who Magazine

New year, new Doctor... We have an exclusive interview with the newly regenerated Thirteenth Doctor, Jodie Whittaker! Plus new showrunner Chris Chibnall writes exclusively for DWM. Doctor Who Magazine 521 also includes: • An interview with Twice Upon a Time director Rachel Talalay, who talks us through Peter and Jodie's regeneration scene • DWM's Twice Upon a Time set report and review • An interview with 'John Smith', Doctor Who fan turned visual effects pro working on the Twelfth Doctor's final adventures • A tribute to Dudley Simpson, Doctor Who's prolific composer from 1964 to 1980 • Highlights of Dudley Simpson's Doctor Who scores • A first-hand account of how the 1960s TARDIS prop was recreated for Twice Upon a Time • Writer and illustrator Adam Hargreaves explains how his Mr Men entered the world of Doctor Who • Part three of The Phantom Piper, our new comic strip adventure featuring the Doctor and Bill • Fact of Fiction explores the 1977 Fourth Doctor story The Face of Evil • Previews, book, audio and DVD reviews, news, the DWM Christmas Quiz answers, The Blogs of Doom, prize-winning competitions and much, much more!