In Review: Doctor Who – Once, Upon Time

On a planet that shouldn't exist. In the aftermath of apocalypse, the Doctor, Dan, Yaz and Vinder face a battle to survive.

Synopsis: “Time is beginning to run wild.” On a planet that shouldn’t exist. In the aftermath of apocalypse, the Doctor, Dan, Yaz and Vinder face a battle to survive.



Once, Upon Time picks up from where we left off last week. With the Doctor throwing herself into the Moori’s place to attempt to repair time which is broken. What follows is a very Ten-Seconders-esque story in which the Doctor places her friends back into their own timestreams while she tries to solve the problem. Additionally, we had the subplot of Bel (Thaddea Graham). A Doctor Aphra-like space adventurer who is revealed to be Vinder’s child’s mother. There were some nice human moments with Dan and Di and a really good conversation between Bel and a dying Cyberman. Which really showed Bel’s goodness and humanity. Notably, we saw some more glimpses of the Doctor’s past. And the very welcome return of the Fugitive Doctor. While the plot was hard to follow at times. This was also its strength in my view. As it kept us guessing about where our heroes were and what was happening. The ending was thrilling as we saw Di captured by the Swarm and a Weeping Angel hijacking the TARDIS.



Jodie Whittaker is going from strength to strength in my opinion. Her performance at the episode’s climax when the Doctor reveals her plan was a brilliant piece of acting. I also enjoyed 13’s impassioned pleading with the Moori to allow her to find out more about her past. We saw Whittaker take a leaf out of Peter Capaldi’s book and be more authoritarian with her companions at the episode’s end. Justifiably given the immense threat. John Bishop showed Dan’s haplessness and also his courage very well. It’s clear that Chris Chibnall has made the right choice in Bishop for the companion. His scenes with Di were really sweet. Bishop and Nadia Albina (who we interviewed) played really well off each other. Thaddea Graham was really likable as Bel. I enjoyed her opening monologue and her line “Nothing is going to stop me from getting to you.” Referring to Vinder. Jacob Anderson showed Vinder’s controlled anger and genuine desire to do the right thing in a great way during his flashback. Craig Parkinson‘s Grand Serpent really brought the unpleasantness. Which only made Anderson’s Vinder look even better. Although Jo Martin was only briefly in a few scenes. I loved her performance as the Fugitive Doctor. Mandip Gill did a great job of showing Yaz’s terror of the Weeping Angel that was stalking her.


Incidental Music

Once, Upon Time boasts good if understated incidental music. There was a nice madcap score when Bel was running through the woods. I also really loved the theme that played throughout the episode. Which really put over the brokenness and melancholy of time being wounded. The theme used when Vinder pledged his devotion to his ideals not a leader was excellent too. As was the score used when the Grand Serpent talked to the ambassadors. I’d say that the mournful piano theme at the end of the episode really made me feel the Doctor’s sadness and longing for a past she can no longer remember. The frenetic theme used when the Cybermen attacked Bel was also good.



Once, Upon Time’s CGI was utterly stunning. The CGI of the “other things” that Bel was running from was really nicely done. The time storm that 13 was trapped in was also phenomenal. As was the CGI of the giant Moori. The CGI of the red plants and grass. As well as the Cyber armies was great too. I really liked the FX of characters turning into each other. Ie 13 to Fugitive Doctor, Dan to Karvanista which really put across the brokenness of time.



Chibnall has delivered another phenomenal episode. In Once, Upon Time. My one criticism is that the Doctor’s ultimate plan to put time back together seemed to come from left field somewhat. As the mystery of what was happening was almost too opaque to follow. Nevertheless. This outing brought action, humanity and intrigue. Massive thumbs up.

Doctor Who - Once, Upon Time
  • Story
  • Acting
  • Incidental Music
  • CGI

Autistic writer who loves sci-fi, cosplay and poetry. Actor with Theatre of the Senses. He/him.
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