I’ve simmered my thoughts on the 2016 Christmas special, The Return of Doctor Mysterio and watched it twice just to make sure. My conclusion? Steven Moffat delivered a holiday treat and it was a wonderful piece of TV. Was it a great addition to canon? No. Did it break the mould of Doctor Who? Again no. Was it fun, thrilling and a great piece of festive entertainment?
Yes it was…
The Doctor accidentally makes young Grant a superhero (the Ghost), who grows up to be Grant the nanny (Justin Chatwin) who is in love with unsuspecting journalist Lucy Fletcher (Charity Wakefield). Meanwhile the Doctor has reconstructed Nardole and is back looking into the Harmony Shoal corporation, defending the Earth and trying to fight off brain swapping aliens. The sets are large, the story centres on New York and it’s pure Superman, start to finish. Anyone who loved the Christopher Reeves film in the 1970s will adore the many Lois and Clark touches to this.
The story moves through a balance of romance, comedy and saving the world with Nardole adding some exposition here and there in a way that works well. It’s Doctor Who and it’s Christmas so everyone important lives happily ever after, the Doctor may be missing River but is on the way to moving forward, and cue the Coming Soon clips from next year.
Aliens, neon, superhero, love, baby, toy, brains and a UNIT cameo at the end with mention of Osgood. Great stuff.
It was only nominally Christmassy at the start, but so what. The aliens were a bit one-dimensional, Grant / The Ghost was confined to the Clark Kent / Superman role but pulled it off well. Matt Lucas did a good job as Nardole, and I get the comments Moffat made about comic timing. I didn’t see the need to bring Nardole back, but the character worked OK as a bridge from 2015 into 2017.
Where this episode really scored was in the dialogue and the scene where Lucy tortured the toy Mr Huffle; brilliant writing, acting, directing and timing. A simple device but very, very effective. Charity Wakefield was the star of this episode for me, and didn’t run off to be a new companion (shamed – an American version of Sarah Jane Smith could work wonders), but settled down to life with Grant.
I still wish some details could have been different: the twenty-four years absence idea achieved little for me, and the magic crystal leads me to wonder why the Doctor doesn’t do more of this. We’ve now had Ashildr and Grant; who next for the alien tech treatment? It’s not actually a bad idea, but it is turning Doctor Who into more of a fantasy each time. In this case it was made clear there were only four red hole gems in existence, one of which is now gone. And I’m sure the Doctor would have read some comic books before now;-)
In the end this was made to entertain and it did. What more do we need for Christmas?!