Well, The Return of Doctor Mysterio – hereafter just Mysterio to save myself from repetitive strain injury – is possibly the least Christmassy Christmas special so far. There is a brief nod to Christmas at the beginning and then we’re straight into the adventure. So, I’d probably have to deduct a mark for that. If I was marking these episodes.
Mysterio introduces a superhero into the Doctor Who universe. A proper sort of Superman. The only superhero we’ve come across previously was the fictional – or should that be fictional in a fictional universe – Karkus in The Mind Robber. Are ‘real’ superheroes compatible with the Doctor Who universe? Probably.
The first thing therefore Steven Moffat does is to give our superhero, who will be called ‘The Ghost’ a nice Doctor Who universe explanation. Peter Capaldi does fine work here aided by a child actor who is pretty good, Logan Hoffman. It’s funny, which always helps.
I should say – and I like to get this out of the way early – that I mostly enjoyed this. It feels inconsequential, except for the re-introduction of Nardole (Matt Lucas.) There was some snarking when it was announced that Matt Lucas would return in Series Eleven, probably the same kind of snark that greeted the arrival of Catherine Tate. The expectation that someone who is a comedian is not going to be good at acting. And yes, Nardole is a more comic part than Donna, but there is also more to him than that and on this initial sample I think we’re going to be fine. Nardole is a good foil for the Doctor and Matt Lucas plays him well.
The villains in this story, Harmony Shoals are connected to those in The Husbands of River Song. They’re the head peeling – if that is the right word – nasties. They’re suitably creepy, especially Aleksandar Jovanovic as Dr Sim, but I’m afraid aren’t going to feature in many people’s lists of favourite Doctor Who monsters. Anyway, they have a plan to conquer the world and the Doctor – along with Grant Gordon/The Ghost (Justin Chatwin) and journalist Lucy Fletcher (Charity Wakefield) aka Superman and Lois Lane.
This story wears the influence of Richard Donner’s 1978 Superman movie on its sleeve. Much more so I think than any modern superhero movies. Perhaps because Donner’s movie – retrospectively at least – is more intimate than most modern superhero movies, with the exception perhaps of Logan. But I’m not here to talk about the superhero genre. I’m here to talk about Doctor Who.
Chatwin and Wakefield are excellent in their roles. Lucy Fletcher’s interrogation of the Doctor using Mr. Huffle as a lie detector of sorts is rather marvellous and Chatwin gets to be nice, which is an unusual trait in a television character these days. My only – slight – quibble is that Grant’s role as Lucy’s nanny, a woman he’s known since high school, does seem a tad stalkerish. However lovely it is in the end. But I may be getting a little weird in my old age. A lot of what used to seem like a romantic story to me these days smacks of stalking to me now. That’s my problem though, not yours.
The Doctor and Nardole attempt to thwart Harmony Shoals’ plan whilst Lucy and The Ghost have a romantic dinner for two. Unfortunately, they’re dinner gets interrupted by Harmony Shoals’ Mr Brock who wants The Ghost for his body. And things then happen. But it all turns out alright in the end. I particularly love The Doctor’s totally contemptuous dismissal of Mr. Brock, which I’d like to see more of in Doctor Who.
So, it isn’t the best Doctor Who story ever. Nor is it highly festive, but it is an enjoyable enough story and that is pretty much all I have to say about that.
Tony Cross is the creator of the wonderful Centurion Blog's found HERE and HERE.
Image – BBC.