Previously on Doctor Who, “The Husbands of River Song”
The Doctor Who Christmas specials vary widely on tone and topic, keeping in mind that watching it is part of many people’s family tradition. They range from creepy, like the face-huggers in “Last Christmas” 2 years ago, to caper romance, like “The Husbands of River Song,” and rarely have anything to do directly with Christmas. “Doctor Mysterio” is probably the most kid-friendly Christmas special I’ve covered yet, drawing its inspiration directly from superhero comics with a nod back to River Song’s ultimate fate.
On Christmas Eve, a little boy named Grant Gordon lets the Doctor, swinging from the roof of a building, into his room. They sneak up to the roof to check out a piece of tech, and, as he is suffering from a cold, Grant, believing the Doctor is an actual doctor, mistakenly swallows an intuitive alien gem. They think he’ll just pass it, but instead it becomes integrated with his body, manifesting his greatest desires, which are inspired by his Superman comics—X-ray vision, flight, strength, etc. “Doctor Mysterio” is the nickname Grant gives The Doctor. Flash forward to adulthood, and Grant is even living a Clark Kent existence, covering his alter ego’s identity, The Ghost, with fake glasses and a nanny job working for his crush, a reporter named Lucy Lombard.
Meanwhile, the Doctor, still reeling after his final “night” with River Song on Darillium (the one that lasted 24 years) has taken up with Nardole, who he reassembled for company. Nardole makes a surprisingly great companion, comic without being too goofy and yet also utterly honest about the Doctor’s motivations. The Doctor discovers a Krang-like race of aliens taking over a Manhattan corporation named Harmony Shoal one brain at a time, and that is where he crosses paths with Lucy, on assignment, and Grant as The Ghost, saving Lucy. The Shoal, by the way, were the prospective buyers of the Hydroflax diamond in “The Husbands of River Song.” Naturally taking over this corporation isn’t enough, and they want the best human body possible, namely Grant, and wouldn’t mind the Doctor while they’re at it. Lucy interviews the Doctor and, despite being too dense to realize her manny is also a superhero, manages to “torture” a bit of honesty out of the Doctor with Mr. Huffle, a hilarious squealing stress-release toy.
The group becomes increasingly entangled as Grant struggles with telling Lucy how he feels while caring for her baby while Lucy, scoring an interview with The Ghost (still Grant), realizes she actually has feelings for Grant who never lied to her. Cue him shuffling his mask back on just in time. Their conflict becomes moot when the aliens interrupt their dinner and the Doctor and Nardole bring their spaceship hurtling down to earth, stopped by Grant’s palm—the ultimate reveal. UNIT swoops in to clean up the carnage but misses one alien that crawls into an officer’s skull. Grant and Lucy settle into domestic life with him vowing not to use his powers, and Nardole explains that the Doctor is struggling with heartbreak. The Doctor seems refreshed by the incident and, with Mr. Huffle in tow, fires up the TARDIS into the next season.
Overall, this is a much lighter recycle of previous alien incursions like the Cybermen and Slytheen, pulling pretty heavily from Season 1’s “World War Three,” so for 90 minutes, although certainly enjoyable enough for Christmas, there wasn’t much new text here. The alien eye click once it takes over a host is underused, while a very-long gag of unzipping the skull to pull out a sticky gun is clever but semi-nonsensical, considering people could just run by the time it would be usable. After the longest break since the reboot of Doctor Who, it was probably best to start with a soft episode, but using a psychic gem to shape the world in order to close massive logical loopholes didn’t always work for me. I might have preferred to have the 24 year references left subtle, rather than spelled out in detail at the end. Darillium was, after all, the immediate episode prior to this one.
That said, I liked all of the cast, and, for his first acting job, little Grant, Logan Hoffman, was very believable and had solid chemistry with Peter Capaldi. My favorite parts were one liners like Lucy saying she preferred Grant’s “superhero costume” while putting his glasses back on, and Nardole commenting that the alien ship is “a bit rubbish.” It is also reassuring to have Nardole—who knows how to fly the TARDIS, accidentally rule Constantinople, and diagnose the Doctor’s weaknesses—around to transition into the new companion.
“Things end. That’s all. Everything begins again, too. And that’s good.”
- Why would Grant call Lucy “Mrs. Lombard” if he’d known her most of their lives, even if he was working for her?
- What did Nardole mean when he asked where the little boys’ room was and didn’t mean the bathroom?
- Is Grant really not ever going to use his super powers again just because he has a woman?
- So… now that Grant and Lucy are together, does he have to get a new job? Awkward.
- Where can I get one of those squeaky toys?
- Grant is reading a Man of Steel comic from 1986 by John Byrne.
- All of the names are alliterative according to comic book tradition.
- Two of the employees are named Shuster and Siegel after the creators of Superman.
- The Ghost is styled after The Phantom, aka “The Ghost who Walks.”
- The Mexican airing of the Doctor Who series is named “Doctor Misterio.” Peter Capaldi loved this, and, as a result, it was included in the main series.
Here’s the new trailer for Season 10 of Doctor Who:
Doctor Who Christmas Special 2017
"The Return of Doctor Mysterio"
Doctor Who Christmas Special 2017 – S10E0 – The Return of Doctor Mysterio | Starring: Peter Capaldi, Matt Lucas, Justin Chatwin, Charity WAkefield, Tomiwa Edun, Aleksandar Jovanovic, Logan Hoffman, Daniel Lorente, Sandra Teles, Tanroh Ishida, Vaughn Johseph, Lee Kemp