Christmas Day would not be the same without Doctor Who. Even when there hasn’t been a full series, there has been the Christmas Special every year since the 2005 reboot. And after stuffing your face with food, the last thing you need is something complex and tricky to swallow. After all, it’s tradition for at least one person to fall asleep! The Return of Doctor Mysterio delivers and then some. Fast paced but not too heavy, it’s a perfect post-turkey treat. Something fun to think about but definitely not too complicated.
The story itself could have been set pretty much anywhere, but in true superhero form, had to be done in New York. This is made important in the story by the Doctor trying to fix what was broken when the Weeping Angels invaded during The Angels Take Manhattan. Of course that plan is ruined when Grant swallows the gem known as The Ghost and gains superpowers from it. So it’s unknown if New York is still kind of broken or not. And Harmony Shoal want to destroy New York because it’s a big not-capital city. So there’s some kind of logic there. Mostly.
This is a story that focuses more on the characters than it does having a big flashy plot. There are no big sweeping shots of New York, it’s all very small and contained. Grant has grown up dealing with having superpowers and fallen in love with someone he knew at school, subsequently becoming Lucy’s nanny and helping to raise the child that she had with someone else now that the father is out of the picture. Whenever Grant’s vocation comes up, he almost recoils from it, expecting ridicule. Except the Doctor and Nardole have no real knowledge of human stereotypes and therefore don’t really care that he’s a male nanny, which is refreshing in its own way.
Grant is the mild mannered alter-ego of a superhero and Lucy is a journalist who wants to know who The Ghost really is. It’s a trope-like set up however the characters feel real. They’re not stereotypes in that sense, they just feel like real people who have been thrust into this mad world. And it works.
The villain they’re trying to fight against in Harmony Shoal are brains in jars doing their best impression of Body Snatchers by having their surgeons take the best bodies that they can, scoop out the brains and replace them. The only sign being slightly flickering eyes and a diagonal scar across the victim’s face. And these body snatching brains set their sights on The Ghost after he uses his powers to save Lucy and the Doctor.
In finding out what Harmony Shoal is up to, the Doctor sends their giant bomb of a spaceship hurtling towards New York and with no time to change, Grant saves the day. Just without his glasses on.
The end of the episode sent shivers down my spine with an empty body being found in the Harmony Shoal building, clearly a brain has escaped somewhere, leaving us open to a sequel perhaps? I hope so, Grant and Lucy are a pair of characters I would love to see again. And we finish with Nardole telling them about River Song in a very sweet little speech. Most of the episode he seemed almost unnecessary to the plot other than a little comic relief but this ending really showed what Matt Lucas can do and I’m actually looking forward to seeing more of him in the upcoming series!
Overall, this episode was a lot of light-hearted fun with a message of love and family in the centre of it. But mostly it can be summed up from a brief conversation I had with my mother.
“Is this Doctor Who versus Superman?”
“…. The Doctor appears to have created Superman, yes.”