Among the ways 2016 has sucked (and there have been so many), it was the year of no Doctor Who. I don’t know what’s going on over at BBC, but they essentially took a year off, at least as far as new episodes being released goes. Maybe they’re retooling after losing Clara, maybe they’re gearing up for the new Class show, another Dr. Who spin off.
What we did get was a new Christmas special, at least. “The Return of Dr. Mysterio” was a departure from the usual territory for several reasons. It’s Christmas, and nothing is trying to blow up London or kill the inhabitants with seasonally-themed menaces. This episode happens in New York City, not the United Kingdom or outer space, the two usual areas. And, to the best of my knowledge, this is the first time Dr. Who has done a superhero story.
The Doctor is generally not at his best when he’s on his own. That’s part of the reason for the parade of companions through the years. I think the Tom Baker incarnation did ok alone, but even then it was relatively rare. At any rate, he’s revisited a minor supporting character, Nardole, and drafted him as temporary companion. Nardole, rare for a companion, apparently knows how to pilot the TARDIS.
The main plot in the episode revolves around Grant Gordon. Grant is a superhero-obsessed kid who runs into the Doctor as the Time Lord is on one of his odder adventures. Through a mistake on the Doctor’s part, Grant actually gets super powers. The Doctor checks in on him through the years as Grant grows up. By the time he’s an adult, he’s a full fledged superhero, operating under the name “The Ghost.”
The Ghost is a very thinly disguised version of Superman. There are many scenes and conversations that are nods to the original Superman movie starring Christopher Reeve. The alien threat this episode (because you know there has to be one) doesn’t actually have anything to do with the Ghost. This does give the Doctor the rare opportunity to have an ally who can not only take care of himself, but is arguably more capable than the Doctor himself.
In the end, the Doctor, with some help from the Ghost, triumphs (of course he does, its his show after all). They also leave it open for the Ghost to pop up again sometime in the future. Personally, I think a Ghost/Jack Harkness team up would be really entertaining. While the show wasn’t really Christmas per se, it was a fun episode.
What I liked: It was a decent superhero/Doctor team up. They’ve never done it before, but they did it well. I liked the references to heroes from both DC and Marvel. I think the best line was, “Some situations are too stupid to be allowed to continue.” The Doctor, who in this incarnation has been acting like someone high on the autism spectrum a lot of the time, is finally acting like someone who actually has social skills. He was actually fun to watch, which, so far, he hasn’t been.
What I didn’t: I’m not really sure we needed Nardole. All he really seems to do is provide mildly amusing comic relief. Some of the domestic scenes in Grant’s life were kind of goofy. And for a “Christmas special” there was a notable lack of Christmas.
It was an entertaining episode despite my quibbles. I’ll give it a 4 out of 5. The Doctor will return in 2017, with more regular episodes and guest starring in the new show “Class.”