Sunday, September 10, 2017

Doctor Who 2016 Christmas Special: “The Return of Doctor Mysterio”

“There have been many attempts to conquer the Earth, I’ve lost count. Not one of them has succeeded. Not a single one. They all lost, and burn and ran. That’s who I am.”
- The Doctor

I know this is horribly late but things kind of got away from me. But then again, considering the 2017 Christmas Special is shortly upon us and we don’t yet have a release date for Series 11 (with first female Doctor Jodie Whittaker) maybe having this episode a little late isn’t such a bad thing. We will do our best to get this year’s special blogged in a more timely fashion.

One of the things I found interesting bout this special was because we didn’t have any new episodes between 2015 and 2016 airings, we got to see what the Doctor was doing after 2015’s “The Husbands of River Song”. And in case you forgot, we last saw him and River sharing their last night (read: 24 years) together before she made her fateful trip to the Library. In flashbacks, we see the Doctor meet a little boy named Grant on Christmas morning in New York. The Doctor is doing something ridiculously doctor-y and entrusts Grant to hold a gemstone while he’s fiddling. Grant—lover of superheroes—swallows it (he claims it looked like medicine) now has superpowers that the Doctor makes him promise not to use. As puberty hits, the Doctor checks in on Grant who has now bonded with the gem and has x-ray vision. Because of course he does.

In the present, we find Grant again playing nanny to the child of his best friend and the woman he loves (but doesn’t know he’s got feelings for her). Oh, and he’s also a superhero called The Ghost (the gem he swallowed had a similar name). The love interest, Lucy Fletcher (Lombard) is a reporter (because of course she is) and she’s investigating a weird research institute with a lot of backers. She sticks around late one night to find one of the researchers lure another man into a giant vault. She encounters the Doctor and Nardole (who the Doctor has pieced back together since last we saw him) and she eventually gets rescued by The Ghost. The Doctor clearly knows who Grant is and shows up at the apartment to chastise him. Things get weird when Lucy comes home. Grant flies off to do some more saving while Lucy grills the Doctor on who he really is and what’s going on. She gets some information out of him but when it comes to The Ghost, he’s more than a little tight lipped. That’s okay, though, because Grant calls her on the phone and they set up a dinner interview for the next evening.

That would be all well and good if brains in jars weren’t trying to blow up the world! The Doctor and Nardole do a bit of sleuthing and discover a spaceship-turned-bomb in low orbit. And while the Doctor is messing about with said bomb, the aliens are plotting to unzip Grant’s head (well the Ghost but whatever). Because this is basically Superman playing out in real life, Lucy realizes she’s in love with Grant and then when he’s unmasked, she realizes just how amazing he is. Just in time for him to save the world as the Doctor launches a bomb at New York City. This gets UNIT involved and Grant and Lucy get to have their happy ending. All the while the Doctor is a bit morose (especially when he hears that Grant has known Lucy for 24 years). In the end, the Doctor glumly prattles on about things ending and being sad but that new things come along. Nardole fills in the bits about River and then they head off to try and save the universe some more. The way Nardole put it was kind of sweet and also totally fit the Doctor and River’s relationship. What with them spending all that time together and her dying a long time ago. I have to think Nardole was right when he said that the Doctor put him back together because he didn’t want to be lonely after River left. We’ve seen what he can become when left alone and unchecked by someone (anyone really). He needs that human (or close to it) touch to keep him grounded and not totally running off the rails. I do hope we get to see River and Thirteen meet at some point. It would be highly unlikely and totally not fit in canon but it would make this River fan pleased as punch to see it (and I know at least Alex Kingston is up for it).

Overall, I thought this episode was decent. I liked that they acknowledged the lack of episodes between the Christmas episodes but that it also gave continuity. The superhero plotline was predictable and not overly clever but it gave the Doctor a nice way to ease back into being Earth’s champion and it also introduced us to Nardole as a companion of sorts. He really did grow on me during series 10. It was a bit like Aliens of London from series 1 with the Slitheen but then again, series 10 as a whole felt a lot like rehashing old plotlines. The aliens themselves (at least when they were in human form) seemed a lot like some of the aliens the Doctor and River encountered in last Christmas’s episode. I suppose they could have been the same species and they were just setting us up for this season. But then again, that feels a tad too forward thinking and foreshadowing for Moffatt to have done a year in advance. There is a lot that has frustrated me of late with Doctor Who and part of it being the Christmas specials in particular but this wasn’t the worst Christmas special we’ve had under Moffatt’s reign so cheers for that.

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