Skip to main content

Doctor Who Reviews: "The Return of Doctor Mysterio"


          Ah, it’s great to be able to talk about Doctor Who again after a YEAR! It’s been a long wait but with “The Return of Doctor Mysterio” we really are going to see the return of the mysterious Doctor with a new series beginning in April, as well as a new companion who will hopefully bring something fresh to the show. As for now, it’s Peter Capaldi back in a fittingly campy premise.
          The Doctor while setting up a device to reverse paradoxes atop a roof in New York City comes across a small child called Grant Gordon who under the impression the Doctor is Santa (it being Christmas) comes up to help him. But he accidentally swallows an alien gemstone believing it to be medicine. A couple decades later, he works a job as a nanny while moonlighting as a superhero called the Ghost and comes into contact with the Doctor again when they investigate sinister plots at a research company called Harmony Shoals.
          It was only a matter of time before we saw superheroes in Doctor Who; the Doctor’s practically a superhero already. Seriously, his origin story could exist alongside any in the Marvel universe. And this episode is clearly paying homage to the superhero genre in all forms. It’s clear Steven Moffat’s principal experience is with the basic, campy elements of something like the Adam West Batman series and especially the original Superman movie, with a touch of awkward Tobey Maguire Spider-Man in there. But that’s still a wide-range of influences, and adding in the snappy comedy of something like the current MCU and you have a loving if tongue-in-cheek tribute to the superhero genre in its entirety. The super-powered gem stone is certainly an homage to Marvel’s Infinity Stones, and even the goofy brain aliens feel like something out of an early pulp superhero comic or even an episode of The Super Friends.
          Though his character may be a little too pathetic, Justin Chatwin plays Grant Gordon (they even got the stylized name) fairly well. He’s never playing it too straight and always with a good sense of humour. His superhero voice which is somehow less ridiculous than Christian Bale’s is enjoyable too. Charity Wakefield plays his love interest but she’s not terribly interesting. Apart from a goofy stress toy she has that is kind of a lie detector -I didn’t really get that bit -she doesn’t have any unique qualities to make her more than the girl the hero has to save. Even her investigating is just kind of standard. At least the Doctor brings snacks. The Doctor is of course great, and it’s wonderful to have him back. It’s been a year for us, and apparently it’s been a couple decades for him too, still reeling from the loss of both Clara and River. But he’s still as clever, funny, and as he himself will point out, insane as ever (I love how he’ll still resort to just pressing every button in an alien lab and hope for the best); and even though the superhero stuff is often entertaining, it’s when he’s on screen that the episode’s at its’ best. Also surprising is Matt Lucas as Nardole reprising his role from the last Christmas special, and as the Doctor’s de facto companion, is given a lot more to do and more opportunities to be genuinely funny. It feels like Lucas is creating a new character here, rather than just a Little Britain one-off. He actually manages to get a number of decent laughs.
          The humour is pretty on form for most of the hour too. Again, the superhero stuff makes up a lot of this, the fun this episode has subtly mocking the genre, but there are some other decent jokes, a few great one-liners from the Doctor and Nardole. There’s a pretty great parody of split screen devices as well as secret identities (the Ghost has a distinctly Peter Parker logic for protecting his identity, likely due to having read so many comic books as a kid). The best joke though is at the end when one of the villains, after the Ghost has taken the alien bomb up out of the atmosphere in a sappy happy ending, says “Doctor, do you think this is over?” only for the Doctor to reply “yes” and disrupt his gun with his sonic screwdriver. The timing and delivery of that joke is near perfect.
          But are there weaknesses to this episode? Of course. First off, Moffat really likes the story of the Doctor periodically visiting someone as they grow up and we see it once again here. It’s a really tired device that I hope he doesn’t use when introducing the next companion. Secondly, the main storyline isn’t technically good. You’ve seen it in a dozen superhero movies and Doctor Who episodes alike. Essentially it’s the evil aliens seeking to invade Earth and assimilate its people. They have a more needlessly convoluted plan than usual but it’s still pretty boring. And the villains aren’t very exciting either. Aleksander Jovanovic plays the one-dimensional Russian scientist. Adetomiwa Edun from Merlin is actually pretty good until he gets assimilated. And I wish we got to see more of the brains themselves, with their creepy eyes. The effects work is okay but I feel like we’ve seen aliens with half-heads in Doctor Who a few times already. In addition to this, the scenes between the Ghost and Lucy on their date are in moments too awkward, and it’s definitely too convenient that she just happens to be developing feelings for Grant. I know it’s paying tribute to Superman, but there was just better chemistry between Christopher Reeve and Margot Kidder, and arguably better writing. And I could have done without the angst over River at the end. 
          “The Return of Doctor Mysterio” isn’t one of the best Christmas specials but it is one of the more fun. And it’s a good reintroduction to the title character and series. It’s both Doctor Who as we know it, and something new, hopefully a trend that will continue into the coming series. Peter Capaldi is still terrific and I look forward to seeing him in the next series beginning in April. Speaking of which, we got a teaser and I’m surprisingly glad to see Nardole sticking around, which may make up for the fact that the next companion Bill looks like she’ll be just another young girl from modern-day Earth. He at least could make for a refreshing TARDIS dynamic. But I’m optimistic and curious about Bill, seemingly being set up as maybe the next Donna Noble. Also, this episode left a cliffhanger in terms of its villains; I wonder if that’s going to lead to anything, or if it’s just another knock at superhero tropes. In any case, there’s more of the Doctor, more Daleks, and more insanity awaiting. See you in April!

Popular posts from this blog

Mary Tyler Moore's Best Moments

A couple days ago, we lost the icon Mary Tyler Moore. On the Mount Rushmore of groundbreaking comediennes, Moore has an undeniable place (with Lucille Ball, Carol Burnett, and Cloris Leachman). She was often the best part of the Dick Van Dyke Show, making for half of one of the greatest TV couples. Through her own series, she was a key part of one of the most important and timeless shows of all time. Her kindness, perseverance, and good humour made her a role model for all, but especially women and girls whose greater representation in media she pioneered. She was such an endearingly sweet woman, a champion of diabetes research and a great philanthropist. When watching either of her classic shows, she always felt like a good friend. And now the world has lost that friend.
          In honour of her passing, I want to highlight just some of my favourite Mary Tyler Moore moments both as Laura Petrie and Mary Richards, that attest to what a great comedic and inspirational talen…

Disney Sundays: Moana (2016)

When I heard that the next Disney movie, Moana was going to be based around Hawaii, I was tempted to say, “haven’t we been here before?’ It doesn’t feel like too long ago that we had Lilo & Stitch. I was more curious though when I heard it would revolve around Hawaiian mythological figures like Maui and fantastical monsters. But then I remembered Ron Clements and John Musker were the directors behind Hercules and I worried. However I needn’t have, as Moana is easily the pair’s best film since Aladdin.
          A teenage girl called Moana, resident of a small isolated tribe on one of the Polynesian islands, is chosen by the ocean to be an emissary to the banished demigod Maui and convince him to return the Heart of the Sea (a small pounamu stone) to Te Fiti -the goddess he stole it from who’s cursed their world with famine as retribution.
          Though this is a standard and fittingly mythic hero's journey, the story is nonetheless an exciting one to follow due in…

Overlooked Specials 12th Day of Christmas

12th Day of Christmas:
Blackadder’s Christmas Carol This Christmas Day how about we dispense with the feels in favour of a mean but comedically genius one-off of Britain’s best series. Even if you’re unfamiliar with Blackadder, the series about a witty schemer reincarnated through various periods in British history, this special should still make you laugh. An inversion of A Christmas Carol, Ebenezer Blackadder played of course to perfection by Rowan Atkinson is the kindest man in England which everyone uses to take advantage of him. But an encounter with a Spirit of Christmas causes him to change his ways. Most of the Blackadder cast: Atkinson, Tony Robinson as Baldrick, Stephen Fry, Hugh Laurie, and Miranda Richardson appear here and are excellent, as are guests Miriam Margolyes, Jim Broadbent, and Robbie Coltrane in a role I’m sure inspired J.K. Rowling to request him for Hagrid. And the writing from Richard Curtis and Ben Elton is as sharp as ever. It’s relentlessly enjoyable, funny…