Thursday, December 29, 2016

My Review of Doctor Who's 10x00: "The Return Of Doctor Mysterio"

Written by Steven Moffat
Directed by Ed Bazalgette

Grant: "Life's not a comic book, right Doctor?"
The Doctor: "Possibly, I'm not the right person to ask."

It's been twelve months with no new series and a divisive spin-off that is now going to be burned off on BBC1 in double bills next month, so I was hoping that when Doctor Who finally graced our screens again, the result would be something pretty amazing. Sadly for all it's best intentions, this episode wasn't quite that to be honest.

I'm going to be honest - I had no issue with the idea of a superhero themed episode. Sure, it's not something that you'd expect on the show but if we could have a Christmas special that actually featured Santa Claus (Last Christmas back in 2014) and for it to turn out to be one of the best festive specials we've ever had, then surely this episode could've gone a similarly surprising way? Apparently not.

Steven Moffat is a man who certainly likes revisiting his own old favourites - tropes, that is and here seemed to be packed with them. The Doctor winds up in New York in the early 1990s to deal with a time disturbance and encounters a young boy named Grant Gordon (Logan Hoffman) who has an affinity for comics books, in particular Superman, which this episode shamelessly rips off with gleeful abandon.

Involving a gemstone of some kind that young Grant mistakes for medicine and swallows, the Doctor has now inadvertently created a superhero with the young lad and his general advice to Grant is not to use his powers at all costs. Of course, we all know this isn't going to last as aside from a flashback that dealt with the hell of puberty, a grown up Grant (Justin Chatwin) has become the very thing the Doctor advised him not to become - a superhero.

A superhero who sounds like Batman, dresses a little similarly to Nightwing and more or less has a backstory not entirely dissimilar to Superman, Grant now goes under the name of the Ghost and when he isn't saving the citizens of New York, he's also playing nanny to his crush Lucy Lombard/Fletcher (Charity Wakefield) baby daughter, Jennifer.

The main bones of the story involves an alien invasion courtesy of the Harmony Shoal from last year's special, The Husbands Of River Song. Also returned from that special is Matt Lucas's Nardole, now with his head back on his body, assisting the Doctor as the duo encounter Grant/Ghost, Lucy and the Shoal folk themselves who have taken over the bodies of Mr Brock and Mr Sim in order to give the episode a human looking set of villains.

The invasion plot itself while stirring up reminders of both Morbius and Slitheen (while being connected to neither of them) is easily the weakest aspect of the episode. Yes, we get a four way team up between the Doctor, Nardole, Grant/Ghost and Lucy but aside from the hint that the Harmony Shoal will resurface again following a UNIT clean up, the story in itself didn't exactly compel me.

Unfortunately not a lot about this special really did if I'm being honest. I saw a lot of fans on Sunday saying Peter Capaldi was brilliant in this episode but I can't help disagreeing as it felt like his Doctor really didn't do all that much. The only scene where he seemingly shone was during the last moment where he talked to Grant and Lucy about an old flame and moving on.

As for Nardole - let's be honest, of all the characters that Steven Moffat could've brought back going into his final series, Nardole is by far the oddest choice going. I can't think of anyone (myself included) who was particularly clamouring for him to come back. To be fair on the character though, he was far less annoying here than his previous appearance, except for one scene but saying that, I genuinely don't feel this episode or even next series will benefit from actually having him there.

As for the main guest stars themselves, I thought both Justin Chatwin and Charity Wakefield did a good job with their respective roles but I had a hard time buying into the love story that Moffat set up with Grant/Lucy. To me, it just didn't gel and the idea that Grant might give up being a superhero because the girl of his dreams finally acknowledged him in the way he wanted her to just left a bit of a bad taste in my mouth. Lois Lane would've never have done that to be honest. Hell, Moffat could've been a little more subversion and actually revealed Grant/The Ghost to be gay instead of going the obvious route with him and Lucy.

- The Superman references were stronger in this episode. We got an almost visual of the Daily Planet, Lucy was an investigative journalist and the creators Shuster and Siegel got name checked too.
- Doctor Misterio (i instead of y) is the name the show is given in Mexico. Grant even called the Doctor that at the start of the episode.
- I'm surprised they didn't Christmas up the titles. However Matt Lucas's name was added into them. I also liked the references to River and Osgood in this episode.
- With BBC3 no longer being a physical channel, BBC2 will be repeating the episode tonight at 2.30am. A vanilla DVD release for the episode comes out next month.
- The Series 10 trailer gave us plenty of new companion, Bill Potts as well as a few monster returns as well as new foes for the Doctor, Bill and Nardole to face.
- Chronology: Christmas 1992 and present day 2016. This was by far the least Christmassy episode we've had out of all the Christmas special. Also 24 years after the last Christmas special.

After a year off the air, I hate to say it but The Return Of Doctor Mysterio was somewhat lacking in parts. The superhero references felt a bit too distracting, even if they were fun, Capaldi's Doctor felt little more like a guest star in his own show and the main alien invasion plot just didn't engage me. Hopefully though the upcoming series will be a far better send off for Steven Moffat and possibly the Twelfth Doctor.

Rating: 6 out of 10

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