...and now for something a little bit different. A critical analysis of 'The Return of Doctor Mysterio' by talented new reviewer, Emma Power, that's certainly worth a read. Watch out for a new review section and more from Emma in 2017!
Happy Christmas, Whovians! The following review will
contain spoilers for The Return Of Doctor Mysterio, and Series 4's
Silence In The Library/Forest Of The Dead...
We start off with an amusing intro sequence, where the Doctor's attempts
to fix the time distortion around 80's New York ( connected to Series
7's The Angels Take Manhattan? ) result in him being mistaken for Santa
by 8-year-old Grant. Jokes like "I'll have to ask mom if you can come
in" whilst the Doctor hangs outside Grant's window, and "You swallowed
it?" when the Doc gives Grant water for his cough and a gemstone to
hold, are funny without trying too hard. And Peter Capaldi is on great
form too- from his usual grumpy and honest demeanour, to his silly and
endearing attitude towards being 'Santa' and telling Grant Superman's
true identity, to his hidden grief at the loss of a friend, the Twelfth
Doctor is neither fashionably jerkish and 'deep' nor someone's special
But how does the Doctor's companion fare? The casting of Matt Lucas as
Nardole was a surprise to many, whilst his predicament in last year's
'The Husbands of River Song' left viewers confused as to how exactly
Nardole would return. And it's easy to miss too-a brief "I reconstructed
you because I was lonely" explains both Nardole's presence and reason
for being there.
But what about his character? Well...there seems to have been a
conscious attempt to avoid 'comedy relief' status, and Matt Lucas just
about pulls it off, so well done. However, this kind of competence-
suddenly able to fly the Tardis AND fire off expository questions, and
bringing 'emotional depth' by repeatedly questioning the Doctor's grief
and motives- seems ungrateful (even 12 says so), and mutes his comedic
talents and cheerful attitude.
And unfortunately, the insensitivity doesn't stop there. Reporter Lucy
Lombard (yes, L.L) also questions the Doc throughout the episode, to the
point of winding him up with a squeaky toy (yep, and IT WORKS) every time
he doesn't confess all. Add to that the old 'unaware of X's true
identity' reference/gag being done to death (over 20 years?), and a
nicely-done backstory with a baby can't help much.
Which leads us to their protector - The Ghost. Cool origins - related name
aside, Grant's life from confused child to well-meaning superhero is
simply told, although sometimes he is less stoic and more wooden.
Less cliché are the villains; rather than one ultra-arch-nemesis, we
have gruesome brain-switching aliens and their human co-conspirators.
Imposter Dr Sim's reveal and switch from mild scientist to cold
mastermind is chilling (and there's even a subverted 'not aiming at the
chink in the armor'- he didn't want to damage The Ghost's brain). And Mr
Brock makes up for Grant/The Ghost's emotionlessness- whether coolly
deflecting pointed questions or showing fear and anger as he
unsuccessfully fights against being converted.
In fact, there's only one complaint about Harmony Shoal - or rather,
their episode's timing. Who thought this should go out at 5.45?
Primetime, Christmastime, infant fans watching, and we see head ripping
aliens and a guy WITH HIS EYES TORN OUT. The scalpels and removed brains
they could get away with, but this?
We don't face this alone though; UNIT's military help is unobtrusive
continuity. And it's not the only nod- in a tragic twist, the lost
friend Twelve is grieving is confirmed to be old flame River Song. I
initially thought it was yet another goodbye to companion Clara (I
really liked Clara and Jenna Coleman's performance, but not her finale
send off), and was sad to hear of Alex Kingston's exit as both a viewer
of The Husbands Of River Song and Silence In The Library/Forest Of The
Dead. Hopefully these plot threads won't be dragged out any longer (8
whole years!...Is Grant' age a reference to that?), and if so then thank
you to Steven Moffat for a timey-wimey yet logical and surprisingly
touching story arc.
So, final thoughts on this episode and it's overall impact. Some grating
character behaviour and the odd bit of iffy SFX aside, this is a really
decent episode- humor more funny than cringe worthy, story more engaging
than smartass, and suitable (if unmemorable) music. It's not as
emotional or exciting or well-scored as RTD's Christmas specials, but
less over-the-top. And if you want exciting, just head to the closing
Series 10 trailer; dull grey spacesuits (I kinda liked the lurid orange
though...hey, come back!), canteen chips, schooling, high pitched
shrieking, frills, a quarry in Wales... fantastic! Roll on 2017, and a
Happy New Year to everyone!