Happy New Year ! (Doctor Who style)
...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 embarrassing dad. 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!