There is a sense of “it’s about time” with this review as it aired while this blog was in full swing, as evidence from the following series being covered as it aired, but I remember being really busy that Christmas and a few weeks later I hadn’t written a review for it, and it was too long since I saw it. So, here we are! “The Return of Doctor Mysterio” is a tongue-in-cheek look at the Superhero genre, specifically Superman, which while not exactly Christmassy it did at least lend itself to having a lot of fun. So let’s take a look!
In New York, with brain-swapping aliens poised to attack, the Doctor and Nardole link up with an investigative reporter and a mysterious masked superhero known only as the Ghost. Can the Doctor save Manhattan? And what will be revealed when we see behind the mask?
*spoilers appear from here on out!*
“You know when I said to not use your power?” “Yeah….?” “Well?” “Yeah, no, that didn’t happen.”
Really this feels like a crossover with another property all together, as The Doctor accidentally creates a superhero in New York by not noticing when a child swallows a bit of alien technology that, later in life, gives him superpowers. He returns to New York a couple of decades later while investigating the Shoal of the Winter Harmony, the same group of head-opening aliens from the previous Christmas special, and there encounters a masked and caped superhero named “The Ghost”. Putting two and two together The Doctor visits the now adult version of the boy who swallowed the alien device, Grant (Justin Chatwin), and argues with him, saying that he told him not to use his powers, ignoring the fact that… well, who wouldn’t use them?
This leads to a whole bunch of superman tropes, he has a love interest in Lucy (Charity Wakefield), who is of course a reporter, he’s zipping in and out of costume, being a male nanny for Lucy one moment and a hero the next, his main disguise is a pair of glasses… that sort of thing. It is funny seeing The Doctor’s reaction to all of this, but for a good chunk of the story it’s just superhero parody stuff (and a weird interrogation of The Doctor by Lucy and a stress toy named “Mr. Huffle”) The Doctor and Nardole, who I forgot to mention was with him, soon track the Winter Harmony’s ship in space, their plan being to drop the ship on New York with their “Harmony Shoal” building being the only one standing and therefore drawing in world leaders who can then have their brains replaced by Winter Harmony aliens (who look like brains with eyes, for the record…) It’s all… nonsense, but amusing, 60s comic book-y nonsense, so I’ll go with it…
Overall it’s a pretty naff costume… the “G” has a weird leopard print quality to it…
The Doctor and Nardole struggle to stop the ship’s descent, so the former contacts The Ghost, who stops the ship in time. Meanwhile Lucy is captured by the Shoal and threatened on the rooftop, leading to Grant revealing his identity to his love interest. The Doctor arrives and watches as the two lovers head off, and then nonchalantly defeats the remaining Shoal member with a flick of his sonic screwdriver in a scene that always makes me laugh (it’s literally “we will have our vengeance!” and then The Doctor just turning around and going “no you won’t” ZAP and that’s that.) Grant promises to retire the Ghost persona and live a quiet life with Lucy, and after The Doctor heads into the TARDIS Nardole reveals to the curious couple that The Doctor is going through some grief due to losing River, but he’s here to support him. It’s a rather sweet moment.
“Wait, how did they know we’re not human?”
Not a lot, but much like I said about “Voyage of the Damned” a week or so back, if you’re not a fan of the Superhero genre then you won’t really like this, just like I’m not a fan of the disaster movie genre and didn’t really like that. I do like Superheroes though, so I enjoyed the rather in-your-face parody this episode threw at me.
Both “The Harmony of the Winter Shoal” and Nardole both first appeared in the previous story, “The Husbands of River Song”. That’s about it!
Nardole sneaks back into shot and into the series as a regular!
The Return of Doctor Mysterio is a superhero parody with a good sense of humour a little bit of heart at the end. It’s not very festive, and it’s not very Doctor Who either to be honest, but it is a good laugh if you’re in the right mood…