Happy Christmas! One of the best Christmas presents we’ve been getting each year lately is the Doctor Who Christmas special. Let’s see what we get to unwrap this year.
“The Return of Doctor Mysterio”
It looks like we’re getting comic book Doctor Who! It has a superhero noir vibe. I dig it.
The Doctor is swinging from a rooftop — sixty floors up — after setting a trap. A little boy says he’ll have to ask his mum before letting him in through the window. The mum says he can come in because he’s *expected*. As The Doctor climbs in, the boy (Grant Gordon, we learn) returns with milk and cookies, and, since it’s Christmas Eve night, The Doctor plays along for now.
The Doctor goes through the comic book-obsessed boy’s stash — he has discovered that (spoilers!) Clark Kent and Superman are THE SAME PERSON! Grant tells him that, if he were in a comic book, he would be called ‘Doctor Mysterio’. They discuss Grant’s annual Christmas cough, and he hands him something.
The Doctor has a big … thingie … on Grant’s rooftop. He was setting a trap to keep people away from it. He tasks Grant with popping the gemstone he gave him into the thingie. The only thing is … he kind of swallowed it. It’s hard to blame him — they were discussing his cough, he said he was a doctor, he handed him something that looked vaguely medicine-y with a glass of water.
Like in a fantastic comic book, he’s now a superhero!
And, it appears, a nanny. In the future, anyway.
Now we’re at a press conference at a company called Harmony Shoal. Mr. Brock, the owner, is apparently very wealthy, as an intrepid reporter can’t locate any of his benefactors and his backyard is, at last count, Wyoming.
Nardole is back. He asks for the ‘little boys’ room’ and is confused at the term ‘restroom’. He doesn’t want a rest! What he needs to do would probably disturb anyone trying to rest.
A very serious-looking man warns Mr. Brock that there is a problem with the brains, and, when he approaches him later at his desk, we see that our intrepid reporter is undercover as a cleaner.
The serious-looking man, Dr. Sim, is suffering from Flashy-Eye Syndrome and Blue Bloody Nose Disorder, and he’s concerned that there are more brains than there should be. There weren’t any deliveries; they just arrived.
Oh, the brains have eyes. That’s not terrifying at all.
The Doctor appears beside the reporter, and he brought snacks! He’s an old pro at intruding places. He knows what to do.
Dr. Sim tells Mr. Brock to tap the glass on one of the brain jars. When he notices the brains have eyes, Mr. Brock also sees that they are like Dr. Sim’s eyes. Dr. Sim has been hijacked — his real brain is in a jar. They are going to do the same to Mr. Brock!
The Doctor and the intrepid reporter — Lucy Fletcher, we learn — have found a story! Well, The Doctor has probably found more than that. He takes in the giant map of Harmony Shoal locations o the wall, and, when he says that they are in a lot of capitol cities, Nardole appears and corrects him. New York isn’t the capitol of the US. Dr. Sim shows up and threatens them.
A masked vigilante (The Ghost) appears at the window of the 100th floor where they are, breaking a window built to withstand four nuclear blasts, Dr. Sim says. He stops bullets and tosses Dr. Sim to the side — he doesn’t really harm, but light to moderate violence is okay.
Grant is playing the superhero with every cliche, and it’s so perfect.
We flashback to when Grant got the gemstone. The Doctor says it’ll ‘pass’ — wink wink — and makes him promise to never use the powers it’ll give him.
He delivers Lucy safely home, and his little tracker thing flashes, so he must go. It’s a baby monitor! The Doctor is waiting with the baby and chides him for leaving Baby Jennifer alone. Nardole has made up a bottle. This looks like a fantastic nanny team.
Mrs. Lombard, the baby’s mother, is Lucy Fletcher! She is annoyed and suspicious about The Doctor’s presence, but he says they were checking on her. She doesn’t know that Grant is The Ghost!
It turns out that The Doctor has visited Grant throughout his life and knows he’s kind of always had a thing for Lucy. He ran into her once as an adult, and she married a friend he introduced her to — who ran off with someone else after the baby was born.
Grant hears sirens and flies off, and Lucy wants to see The Doctor. She has a shrieky squeaky toy, and, every time he thinks he’s lying to her, she squeezes it. It makes an AWFUL sound. She wants to know who he is, but, more so, she wants to know about the brains. They are not really brains but independent alien creatures. They replace the brains and central nervous systems of compatible hosts, eventually taking over the planet.
She’s clever, and she knows that he knows who The Ghost is. She’s not so clever that she can put together the ‘Bat Signal’ flashing when the baby cries, though!
Grant calls Lucy’s mobile as The Ghost and agrees to be interviewed over dinner. As she’s about to confirm, she thinks to make sure Grant can watch Jennifer for her. He says he has a date — as does she?! — but agrees that he can look after her anyway.
Mr. Brock has returned after his conversion, and they are interested in The Ghost but fascinated by The Doctor. The Doctor surprises them, and Mr. Brock asks if he is declaring war on them. Eh, it’s more like drawing a line and suggesting they don’t cross it. Mr. Brock opens his head and withdraws a gun. Cool. Cool cool cool.
The TARDIS materialises around The Doctor, and he and Nardole finally discuss why — and how — Nardole is there. The Doctor cut him out of Hydroflax because he was worried about being lonely, though he claims it’s to give him facts like a lackey.
Lucy is not wearing her date red dress, and she tells Grant it’s because she’s going for strictly business purposes. He flies out with a picnic basket and lands on the rooftop to find her in the red dress after all!
The Doctor and Nardole are flying about in the TARDIS, looking for the alien signal. Grant and Lucy are chatting about his powers. Mr. Brock and Dr. Sim are readying the surgeons to try to convert The Ghost into an alien. Everyone is pretty busy.
There’s no one on the spaceship sending out the signal; The Doctor can tell because all the lights are off. It has a reactor core but doesn’t seem to be powering much of anything.
Lucy gets pretty defensive when The Ghost mentions her baby — and even more defensive when she starts talking about Grant.
Oh, there ARE life forms on the spaceship! The are half-faced alien dudes with antennae sticking out, following them.
Lucy starts realising that she might be in love with Grant or should, at least, not take him for grant-ed so much. The Ghost has removed his mask and wants her to look up and see his face, but she keeps going on and on about how she lies to Grant and doesn’t think he’s ever lied to her. By the time she does look up, he has put his mask back on; she can’t think that he lied about something so big.
The Doctor sees that Harmony Shoal isn’t wiping out the world. They are going to drop the spaceship on New York City, staging an alien attack when the aliens are already there. Harmony Shoal, Dr. Sim reminds them via a video screen, is built to withstand four nuclear blasts, so it will withstand this, too. They will offer solace to all the world’s leaders — and convert them to their kind. Easy peasy.
The Doctor is jealous of their plan! Why can’t the good guys get plans like that?!
The Ghost escapes before they can convert him, and Lucy knows she’s the only hostage, so they can’t kill her. They know about Jennifer, though, and the words are no sooner out of Mr. Brock’s mouth before Grant arrives as well-known superhero, The Nanny. He is taken hostage, though, and seen as expendable since they think The Ghost will come back for her before this random dude.
Dr. Sim keeps talking to The Doctor and says that everything will be perfect when the time is right — which tells him that the time is currently wrong for the fake attack! He starts plummeting the spaceship toward the city and uses the sonic screwdriver to emit a frequency only Grant can hear to warn him. Grant steps up and saves the day, stopping the spaceship just before it would hit the rooftop.
Grant states the obvious, and Lucy is about to kiss him when The Doctor reminds him that it would be better to get rid of the spaceship-bomb first. She says that she prefers him in his superhero costume, and, when he says that it’d be hard to change while still saving the world right now, she pops his Clark Kent glasses on his face. They kiss and fly off together with the spaceship.
Later on, Lucy still wants to know who The Doctor is. He mentions that he’s been gone for 24 years, and Lucy knows to ask what her name is. He leaves into the TARDIS with the shrieky toy, and Nardole fills in the blanks. He’s been gone for 24 years because that’s how long one night on Darillium lasts — that one last night with River Song before she died in the library.
Oh, I forgot how much that one stung. I love River, and I was so happy to see last year’s Christmas special because I thought we might have seen the last of her. When he met her, she died, so we always knew every meeting would be special. Since we’d finally seen her meet him, it seemed like we couldn’t expect more. It was beautiful and moving.
This year, we were treated in a very different way. There weren’t so many tender moments, but it was loads of fun. Anyone who likes comic books or comic book movies could find something to love in this episode — down to secret identity names like Grant Gordon (that alliteration!) and superhero names like Doctor Mysterio! There were a lot of specific references to Batman, Superman, and Spider-Man, which was fun to see, and it felt like they were reaching a hand out to some of their tired fanbase to say ‘it’s still here and still the show you love’. And it is.