The Doctor Who Christmas Special is More of a Stocking Stuffer Than a Present

Doctor Who Christmas Special Plot Summary:

The Doctor (Peter Capaldi) accidentally gives a young boy named Grant superpowers on Christmas Eve. 24 years later The Doctor and Nardole (Matt Lucas) return to earth to find Grant (Justin Chatwin) living the double life of his favorite superhero, Superman. He’s a nanny for the woman of his dreams, a reporter named Lucy (Charity Wakefield), and he’s also the masked crusader, The Ghost. In the meantime, all four must work together to stop an alien invasion.

Doctor Who Christmas Specials/Episodes are usually reserved for two things — a massive event in the series, or a whimsically yet emotional one-off episode that revolves around the holiday. This episode is often the grounds for the changing of the guard of the lead actors in the series, or features a celebrity guest star (e.g. Kylie Minogue, Michael Gambon, Nick Frost).

Sadly, “The Return of Doctor Mysterio,” comes off more like a mid-season filler episode than a Christmas special. (In fact, Christmas is barely even a part of the episode, outside of the opening sequence.) This is all extremely disappointing because this is the only new Doctor Who we’re getting for 2016.

To be honest, this isn’t even a good filler episode of Doctor Who. It plays more like a bad superhero drama that would’ve aired on either SyFy or The CW 10-15 years ago. The Ghost’s costume is horrendously hokey. The special effects surrounding him feel antiquated. The New York City setting feels like its shot on a backlot set owned by the old WB Network. The dialogue between The Ghost/Grant and Lucy is so generic. And the resolution of the whole episode (in regards to Justin an Lucy)? Predictable, and pointless. It’s painfully obvious that writer/show runner Steven Moffat wanted to create an homage to Superman, and it’s unfortunate that he’d sacrificed one of the most important traditions in the series for it.

Thankfully, The Doctor was still in this episode.

Peter Capaldi really shines here. He absolutely found his groove as The Doctor last season. His Doctor is grumpy and gregarious, outlandish and ornery, surly and sympathetic. He embraces a bit of Matt Smith’s manic nature, and imbues his own saltiness into it. It’s been a joy watching Capaldi make this Doctor his own. He makes every scene better in this episode, even the ones where the dialogue is clunking like a broke down jalopy trying to run a red light.

The story would’ve been infinitely more interesting had it revolved around The Doctor’s return to earth with the newly reassembled Nardole than the love triangle between The Ghost, Lucy, and Grant. Lucas and Capaldi have a wonderful chemistry, and it would’ve been more fulfilling to find out why Nardole is with The Doctor throughout the episode than having Nardole give a speech at the tale end of the episode explaining everything.

It also seems that we’re going to forget the whole Clara thing, and the source of The Doctor’s sadness will be River Song. Now, I totally get why The Doctor would be miserable — his wife is dead — but are we going to gloss over the fact he nearly destroyed the universe to bring Clara back? It definitely feels that’s the way they’re going based off Nardole’s speech. I really hope the writing is not that short-sighted going forward.

“The Return of Doctor Mysterio” is only enjoyable because we get to see The Doctor back in action after a year’s absence. Capaldi and Lucas are the two bright spots of the episode, while everything else is a big swing and miss. It’s truly a shame that the series wasted such a huge episode on something so small, and unimportant. This was a massive disappointment.

Rating: 5 out of 10

Bill Bodkin is the gray bearded owner, editor-in-chief and co-founder of Pop Break. Most importantly, he is lucky husband, and proud father to a beautiful daughter named Sophie. He can be seen regularly on the site reviewing The Walking Dead, Doctor Who, and is the host of the site’s podcast, The BreakCast. He is a graduate of Rutgers University with a degree in Journalism & English. Follow him on Twitter: @BodkinWrites