Christmas is nearly upon us and that can only mean one thing. Presents? No! Don’t be silly! It means the return of Doctor Who in, well, The Return of Doctor Mysterio – this year’s superhero themed special which writer and showrunner Steven Moffat has been sharing details about with the Radio Times.
Sitting down for an extensive one to one interview, Steven Moffat has answers such varied questions as: Who is The Ghost? What are the themes of the story? And just who are the villains tormenting the Doctor and his be-caped friend?
Speaking of capes, just why is Steven Moffat using a Christmas special to tell a superhero tale?
“I’d like to say we’re not doing a send-up of superheroes; we take it relatively seriously in a Doctor Who Christmas way. And we haven’t suddenly announced that superheroes are real in Doctor Who’s world. They’re not. It’s about a little boy (Logan Hoffman), who is accidentally conferred superpowers and who happens to be a comics fan and so he decides he should be a superhero in his adult years.”
That superhero is known as The Ghost, played by Justin Chatwin, or to give him his real-life name Grant Gordon, who is very much modelled after Christopher Reeve’s iconic performance as Superman/Clark Kent – and Moffat isn’t shy about his love for Richard Donner’s classic film.
“Yes, it’s what would happen if a little Superman fan was accidentally given Superman powers. What would he grow up to be? So it’s his model of how you behave as Superman. Which of course is not practical and not a way to live.”
A great hero is defined by his villains, so who or what will form The Ghost’s own rogues’ gallery of tormentors? And, as Moffat hints, are they entirely new to the show?
“Not quite new. Fairly new. They’ve been around before. Something we’ve seen before but quite recently. It’s more fun if you don’t know. But there’s a sinister plot afoot to conquer the Earth and the Doctor is involved in stopping the plan and then stumbles upon the superhero he accidentally created. Which complicates matters.”
Complicating those complicated matters is the presence of Nardole, who is once again played by Matt Lucas; it’s a return that Moffat was keen to make happen:
“Well, he’s travelling with the Doctor when we first encounter him and it’s slowly pieced together what has happened to him, and continues to be pieced together throughout the next series. But you get the picture of what’s happened. We don’t ignore but we don’t make a big fuss of what happened last Christmas when we last saw him. He was decapitated but still alive because he was still inside Hydroflax. He’s lovely. He’s very good, Matt, I have to say.”
At no point could you really say that any of this has felt particularly Christmassy, which begs the question: just how festive is The Return of Doctor Mysterio?
“And it’ll be a relief to you, it’s got virtually no Christmas in it at all apart from the very first scene which has one solitary Christmas tree and the Doctor goes, ‘Ho, ho, ho,’ and that’s it. We ignore Christmas for the rest of it.”
You can read more about Moffat’s love for Superman, the practicalities of turning Bulgaria into New York and the relationship between The Ghost and his very own Lois Lane over at the Radio Times.
The Doctor Who Christmas special, The Return of Doctor Mysterio airs Christmas Day at 17:45 on BBC One.