“Oy! 24 years will give you such a crick in the neck.”
It’s been awhile since I’ve done one of these, eh? Last time I did a Doctor Who recap, it was one website, one showrunner announcement, and 24 (Doctor) years ago. I’ve been slowly putting out some Class recaps, but now we’re back for the big one. Look, we even have a fancy new title! Ladies and gentlemen, it’s finally time to look over what you all thought of the latest episode of Doctor Who, The Return of Doctor Mysterio, in the first instalment of Sonic Feedback!
… What do you mean that during the fabled Boxing Day Crash of 2016 we lost all the comments people left? Well. That’s unfortunate. I suppose that means I’ll have to work even harder to find out what people thought. I might even have to… check outside the website. *Shudders* No, it’s fine. It has to be done. Anyway, the poll results survived, so let’s check those out!
More than worth the wait! 28.44% (31 votes)
A heroic effort 34.86% (38 votes)
My opinion? To Be Continued… 4.59% (5 votes)
It’s alright. Might not hold up beyond Christmas… 20.18% (22 votes)
Worse than getting coal for Christmas 11.93% (13 votes)
Total Votes: 109
A mostly positive response it seems, and I agree! This episode was a fun Christmas romp, and that’s all it tried to be (although, the “Christmas” part of the Christmas Special seemed to quietly disappear after the pre-credits scenes). Half superhero parody, half superhero tribute, The Return of Doctor Mysterio is altogether a good time.
This episode is Steven Moffat’s seventh consecutive Christmas special, and his third one for the Twelfth Doctor. The special was directed by Ed Bazalgette, returning to Who after a brief stint directing the first three episodes of Class. If you’ve read my Class recaps, you know I sang his praises for his work over there. Although I was a tad apprehensive going into this episode. I loved how he handled the tone of 2015’s The Woman Who Lived, but I felt like the jokes in his other 2015 episode, The Girl Who Died didn’t hit as well as they should’ve, from what was quite a funny script. Thankfully though, his hand at a Christmas superhero blockbuster really payed off. The spectacle of a blockbuster, the top of the building from the pre-credits springs to mind, accompanied with the humour expected from a tea time Christmas broadcast tied together well for it’s entire runtime.
I really enjoyed the characters in this episode. I found Grant Gordon (Justin Chatwin) was a fun, likeable, and well acted pseudo-protagonist, and I also liked his cheesy, one-liner-spouting alter ego: The Ghost. How about his love interest, Lucy Fletcher (Charity Wakefield)? She had some of the funniest moments of the episode, such as the Mr. Huffle “torture” scene, or her not looking at The Ghost when he’s trying to reveal his secret identity. Grant and Lucy had great chemistry onscreen, and I loved how Moffat played with their Superman/Lois Lane-esque tropes.
You’ve got to appreciate how different each Christmas special with Capaldi is: the horror focus of Last Christmas, the character-based poignancy of The Husbands of River Song, and the pure adventure of The Return of Doctor Mysterio.
Let’s move onto returning aspects. Firstly, even though it was introduced at the end of 2015’s Hell Bent, you can tell they’re still shying away from giving any extended glory shot to the new sonic until the Series 10 premiere, which is annoying, but I get why they’re doing it. Murray Gold composed this episode, as he always does, and does a great job of emulating the heroic fanfare seen in both the old Christoper Reeve Superman movies and the more modern Marvel Cinematic Universe movies. Peter Capaldi was on fine form as usual, nicely balancing the overall jovial nature of the episode with still not being fully recovered from the recent loss of River (and Clara). Nardole (Matt Lucas) also makes his return from last year Christmas special. This time around, while still having his fair few funny lines, he seems a lot more rounded, a lot like the difference between Donna in The Runaway Bride and Partners in Crime. His energy seems a lot different to what we usually have in this TARDIS, and seemed able to juggle dry humour alongside more sillier jokes quite well.
Also returning from The Husbands of River Song is The Shoal of the Winter Harmony, even though when those eyes popped out of that brain I temporarily believed we were in for the shock return of the Morpho from 1964’s The Keys of Marinus. Just me? Okay then. Regardless, I didn’t mind seeing The Shoal again, as I love the effect of their gross head compartments, even if their plan was a little too similar to the Slitheen’s plan in Aliens of London/World War Three. I know that Moffat even acknowledged that with the “zippers in foreheads” line, but acknowledging you lifted elements from another story doesn’t mean you get away with it entirely. Eh, as long as they get up to something unique next time we see them. Oh, they’re invading UNIT by pretending to be them? Huh. Let’s, uh… just move on.
Now, what did everyone else think?
Well, regular commenter Peter Rabytt cleverly found a way to comment on the poll itself, thus saving his comment from the Boxing Day Crash of 2016.
Let’s now turn to the DWC’s review, in which we said:
“At the end of the day (Christmas Day, no less), The Return of Doctor Mysterio is a fun instalment with lots going for it, but also lots of niggles… At its heart, The Return of Doctor Mysterio is stuck between times, and that, perhaps, is its greatest niggle, albeit a necessary one. Right now, it feels displaced; not part of Series 9, but equally separate from Series 10. All that is in the future. To properly evaluate The Return of Doctor Mysterio, we need to see where we’re heading. We need more context.”
IGN’s Scott Collura seemed a bit mixed, giving it a 7/10 but stating:
“The Return of Doctor Mysterio is a pretty lightweight entry in the Twelfth Doctor’s oeuvre, which, considering the events of last season, isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But the different elements of the episode don’t come together as smoothly as they could, and the emotional through line for the Doctor is treated mostly as an afterthought.”
The Telegraph’s Michael Hogan was a lot less mixed, giving a glowing 5 star review of the special saying:
“Wonderfully witty, just festive enough, and perfectly pitched between spills, thrills, and scares, this was the time-travelling franchise’s best and most family-friendly Christmas special for five years.”
Unfortunately that’s it for now. Series 10 doesn’t premiere ’till around April, so even though Sonic Feedback just started, we still haven’t fully recovered from Christmas dinner and have to go right back to hibernating. If you’re desperate for more recap/reviews, I’m still recapping Class over at Night Class, but until the premiere of Series 10, see you all later!
(Now, what’s this I hear about Sherlock starting again…?)