Monday 26 December 2016

Doctor Who - The Return of Doctor Mysterio

Whoperman Returns

Doctor Who -
The Return of Doctor Mysterio

Airdate: 25th December 2016

Well this is interesting.

Despite defending the odd preview and trailer for this episode a few weeks back... I seemed to be the only person I knew comfortable the idea of a superhero in Doctor Who (which is not unprecedented... remember the Patrick Troughton story The Mind Robber?). Everybody I know, pretty much, who ventured an opinion on the potential of this story said it was a rubbish idea. And, now the episode has actually aired, I’ve seen a few people on the internet so far, I’m sure there will be more, who thought the episode one of the worst Doctor Who stories ever.

And what’s even more interesting than that... to me at least... is not the fact that, once again, I seem destined to be in a minority. I’m well used to that. What’s interesting is that the episode, for me and, as it happens, for all the family members I watched it with, is one of the best in recent memory. Even topping the 2015 series in which, I think, Peter Capaldi and the team writing for him really came into their own and cracked the formula for his Doctor, after a fairly shaky start.

I’d like to highlight some of the bad things to be found in this episode but, honestly, I couldn’t think of any. It was all pitch perfect. I prefer show runner Stephen Moffat as a writer rather than head honcho, as my history of Doctor Who reviews over the last six years shows.... but when he manages to pull things off right he really does some wonderful work. This story was almost as good as his Doctor Who masterpiece story Blink and here’s why...

We all knew from the marketing that this show had a superhero bent to the plot and, low and behold, it starts off with the camera panning and entering the panel of a comic book. And, what do you know... the colour schemes in this episode are all very simplistic and beautifully reminiscent of the kind of four colour concoctions loved by all admirers of the form, whether they be kids or... you know... 48 year old, bigger kids like myself.

And the performances in this one are all brilliant. Just going to quickly shout that out here and say that the leads other than Capaldi (but obviously including him), especially Justin Chatwin as Ghost and his mild mannered alter ego... the appropriately alliterative Grant Gordon... Charity Wakefield as Lucy Fletcher (the Lois Lane to Grant’s Clark Kent) and Matt Lucas as Nardole... his head restored to his body after last year’s Christmas special The Husbands of River Song (reviewed here), did a lovely job. They were all great but, no surprises here, it’s the dialogue and story structure that wins out in this one.

We start off with The Doctor befriending and accidentally creating the superhero character featuring in this episode and, at the same time, we also find out right from the outset that the superhero of the title, Doctor Mysterio, is in fact, The Doctor. Something which I’m sure we’d all figured out when the title of the episode was first revealed a month or two ago but, you know, there’s always room for error on second guessing what Moffat is going to do with the story line.

From here we get a wonderful narrative which crosscuts between the current plot of an invasion of living brains scooping out human brains before replacing them with themselves and The Doctor visiting Grant at various stages of his life as the realisation dawns that he has been accidentally ‘gifted’ with his superpowers for the rest of his life. Everything is perfect and there are some wonderful reveals here alongside a truly super satire on the way comic books are written and the way the clich├ęs of the format can be celebrated while still being used to help support the very DNA of the writing which is doing so.

There’s some great stuff near the start with The Doctor talking to the young boy version of Grant about Superman and Spiderman that had me almost laughing out loud. And, of course, throughout the show, which also took some great moments from the 1978 Richard Donner movie Superman The Movie as a template before gently playing with them, we have the eternal problem of the absolute travesty of Superman’s biggest disguise, a pair of glasses, being highlighted and then used as a running gag throughout the story. This was great stuff and not subtly done... if it had been more subtle then it probably wouldn’t have been quite so entertaining, to be honest.

We also had another shining score from composer Murray Gold and, all I can say about his wonderful music in this is... isn’t it about time Silva Screen records put out the soundtrack to the 2015 season already, so we can get another step closer to owning the score to this one? Surely it must be time by now?

There’s not really much else I can say about this one. Like I said before, if I could find something to complain about I would but... it was just so entertaining. Something I didn’t expect to be writing today. It even had a very melancholic passage where we realise that the Peter Capaldi version of The Doctor’s timeline has now gone past the point that we first met River. That is to say, he’s now definitely sent River Song back to die, when she personally met The Doctor for the last time (but The Doctor’s first time), in the library in the David Tennant era story in which Moffat first introduced her character. It’s a bitter sweet moment of realisation and both Capaldi and, surprisingly, Lucas, play this really well. Although, I still remember River’s ‘post-death’ words to Matt Smith in one of his last episodes so, you know... never say never.

And that’s that.

We had a trailer for the next series which, in all honesty, didn’t exactly grab me but I’m certainly looking forward to this starting sometime next year. Until then... I may have some old episodes coming up for review sometime soon so, if you like Doctor Who, be sure to check out this blog as I revisit some of the older incarnations of The Doctor once again. And if you missed this one, be sure to catch up with it. It’s one of the best things that’s aired on TV this year.

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