Usually it doesn’t take long to win a game of Doctor Who Christmas Special Bingo – bit of snow, a creepy twist on a Christmas tradition, a heartwarming bit, job’s a good ‘un.
The Return of Doctor Mysterio, however, ignores Christmas almost completely, and is all the better for it. Bar an intro that takes place at Christmas (just enough to illicit a grumpy “ho ho ho” from Peter Capaldi’s Doctor), it could have been placed anywhere in a Doctor Who series. Rather than being ‘Doctor Who does Christmas’, it’s ‘Doctor Who does Superman’.
Grant, played by Canadian actor Justin Chatwin, is immensely likeable, and wisely plays up the human angle far more than the superhero one. (Although you have to wonder if the episode really needed to make such a big deal of him being a nanny.) The explanation of how he became The Ghost just barely allows the show to get away with adding superpowers to the world of Doctor Who, but the episode skips over that at lightning speed and hopes we haven’t noticed.
Charity Wakefield takes on the Lois Lane role as Lucy, with the added twist of her being the mother of the child Grant cares for. The villains are LexCorp an evil corporation, but with some alien brains added to the mix to keep things Who-ish. Despite a couple of good creepy moments – especially when the brain in the jar opened its eyes – these aren’t especially memorable foes.
It’s been so long since we saw Doctor Who that it took a while to remember why the Doctor was in a melancholic mood – his ‘night’ with River Song has come to an end, and he’s brought a mysteriously restored Nardole (Matt Lucas) along for reasons that aren’t yet clear. Capaldi is as good as ever and Lucas adds an interestingly weird element to the TARDIS – part-clown, part-genuinely capable time traveller.
With a funny, light script, good guest appearances (I’d happily see Grant and Lucy again) and a very confident Doctor, the episode is a great set up for a series 10 which looks like it’ll be getting back to basics.