Well, although it’s slightly late and I hadn’t planned to do it, I thought that I’d write a quick review of yesterday’s Christmas special episode of “Doctor Who”. I’m not sure if I’m also going to get back into writing reviews for next year’s episodes too or not (although the trailer at the end of the Christmas special looked really good, writing an extra review a week can get kind of stressful). But, I thought that – for the sake of tradition – I’d look at the Christmas episode.
Naturally, this review will contain some SPOILERS.
“The Return Of Doctor Mysterio” starts in New York at some unspecified point in the past when, after his life is saved by a young boy called Grant, The Doctor agrees to show him a gadget that he has been building in order to protect the Earth. However, due to a mishap with a crystal, Grant ends up getting super powers.
In the present day, he is The Ghost. A classic style superhero who crosses paths with The Doctor once again whilst The Doctor and an investigative reporter called Lucy are investigating a mysterious corporation called Harmony Shoals…
One of the first things that I will say about this episode is that it is visually stunning. The scenes showing the New York skyline have a gloominess and a vividness to them that is evocative of classic cyberpunk films like “Blade Runner”. Not only that, the lighting design in the Harmony Shoals offices is absolutely stunning.
As well as wonderfully gloomy high-contrast lighting, the lighting in these scenes also has a consistent red, yellow and blue colour scheme (evoking the classic three-colour printing process in old comic books). Visually, this episode is astonishingly good and it even outshines modern Hollywood in terms of it’s aesthetic sophistication and consistency. Well, apart from a bit of clunky CGI in a couple of scenes, of course.
In terms of characters and story, this episode is also surprisingly good. All of the characters have a reasonable level of characterisation and, despite the occasional references to classic American superhero comics (eg: an old Superman comic in the opening scene, the references to Shuster and Siegel in the Harmony Shoals press conference scene etc..) this episode is thankfully closer in tone to one of the few things in the superhero genre that I actually like. I am, of course, talking about “Lois & Clark: The New Adventures Of Superman“.
In other words, it doesn’t take the superhero genre even remotely seriously and it is all the better for it 🙂 Yes, there’s a little bit of a parody of modern superhero films (eg: The Ghost puts on an exaggerated gravelly Batman-style voice) but, for the most part, the episode recognises the inherent silliness of the genre and uses it to full advantage. In other words, it’s more of a comedic farce, a sci-fi episode, a character-driven drama and maybe a bit of a romantic comedy than a serious superhero story.
The characterisation in this episode is absolutely superb too. Grant and Lucy aren’t your typical superhero movie characters either. When he isn’t The Ghost, Grant works as a nanny for Lucy. He comes across as a genuinely nice, but realistic, character and his complicated relationship with Lucy is one of the more interesting parts of the episode.
The villains in this episode are kind of *meh* though. Basically, they’re brain-like creatures who insert themselves into human bodies and take over their hosts. They’re planning to take over the Earth by staging a fake alien attack on New York in order to get the world’s leaders to hide in nearby Harmony Shoals offices (which would “miraculously” survive the attack, due to shielding technology).
Yes, this storyline doesn’t have an original bone in it’s body (eg: the Yeerks from “Animorphs” [anyone remember that?] and the main plot of Alan Moore’s “Watchmen” spring to mind for starters) – but it’s still a fun story, with lots of drama nonetheless. More to the point, it’s just a background for the drama between the characters. So, it doesn’t have to be the kind of unpredictable, hyper-thrilling story that you might expect from a more story-driven episode.
All in all, whilst it isn’t the best Christmas episode I’ve ever seen (the “Aliens”-style one from 2014 probably gets that title) it’s certainly a good one. In a lot of ways, it’s very reminiscent of “Lois & Clark: The New Adventures Of Superman” from the 1990s. It’s an interestingly light-hearted take on a bizarrely popular genre that takes itself far too seriously.
The only seriously bad thing I can say about this episode is that it didn’t feature Bill, the new companion. The trailer after the episode was absolutely hilarious, and the episode would have probably been even better if she’d made an appearance in it.
If I had to give it a rating out of five, it would get four.