Gaps can be quite annoying in television. While they are normal for British and American prestige television, a year is a very long time for a ship to disappear off the air. Heck, a year has been the longest Doctor Who has been off the air since Russell T. Davies revived the show. While the logistics shouldn’t be of impact to the actual review of the show, it pretty clearly impacts the telling of this episode, and in the case of the Christmas Special: that impact is fairly negative.
On the surface, The Return of Doctor Mysterio has the makings of fairly great television, and the initial impulse of the plot is actually in-keeping with the Doctor’s habit of creating his own problems by way of accidentally giving Grant Gordon superpowers as a child. Young Justin Chatwick grows up to become a Clark Kent-esque nanny for his childhood love’s kid, and while a spin on the classic Superman mythos like that would be ripe for an episode on its own, Moffat does extremely little with that. While Moffat has said stated before and shown via his previous work that Christmas Specials are generally intended for that are a bit tipsy after Christmas dinner, that doesn’t mean broad and emotional have to be mutually exclusive.
Part of what made The Husbands of River Song work so well was that it worked both as a Christmas romp and as a coda for the Doctor’s grief over the loss of Clara and looped it back to having lost River again after first meeting her when he was David Tennant so long ago. Unfortunately, this episodes trades the possibilities that could be derived from something as simple as the Doctor getting lost in a new adventure after reliving that loss again, as well as the issues surrounding Grant Gordon’s stalled adulthood in favor of hiding behind a mask in favor of a very simplistic adventure. The latter in particular ends up becoming very creepy since aside from the fact the Ghost has completely put his life on hold for Lucy who he’s never had the courage to admit his feelings for, he’s acting as the nanny for that woman’s baby which the story never really addresses the oddness of aside from jokes, in keeping with Moffat’s propensity for having an odd perception of human relationships.
That being said, Capaldi as usual makes the best of what’s ultimately a pretty thin gruel as far as Doctor Who episodes go. He does get to be a lot of fun in what’s ultimately a low-stakes episode, but part of what makes his Doctor so great: the sentiment and pathos isn’t on display for the episode. One would hope that changes for the upcoming season, but for now this is what we have. Justin Chatwin similarly does pretty well with what he’s given, but it’s ultimately a more pathetic version of Clark Kent, which would be fine on it’s own, but an expy doesn’t count for character development. With any luck, this is just a typical Christmas episode bump on the road, and not a sign of things to come.
3 Baby Monitors out of 5