In Review

Doctor Who Christmas special: Will it be worth the wait?

Time Lord deals with vigilantes and aliens in 'delightfully' un-Christmassy superhero crossover

Doctor Who fans can rejoice this December as the Time Lord returns to the BBC after a year-long break with a new superhero-themed Christmas special: The Return of Doctor Mysterio. 

The hour-long special was given a special screening in London last night, attended by stars Peter Capaldi, Matt Lucas and Charity Wakefield, along with showrunner Steven Moffat. While reviewers aren't revealing too many details yet, the responses are positive. 

The Return of Doctor Mysterio - the title refers to the Doctor's name in Mexico - sees the Time Lord (Capaldi) teams with an investigative journalist, played by Wakefield (Wolf Hall, The Player). Lucas (Bridesmaids, Little Britain) returns as Nardole and Justin Chatwin (Orphan Black, Shameless) joins the cast in a guest role as Grant/The Ghost.

Plot details are scant, but we know the story is set in New York and focuses on a deadly alien threat to the city. There's also a superhero. 

Catherine Gee at the Daily Telegraph says the special "slots neatly in where the last left off". 

She recalls that in "Doctor Who lore", the Doctor and his wife, River Song, spend one last night together on the planet of Darillium before the events of the 2008 episode The Forest of the Dead, in which River dies. One night on Darillium lasts for the equivalent for 24 Earth years.

The Christmas special picks up more than 24 years later, with the Doctor discovering a child he accidentally endowed with superpowers has become a superhero-styled vigilante named The Ghost, who is attempting to keeping New York City safe.

Gee says the episode embraces a DC-Comics-style crossover with "shameless glory". It's Superman meets Doctor Who, complete with an ambitious female reporter who gets caught up in the attempt to stop aliens from achieving their evil world-dominating goals. 

Being a superhero tale, of course there must be a love interest, adds the journalist, but fortunately, humour is "given precedent over romance" and Lucas is "a lovable highlight".

The "delight" about this Christmas special is that "Christmas is barely in it", says Simon Brew at Den of Geek. After a fun gag near the start, the festive stuff is pretty much done with. In its place is a homage to a range of comic books and films, not just Superman, but Ninja Turtles, Iron Man and the Dark Knight.

Moffat's script is not short of zingers, continues the critic, although it is "more an affectionate poke than a deconstruction of superhero films and TV shows".

Brew sums up by saying he "laughed an awful lot" throughout, adding: "It's a really good, nicely nerdy episode".

Doctor Who: The Return of Doctor Mysterio will air on BBC1 at 5.45pm on Christmas Day. 

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