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The Return of Doctor Mysterio was the 2016 Doctor Who Christmas special. It was the show's twelfth Christmas special since its revival, and the third Christmas special starring Peter Capaldi as the Twelfth Doctor. It saw the return of Nardole from the previous Christmas special, this time as the Doctor's companion. The circumstances leading to Nardole's return were not explained until 2017's Extremis. It also marks the first time since the Christmas special A Christmas Carol that the title of a pre-existing story related to the holiday has not been used as the title for a Doctor Who Christmas special.

The following day, The Return of Doctor Mysterio was granted a sequel entitled Ghost Stories. This story made the Ghost, Lucy and baby Jennifer all companions of the Twelfth Doctor.

Steven Moffat was hugely influenced by the comic books he loved as a child in writing this episode—particularly Clark Kent, Moffat's favourite superhero, both then and now. By his own account, he took particular inspiration from the Christopher Reeve Superman films of the 1970s and 1980s.

Though clearly humorous in tone, The Return of Doctor Mysterio explores many common superhero themes, such as the hero's secret identity, his origin story, and a love triangle involving both the hero and the man behind the mask.

Synopsis Edit

The Doctor once more faces off with an alien species that wishes to conquer the planet: Shoal of the Winter Harmony. This time, he has more backup than usual; however, this help was a little twist to it: it's a superhero called the Ghost.

Plot Edit

On Christmas Eve, 1990s, New York City, a boy named Grant Gordon wakes up during the middle of the night to find the Twelfth Doctor swinging from his ankles in front of his bedroom window. Grant, believing the Doctor is Santa Claus, lets him in and feeds him cookies. The Doctor hands Grant a red gemstone and a glass of water, and two discuss superhero comics, of which Grant is a fan. The Doctor leads Grant to the roof of the apartment, where he reveals a device that he is unable to describe in simpler terms than a "time distortion equaliser thingy". He instructs Grant on how to power up the device, the final touch being the alien gemstone he had given Grant, which grants an individual his desires.

However, Grant reveals that he thought the gem was medicine for his cough and swallowed it. Grant begins to levitate, as the Doctor tries getting Grant to calm down, but the boy does the opposite, launching them into the air.

Years later, a man awakens to the sound of crying baby. He rushes out of bed and tends to the little girl. He calls the mother, whom works for as a nanny, assuring her that her daughter is safe and sound.

On top of the Empire State Building, Grant asks what is happening, and the Doctor tells him that the gem has granted what it thinks he wants: superpowers.

Sometime later, a conference is held at Harmony Shoal, where Mr. Brock is questioned by Lucy Fletcher as where the benefactors for the organization are. Brock jokes that he killed them all and buried them in his backyard. Nardole asks where the little boys' room is, but becomes confused by the American terminology. Brock is approached by Dr. Sim, who tells him something is wrong. He tells Sim to meet him at midnight.

Come midnight, Dr. Sim leads Brock to a vault where brains are being held. They are followed by Lucy, who unknown to her, is followed by the Doctor; when she notices him, he tells her to keep listening in. Oddly, he is eating sushi; he comments that bringing a snack is the mark of a pro. Dr. Sim reveals that the brains are alive, and that he is not Dr. Sim, but one of the brains that switched places with him. Brock is locked inside to have his brain replaced with an alien.

The Doctor and Lucy run away, with her revealing her true identity to him; after her shock, the Doctor jokes it's spooky how that happens. He looks at a map showing where Harmony Shoal has set up shop. Nardole arrives, noting that New York is not a capital city. Sim confronts them, with the intent to shoot them. However, the Doctor makes it a stalemate as no-one will believe he shot three people in the back in self-defense. The situation gets stranger as they hear knocking on the window of the 100th floor. Lucy turns around in shock; it's the Ghost, a superhero vigilante. He snaps his fingers, causing the window to shatter. Sim shoots him, but he is unharmed and grabs Sim by the throat, and throws him against the map. He then takes Lucy and flies off into the night.

In the past, on top of the building, the Doctor tells Grant that once the gem is gone from his body, his powers would go away, and makes him promise to never use his powers.

The Ghost drops Lucy off, checks his baby monitor, and flies off. In the baby's room, Grant changes out of his costume, and finds the Doctor cradling the baby, revealing that he tracked him by the gem fused to him.

Cast Edit

Crew Edit

to be added

References Edit

Popular culture Edit

  • Young Grant Gordon is a comic book fan, and becomes a superhero in their vein. He owns a Superman comic, and has posters on his wall of superheroes including Hulk, Thor, Spider-Man, Batman, Wolverine, Silver Surfer, Superman and the Flash. His duvet depicts Captain America and Iron Man, among others.
  • Gordon nicknames the Doctor "Doctor Mysterio"; the name appears to be a mix of the Spider-Man villain Mysterio and the hero Doctor Strange.
  • Grant Gordon's name is alliterative, like Clark Kent, Lois Lane, Lana Lang, and many other Superman characters. Alliteration was even more frequently used by Marvel's Stan Lee when naming superheroes such as Peter Parker, Bruce Banner, and Stephen Strange.
  • To make the point of Superman and Clark Kent being the same, the Doctor draws glasses on Superman. Lois Lane did the same in Superman II. The interior artwork shown is from Superman #7 (July 1987) and #19 (July 1988) by John Byrne.
  • Mr. Brock mentions Miss Shuster and Miss Siegel. This is a reference to the creators of Superman, Joe Shuster and Jerry Siegel.
  • The episode has a Marvel style comic book opening.
  • Below Lucy's apartment, a Joe's Pizza is situated. A pizza parlour of this name featured in 2004's Spider-Man 2, and was where Peter Parker worked.
  • The Harmony Shoal building has a globe on top with the name. This is a reference to the Daily Planet building from Superman, which is also topped with a globe with its name on it.
  • The episode was also heavily influenced by the 1978 film Superman in particular. Both Grant Gordon/The Ghost and Clark Kent/Superman wear glasses to hide their superhero identities, particularly when rescuing a reporter they are close to, and have feelings for, in their everyday life. They then arrange a rooftop interview in which they attempt to reveal their dual identities. Then are also contacted via a specific frequency which only they can hear.
  • The Doctor tells Grant off for leaving the baby unattended, using the words "With great power, comes great responsibility". These words were used by Uncle Ben to Peter Parker, and they later became Spider-Man's mantra.
  • The Ghost tells Lucy "I hope this unpleasant experience hasn't put you off a career in journalism". This is a wonky reference to Christopher Reeve's Superman saying in the 1978 film, "Well, I certainly hope this little incident hasn’t put you off flying, miss. Statistically speaking, it’s still the safest way to travel."
  • In the 1960s Batman TV series, Adam West's caped-crusader would often give very heavy-handed PSA-style speeches to Robin, and seemingly, the audience. This is referenced when the Ghost tells a reporter that every good citizen should "get a smoke detector".
  • When the Doctor accidentally gives Grant a gemstone, which Grant swallows, the Doctor says the gemstone is giving him "what he always wanted". The first Captain Marvel (later known as "Shazam") was actually a child named Billy Batson who can become a superhero. The metafictional influence in The Return of Doctor Mysterio may also be a reference to the Mark Millar comic series Superior in which a young boy literally becomes a popular fictional flying hero.
  • When Grant calls Lucy as the Ghost, the screen is divided, just like in a comic book.

Story notes Edit

Writing Doctor Who Part 1, the 2016 Christmas Special02:32

Writing Doctor Who Part 1, the 2016 Christmas Special

The origins of The Return of Doctor Mysterio

Production errors Edit

If you'd like to talk about narrative problems with this story — like plot holes and things that seem to contradict other stories — please go to this episode's discontinuity discussion.
  • Grant wears glasses even thought he doesn't need them (to see properly or to conceal his identity). His mask as the Ghost covers most of his face, so he wouldn't be recognized out of uniform.

Ratings Edit

to be added

Myths Edit

  • Characters from Class would appear in a crossover. False.
  • Clara Oswald would appear or be referenced in a substantial way. False. Originated from fans interpreting comments made by Peter Capaldi at a June 2016 convention appearance in Washington, DC, that he had "just filmed something" involving Clara as indication of an appearance or reference. Ultimately, this ended up being a reference to his appearance in the Class episode TV: For Tonight We Might Die, which also featured a Clara reference.
  • Pearl Mackie would make her first appearance. False, the Series 10 trailer notwithstanding.
  • Alex Kingston would appear as River Song. False, though River is referenced.

Filming locations Edit

to be added

Continuity Edit

Home video releases Edit

  • This story was released on DVD and Blu-Ray on 23rd January 2017.

Footnotes Edit

  1. Video: Doctor Who - Steven Moffat and Peter Capaldi joke about 'Doctor Mysterio' Christmas special. Belfast Telegraph (14 October 2016). Retrieved on 25 December 2016.

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