It’s been a long wait for Doctor Who fans this year. This Christmas special marks the first episode released since the last Christmas special, since there was no full series in 2016. But with such a wait, was it worth it? (SPOILERS AHEAD)
The last time was saw the Doctor, he was on Darillium with River Song, spending their last night together before she went to the library planet from The Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead, where the tenth Doctor meets her for the first time, and she sees him for the last time before she dies.
This episode is certainly more upbeat than that premise might sound, with the ghost of River being no more than a momentary reference, and the main threat of the day being a run-of-the-mill end of the world scenario, rather than a more intimate threat. The moment of highest tension – when the Doctor and Nardole and careening towards Earth in a spaceship-bomb – is not actually that tense.
We all know the Earth isn’t going to get blown up because the Doctor will figure it out, and the scene appears more geared towards comedy than thriller. But perhaps that’s what you want from a Christmas special – something a bit more fun.
In the run-up to the episode’s release, I’ll admit I was sceptical. Trailers were showing a superhero flying in to save the day, and it wasn’t quite clear what exactly was going on. I was worried that the plot would be too wacky, even by Doctor Who’s standards. And it is a bit ridiculous, of course. But somehow, it still works.
The story follows Grant Gordon, a little boy who loves comic books, and who accidentally swallows a special crystal given to him by the Doctor, turning him into a real-life Clark Kent. As an adult, his alter-ego is ‘The Ghost’, with essentially the same powers as Superman, who spends his time saving New York.
Grant is employed as a nanny by Lucy Fletcher, the episode’s answer to Lois Lane, and balancing both sides of his life is complicated, often leading to entertaining results. Grant has been in love with Lucy since school, and she comes to the realisation over the course of the episode that she reciprocates those feelings.
Alongside all this, international (and extra-terrestrial) company Harmony Shoal is trying to take over the world, by stealing the brains and inhabiting the skins of world leaders. The Doctor and the Ghost must work together to save the world from colonisation, all while the Ghost is having an interview/ date with Lucy.
The episode ties in neatly with the story from a year ago. Not only is there reference to River, but the presence of Nardole (yes, he was decapitated, and yes, his reconstruction is briefly explained), from last year’s Christmas special, adds an extra link to The Husbands of River Song. The forces behind Harmony Shoal are also not new to Doctor Who – they were known last year as the Shoal of the Winter Harmony, and were loyal servants of King Hydroflax.
Verdict: Yes, it’s a bit ridiculous, but that’s not uncommon in Doctor Who. It’s not particularly Christmassy, but the lack of any real feeling of threat makes it a good choice for a festive episode. It essentially brings Superman into the Whoniverse as a real character, and the storyline is quite good fun. So it’s enjoyable, but I doubt it’ll be winning in any Top Ten lists any time soon.
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Media courtesy of Screenrant, The Guardian & BBC