For Christmas 2016 The Doctor teamed up with a comic-book superhero in New York for a heroic special titled "The Return of Doctor Mysterio". It is written by Steven Moffat and directed by Ed Bazalgette.
This is the twelfth Christmas special, since the show was revived in 2005, and the third full Christmas special with Peter Capaldi, as the Twelfth Doctor, and the first story not to feature any Eleventh Doctor companion since the 2009/2010 Tenth Doctor story "The End of Time".
This story also stars Matt Lucas as Nardole - reprising his role from the preceding story, "The Husbands of River Song". Set in New York City this story involves The Doctor and Nardole linking with investigative journalist Lucy, played by Charity Wakefield (Wolf Hall and The Player), and a superhero called The Ghost (Justin Chatwin) to save New York from a threat from deadly, brain-swapping aliens.
Steven Moffat, Writer and Executive Producer, has said: ‘I’ve always loved superheroes and this Christmas Doctor Who dives into that world. My favourite superhero is Clark Kent. Not Superman, Clark Kent’.
The part of Grant is played by Justin Chatwin (Orphan Black and War of the Worlds). He has commented on joining the Doctor Who team for the special: ‘Working with the amazing people at Doctor Who has been one of the most fun and rewarding projects I’ve ever had the pleasure of being involved with’.
Following his hilarious appearance in the 2015 Christmas Special "The Husbands of River Song", Matt Lucas returns to Doctor Who again playing the part of Nardole , this time as The Doctor's companion.
Commenting on his return to Doctor Who, Matt Lucas, has said: ‘I’m chuffed to bits that Nardole is returning to the TARDIS for some more adventures’.
Steven Moffat, Lead Writer and Executive Producer, added: ‘Delighted and slightly amazed to be welcoming Matt Lucas back on to the TARDIS - and this time it’s not just for Christmas, he’s sticking around. One of the greatest comedy talents on planet Earth is being unleashed on all of time and space’.
On the 29th June 2016, the BBC posted a video of Matt Lucas alongside Pearl and Peter Capaldi. Matt Lucas has said, ‘I'm ecstatic because it's my first day back on Doctor Who! Originally I was just in the Christmas Special ("The Husbands of River Song"), and now I find myself returning for more adventures. And I'm very excited. We're at Cardiff University today, doing some running around. That's nice, trying to keep me fit. Maybe I'll lose some weight! My mother will be very happy! ’.
Matt Lucas is the first comedy writer to play a key character in a television story since James Corden as Craig Owens in the 2011 Eleventh Doctor story "Closing Time". The last comedian to play a full-time companion, though, was Catherine Tate as Donna Noble.
Also appearing in this story are Tomiwa Edun (Lucifer and Bates Motel), Aleksandar Jovanovic, Logan Hoffman, Daniel Lorente, Sandra Teles, Tanroh Ishida and Vaughn Johseph.
At the beginning of this story, The Doctor is seen constructing a device to reverse the paradoxes created during his previous visit in the 2012 Tenth Doctor story "The Angels Take Manhattan".
The Doctor is heard to mention that he usually gets ‘an invasion’ every Christmas, a reference to the different invasions of Earth taking place during most of the previous Doctor Who Christmas specials.
The Doctor purports himself to be the original example of the title ‘Doctor’ (see "A Good Man Goes to War").
The Doctor is heard telling Lucy that he works for Scotland Yard, which he also did in the 2015 story "The Woman Who Lived". Previously, the Tenth Doctor told the guests at Lady Eddison's manor he was a chief inspector from Scotland Yard in the 2008 story "The Unicorn and the Wasp, while the Eleventh Doctor told President Richard Nixon he was an undercover operative from Scotland Yard (code-named 'The Doctor') in the 2011 story "The Impossible Astronaut/Day of the Moon".
When The Doctor complains that Grant promised him never to use his powers, Nardole is heard to refer to the Time Lord rule: ‘Never interfere in the affairs of other people or planets’. This was first mentioned in the 1969 Second Doctor story "The War Games" and previously acknowledged by Amy Pond in the 2010 Eleventh Doctor story "The Beast Below".
Grant nicknames The Doctor ‘Doctor Mysterio’ - the name could be a mix of the Spider-Man villains Doctor Octopus and Mysterio.
It has also been revealed that the name Doctor Mysterio comes from the name in Mexico for Doctor Who, Doctor Misterio, which Steven Moffat and Peter Capaldi encountered when they visited there in the Doctor Who World Tour. Peter Capaldi in particular fell in love with the name and so Steven Moffat decided to use it in a story title.
Nardole joins The Doctor in his travels. When The Doctor first met Nardole, he was River Song's personal assistant (see "The Husbands of River Song").
Nardole is heard to mention that The Doctor cut him out of Hydroflax's body, referring to off-screen events following the "The Husbands of River Song" where he was decapitated and his head was placed inside the artificially intelligent robotic body of King Hydroflax.
Steven Moffat was hugely influenced by the comic books he loved as a child in writing this story - particularly Superman's Clark Kent, Steven 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, this story 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.
This story is heavily influenced by the 1978 film Superman in particular. Both Grant/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 character of ‘The Ghost’ is a pastiche of the comic book superhero Superman. Several references to the character, his powers and his relationships are made. Namely: In an early scene, Mr. Brock refers the gathered reporters to ‘Miss Siegel and Miss Shuster for further questions’. Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster were the creators of Superman; Grant has roughly the same standard powers of Superman, including flight, super-strength, super-speed, being bulletproof, and possessing X-ray vision, along with other unconventional powers. He draws his power from a stellar-powered object (a gemstone made from a star, in the episode), much as Superman draws his from Earth's yellow sun; The Harmony Shoals building in New York has a large globe on top of it, making it resemble the Daily Planet building, a major setting of the Superman stories; Grant prefers being called 'mild-mannered', as Superman's alter ego is often characterised. He also follows the same moral code as Superman when operating as The Ghost, and transforms in a similar fashion by tearing open his shirt to reveal his superhero costume underneath; Lucy is named after Lois Lane's sister Lucy; The trope of Lois not realising that Clark Kent is Superman (which The Doctor mentions early on) is reflected in Lucy's not recognising her old high school friend and current nanny as a superhero.
Several characters from Marvel Comics line the walls of the young Grant's bedroom; The Doctor questions Spider-Man's unusual origin of being bitten by a radioactive spider - he opines that radiation poisoning would be the likely result; A Joe's Pizza is shown within the city, which is where Peter Parker worked at briefly in the movie Spider-Man 2.
The unnamed brain-swapping aliens last appeared in the 2015 Christmas special "The Husbands of River Song", where they were servants of King Hydroflax. Their main agent, Scratch, stated that they represented ‘the Shoal of the Winter Harmony’.
This story has a Marvel style comic book opening and when Grant phones Lucy the screen is divided, just like in a comic book.
The Doctor tells the young Grant that he usually gets a cold or an invasion on Christmas. This refers to previous Christmas specials.
Young Grant accidentally swallows a gemstone known as the Hazandra, mistaking it for medicine. The Doctor reveals that there are only four of its kind in the universe.
Young Grant 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 The Hulk, Thor, Spider-Man, Batman, Wolverine, Silver Surfer, Superman and the Flash. His duvet depicts Captain America and Iron Man, among others.
One of the things The Doctor and the young Grant discuss is the comic book hero Spider-Man. In the 2007 Tenth Doctor story "Daleks in Manhattan/Evolution of the Daleks", the character of Frank is played by Andrew Garfield who played Spider-Man in The Amazing Spider-Man movies.
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 from the 1980's.
The Doctor is seen eating sushi while observing the room filled with brains. Sushi is often referred to as a type of ‘brain food’.
Mr Brock jokes that his backyard is the size of Wyoming.
It is revealed that Harmony Shoal has offices in every capital city on Earth, as well as in New York City (which Nardole correctly points out is not a capital city).
Lucy is a reporter for the Daily Chronicle. She also possesses a Mr Huffle which she uses when questioning The Doctor.
Lucy is heard to ask the question, 'Doctor who?', perpetuating the 'Doctor Who?' running joke.
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 Doctor pulls a glass of water out of his pocket, suggesting that they may be bigger on the inside (see also the 2006 Christmas special "The Runaway Bride").
The Doctor uses a sonic frequency that only Grant can hear. He previously created something similar to be able to talk to young Davros in the 2015 story "The Magician's Apprentice/The Witch's Familiar".
A movie theatre across from Lucy's apartment features a film called The Mind of Evil. - a reference to the 1971 Third Doctor story of the same name.
After the Ghost drops Lucy off at her apartment building, the baby monitor he is carrying goes off. Lucy believes it to be a signal device and asks if the Bat-Signal is now an app.
The Doctor mentions the Apocalypse monks of the Andurax.
The Doctor refers to the bomb ship as the Sword of Damocles.
The Doctor uses the viral mobile game Pokémon Go to create a distraction at Harmony Shoal's Tokyo headquarters.
When clearing out the headquarters of Harmony Shoal, UNIT officers request that Osgood be brought to the scene, referring to this character who previously appeared in "The Day of The Doctor", "Death in Heaven" and "The Zygon Invasion/The Zygon Inversion".
Both The Doctor and Nardole refer to the final 24-year night The Doctor spent with River Song ("The Husbands of River Song") and her eventual death in the Library in the 2008 Tenth Doctor story "Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead".
This story marks the first time two full consecutive television stories have been broadcast on Christmas Day.
The first trailer for this story was shown at the 2016 New York Comic Con on the 7th October 2016. A preview clip was also shown as part of the Children in Need broadcast on the 18th November 2016.
This 60 minute Doctor Who Christmas Special aired on BBC One on Christmas Day and was written by Steven Moffat, Executive Produced by Brian Minchin, Produced by Peter Bennett and Directed by Ed Bazalgette (Poldark), it was recorded in Cardiff at BBC Wales Roath Lock Studios.
This story also received cinema screenings in Australia and New Zealand on the 26th December 2016, in Canada on the 26th and 28th December 2016, and in the United States on the 27th and 29th December 2016.
This is the first Christmas special since "The Snowmen" in 2012 to have a Coming Soon trailer at the end.
Nardole's first story as The Doctor's travelling companion.
The first story not to feature any Eleventh Doctor companions since the 2009/2010 Tenth Doctor story "The End of Time".
The first time two full consecutive television stories have been broadcast on Christmas Day.
The first Christmas special since "The Snowmen" in 2012 to have a Coming Soon trailer at the end.
Emma Genders' first involvement in the show as Script Editor.
Hayley Nebauer's first involvement in the show as Costume Designer.