13 December 2021: not really a review of Flux added.
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THE RETURN OF DOCTOR MYSTERIO
Maybe you're a superhero superfan. Maybe you've just picked up the Superman mythos in passing. But have you ever wondered how Lois never recognises Superman with Clark Kent's glasses on? Have you ever thought about what excuses Clark must have to make when he's called onto Superman duty? Have you ever speculated on the awkwardness of having TSA scanner-like powers to mentally undress people?
Course you bloody have. Superman's been around for decades and decades so we've all marinated in it, and providing you have two brain cells to rub together these aren't obscure points. They're the first thing everybody thinks of.
Steven Moffat's a Superman fan. Guess which questions he wants to explore in The Return Of Doctor Mysterio?
Yep, it's that good.
We really had to struggle to review this. Every time we thought about it we were overcome by a powerful tsunami of indifference. So we'll keep it mercifully brief.
There are two main threads: the Superman stuff as advertised, and standard-issue alien invasion. Since we started with Superman, let's get that over with first. It's a crossover fanfic, and a pretty poor one at that. We get wanting to sneak a personal obsession into an episode. Why not? Passion can make for really engaging stuff. But you have to at least do something interesting. Here we have the aforementioned obvious digs at the Superman story, plus a dutiful trot through the usual tropes and the sappy twist of the Lois character realising the real superhero is her nanny. It's a Christmas ep, so we'll give the sentimentality a pass, although we did note some undercurrents in the story we don't think were supposed to be there. Is Lucy going to be quite so enamoured with Grant once she realises that he's been lying to her and creepily stalking her for years? Or that he's been abandoning her baby on the regular? That baby monitor's not going to go off if the apartment catches fire. Also, who calls someone they've known since the sandpit Mrs Whatever?
Granted (ahahaha), we're not Superman fans: we're more about the angsty Batman and Alan Moore-type superhero. So it's no surprise we found Grant as a boy, as the nanny and as the superhero a complete snoozefest. Maybe if you love Superman you found him more engaging. We wouldn't know how to tell. As for Lucy, while it's nice to see a sharp, smart reporter in an age where professional news reporting is increasingly in peril, she's also another one of Moffat's indistinguishable bossy women. We were unsurprised to hear Grant begging her not to slap him, given how often Moffat has his female leads smacking men around. Sigh.
As for the alien invasion story, this is so massively by the numbers that we had difficulty staying awake. While we have a sneaking fondness for a brain in a jar, this story was a mix of cliché and stupid. Blah blah blah something about blasting New York to smithereens and using heads as handbags. Is nobody going to notice that all the world leaders have diagonal scars on their heads? And isn't it a bit laborious prising your head apart to get your gun out?
As for the Doctor…hmm. If you like Capaldi doing romps (and it's a personal taste thing), you'll like this. We think it's Capaldi as the Doctor's weakest acting skill, boiling down to an endless repetition of "I'm mad, me!" so all the rompy stuff went down like a soggy blancmange with us. Obviously he's flawless when it comes to the more serious stuff, but since that's mostly another round of angsty gloom about River (can we get on?) that made less of an impression than it should have. What's more, despite a reasonable amount of screen time, because of Moffat's concentration on the superhero bit the Doctor comes across as curiously marginal to the story. When your name's on the title card, that's never a good look.
Bah, humbug. Is there anything this pack of Scroogettes does like? Why yes, yes there is: Matt Lucas. He is absolutely killing it here. In every second he has on screen (which isn't enough, in our opinion) he effortlessly steals the scene from everyone around including the Doctor. That little scene where he's playing with the toys in the background is utterly priceless: we vaguely remember the Doctor talking in it, but we had no clue what he was saying because all our attention was on Matt. Woohoo that his character is returning in the upcoming season. And we also adored the interrogation scene with Mr Huffle: a clever way to do an old thing in a new way that also made us laugh out loud.
Christmas episodes need an all-age appeal, a light touch and a standalone story that doesn't baffle the drop-in viewer. That being the case, The Return of Doctor Mysterio does the job. It's not for us, but if it's for you, we bet you had lots of company and we're glad you had a good time.
Lucy says Grant is kinda wet and he says he prefers "mild-mannered". But they're meant to be American and wet (as in a bit pathetic) is a British term.
What on earth is the brains with eyes about? Aren't they the ones they scooped out? How did that make them develop eyes?
And why were they keeping the brains, anyway?
LADY IN RED
Lucy lies about her date, to the extent of apparently exiting the apartment in one dress and changing, perhaps in a phone booth, into her red date dress. Why would she go to these lengths to lie to Grant about not being on a date? At that point, he's just the nanny.