By Joseph Prescott
I have to say, going in, I was very hesitant with how the Whoniverse was going to handle a superhero and have it be a real part of their canon. But the explanation worked for me: the boy, Grant, after coughing, is given a small pill-sized, wish-granting gemstone and a glass of water from an adult who calls himself Doctor and, of course, this leads the boy to swallow the gemstone believing it be medicine, and his wish to become a superhero comes true (the Doctor really needed the gemstone to power a device to repair some paradoxes he created in New York from season seven’s “The Angels Take Manhattan”). In case that doesn’t work for you, the episode kindly reminds us not to worry about the explanation too much, any way. “How do you keep a glass of water in your pocket?” “Skills.” -- which seems a call back to season nine’s “now the real question is: where did he get the cup of tea? Answer: I’m the Doctor. Just accept it.”
The story is fun, playing up on a lot of super hero story tropes -- reporter from the Daily Chronicle and our superhero, The Ghost, wearing glasses as a part of his secret identity, Grant the nanny -- but the episode is aware that it is doing this as a tribute to those comic book storylines even at the expense of making the audience go, “Oh yeah, this again…”
It plays with some fun concepts – Grant being jealous of Lucy’s interest in his alter ego the Ghost – or the scene where the Doctor visits Grant in high school while the teenager struggles with uncontrollable, puberty-induced X-ray vision. And you know, the villain is fairly creepy – an alien species disguised as brains with eyes that take over the bodies of world leaders in preparation for mass invasion and planet colonization. However I found the splitting heads gimmick a tad too overused, making it tiresome by the final time.
I loved Justin Chatwin as Grant Gordon/The Ghost. I’ve enjoyed him in Shameless prior to this, but I think he was great as our superhero/nanny. I liked him more as Grant than as the Ghost, due to the comedic value (he stumbles onto the roof, straightens up and announces “I’m The Nanny.”) but he played both parts fairly well.
I was not as on board with love interest Lucy Fletcher played by Charity Wakefield. I do not know how much blame to put on her acting, or how much to put on the writing, but it’s hard to sell a bad segue of “there aren’t too many guys like Grant, either!” while on an interview/date with the Ghost and “well, not everyone can be a nanny!” (which is a true statement, but not one I’d ever ask someone to deliver dramatically). Overall she was not terrible, but she may have been the weakest written/performed character in the episode.
I was unsure how to feel about the return of Nardole at first. As great as Matt Lucas is at playing him, I do get bored with Steven Moffat’s inability to let characters die. However, he had me laughing at almost every appearance and one liners and I can say that I am looking forward to his continuation as a companion into season ten, with only slight fear that he will begin to annoy me before too long
Of course, Peter Capaldi was great as ever as his Twelfth regeneration. I felt mildly conflicted about the sushi bit, it still makes me smile because it’s so very Capaldi’s Doctor, and absolutely adored the Doctor thinking he has uncovered a long hidden secret in the comic books about Clark Kent being Superman. Twelve has been one of my favorite Doctors (tied with all of them), but specifically so because he really knows how to bring elements of Classic Who Doctors into the modern era.
That being said, I do know that Capaldi has lost some of those very fans (I do not refer to them as Whovians, as I believe that title belongs to those who stick with the show through thick and thin) and supposedly merchandise has not been selling super well since the Doctor took an old face. So, as we look forward to this upcoming season, I am also looking forward to a change of Doctor and show runner. We can talk about Moffat another day…
As far as Christmas elements go, the episode does open up on a holiday note. It is Christmas day, the boy offers the Doctor milk and cookies, and the device intended to repair the paradoxes in Manhattan happens to resemble a Christmas tree... sort of. But this is where the Christmas themes end. The day is moved on from and while the rest of the story seems to take place during winter, there is no further mention of Christmas.
Joseph Prescott is a regular guy just like you and I, except for having anything in common with us or being at all regular in any way. He claims to have only seen "The Force Awakens" in theaters three times, yet four ticket stubs from different showings can be found in the top drawer of his hope chest. He also hasn’t finished Luke Cage yet and promises it has nothing to do with race. That being said, he is Hispanic, so who is to say…