The gentle world of The Return of Doctor Mysterio
Talking about The Return of Doctor Mysterio, I always stumble over the same words. Quietly. Gentle.
There is a striking simplicity in its set-up, as the plot lovingly touches on every cliché in its reach. Between the lines, in the small moments, playing it straight uncovers the small absurdities of everyday superhero life. The result is charming. Delightful, even, as Grant stumbles his way through his life as a nanny (and around expectations of masculinity) and Lucy’s incredibly perceptiveness misses the one fact of her life that is continuously lampshaded as obvious.
It is the fairytale between the two of them that takes over the tone of the episode. We come across tropes that the Moffat era in particular has engaged with over and over again, but they’re not allowed to unfold the same way, bowing under the gentle pressure of the innocent magic that rules this superhero story. The gaps might be just as telling than what we actually see.
The Doctor meets a child, but unlike in every significant previous occurence, this instance does not revolve around fears but around dreams coming true. The Doctor changes the course of the child’s life in an instance, but only briefly grapples with the consequences before the story is already moving on. This is his superhero origin story and the how and the who are entirely secondary to news report of disasters or noises coming from a baby monitor.
And so the Doctor might figure out the (fairly familiar sounding, and utterly evil) villain’s plans and set the clever solution into motion, but in the end, the day is saved because that’s what superheroes do. This is pure escapism and that isn’t an accident. It’s a fantasy which invites to forget, offers to soothe any worries for a while. Appropriate, for a time lord still raw with grief and pain. And for a brief respite from a long hiatus.