All Things End and Begin Again: “The Return of Dr Mysterio” and Why You Shouldn’t Sleep on Doctor Who and the Hugos

The Hugo winner announcements come out August 11 and voting is already over, but we’re still talking about the nominees because it’s more fun than watching our clocks tick by! We’re continuing our look at the Best Dramatic Presentation: Short Form category with a perennial favorite of Hugo voters: Doctor Who. My history with the show doesn’t go back nearly as far as some; I first came to Doctor Who towards the end of series 5 with an episode co-starring James Corden called “The Lodger.” I was confused and delighted and got myself to Netflix to start the whole thing (and by whole thing I mean starting with 9, but I have gone back since and sampled some of 1-7). I’ve been confused and delighted ever since.

This discussion does contain some spoilers for previous seasons, most notably anything involving River Song. 

Title: Doctor Who, “The Return of Doctor Mysterio”
Length: 51:55
Written by: Steven Moffat

What is Doctor Who?

If you have to ask this question, I can safely say it’s the best show you’re not watching. Doctor Who is about Time Lord who travels space and time. Sometimes it’s to help people, sometimes it’s because he’s just on holiday and stumbles across a mystery, sometimes it’s because he’s angry and running away. Either way, he mostly ends up back in London or Cardiff. It’s a thing.

More about this episode:

The Return of Doctor Mysterio” is all about context. The Christmas special the year before, “The Husbands of River Song,” brought to an end a story line that had been with this Doctor Who reboot since the fourth series episode “Silence in the Library.” Without getting too into everything for those of you that haven’t watched any of this, the Doctor and River are basically in the worst relationship ever. They keep meeting out of time. “Silence in the Library” was the first time the Doctor met River, and she knew from the moment he didn’t recognize her that it would be her last time seeing him. Likewise, River Song meets the Doctor for the first time in “The Husbands of River Song,” and he knows it’s the last time he’ll be seeing her. 

so many tears.jpg

I cried forever.

Listen, Doctor Who is the show that will break your freaking heart and make you laugh about it. I can’t explain it, you just have to give yourself over to the experience.

So you’ve got the Doctor reeling from this profound loss, which in the past has not gone well for him. Please harken back to Donna’s first appearance on the show in the Christmas special of 2006, “The Runaway Bride,” when the Doctor has just lost Rose to another dimension and is an absolute dick to everyone he meets. Still don’t believe me? Ask Martha, his companion of the next season, how many times she had to listen to the Doctor moon over Rose.

I’m just saying, potential was for this Christmas special to be an excuse for the Doctor to inflict his rage and grief on unsuspecting companions, and instead we get this kind of lovely story about a sick little boy who wishes for super powers and through a random encounter with the Doctor is granted his wish. Fast forward about 20 years or so and he’s using them Batman style to help random citizens in his city while juggling a nanny position with a woman he’s in love with.


You can tell they’re in America this episode because people are using guns. I mean, not space guns this time.

The Doctor is sad and you can see he’s sad, it’s remarked on in the show, but this episode isn’t about his loss. Instead it’s about moving on after loss, continuing to do the job because you have to, because the world still needs saving, and people are still counting on you. There’s a lovely line he says, near the end: “Things end. That’s all. Everything ends, and it’s always sad. But everything begins again too, and that’s… always happy. Be happy. I’ll look after everything else.”

Where you can watch it:

At this time, you can purchase it on iTunes or Amazon, but sadly there’s nowhere you can stream it for free.  

Should this win?  

As was mentioned in Casey’s case for Splendor & Misery, Doctor Who has won a Hugo six times in the last eleven years. Many times in those years, it was up against one or two of its own episodes. That’s kind of impossible this year, as there wasn’t a season in 2016 and this episode is literally the only one that aired. But even so, the Hugos have dried up in the last few years, and the last time that Doctor Who managed to win a Hugo for best short form presentation, it was for “The Doctor’s Wife” in 2012. That’s the one by Neil Gaiman where the Tardis mainframe ends up in a human woman for a bit, and she and the Doctor have their first conversation. There were tears.

But it hasn’t won since then, and that includes “The Day of the Doctor,” the 50th anniversary special in 2014 (I would like a turn in the Tardis just to go back to 2014 and protest all over again). The fact that freaking Game of Thrones won instead is just salt in the wound. (Speaking of me not liking Game of Thrones, check back on August 15 for another “From the Salt Mines” article.) 

Now, I’m not here to tell you that the “Return of Doctor Mysterio” is on par with “The Day of the Doctor,” but it doesn’t have to be. It’s not up against that episode. It is, in fact, not up against any other Doctor Who episodes at all. Instead, it’s up against TWO Game of Thrones episodes and a handful of other things.

take me seriously

I like his chances against any of the fools in Game of Thrones. He, for one, won’t be confused by skyscrapers.

So should this win? If I’m being practical, I don’t see how it does. To be perfectly honest, it was probably only nominated because it was the only episode available. While it’s a great representative of the show, it isn’t groundbreaking the way “Day of the Doctor” was, or the way Splendor & Misery is on this year’s ballot. Even as a big fan of Doctor Who, I’m hoping y’all voted for that.

Screencap for “The Husbands of River Song” is from Screencaps for “The Return of Doctor Mysterio” are from


  • Nancy O'Toole Meservier August 11, 2017 at 10:29 am

    The Christmas Specials tend to be pretty hit or miss for me, but I found that this one worked quite well. Is it because I have an affinity for superheroes? Maybe, but I nevertheless found it to be a lot of fun and a nice set up for season 10. Not sure if “nice and fun” counts as Hugo worthy though. I’d probably give it to one of the Game of Thrones Episodes (sorry!).

    • Merrin August 11, 2017 at 2:40 pm

      Eh, I’m used to being the only person in any given room who hates that show. 🙂

  • ntaft01 August 12, 2017 at 2:21 pm

    Side note, I always felt bad for Martha. She was always up for adventure and helpful and useful and saved the Doctor’s life on more than one occasion, yet she always took a backseat to Rose. And I kept hearing people talk about how they didn’t like how she crushed on the Doctor (meanwhile I’m over here thinking, “WHO WOULDN’T??”) and that they even liked Donna better. Martha will forever be one of my favorite companions.

    • Merrin September 18, 2017 at 1:59 pm

      I never look at replies on my own stories, sorry!! Donna is always and forever my favorite companion, but the Doctor took dumps all over Martha the entire time she was with him, and I really loved at the end that she made the decision to find a better life for herself. He never treated her fairly. Plus the fact that she ended up with Mickey, still fighting aliens and trying to save the world, is pretty beautiful, actually.


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