Based off snippets, it looks like this Christmas, Doctor Who lovers will get the most unexpected present of all: a superhero in the Doctor Who Christmas special. Sure, they don't reveal a ton about the character — but we fans do get to see some, and it's enough to leave fans excited, as well as asking some questions.
First, a little background: it was announced at New York Comic Con that Justin Chatwin (Shameless, American Gothic, Orphan Black, aka a lot of things) would be starring on Doctor Who as a superhero named Grant. “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," Chatwin said during the event. As for the episode, according to The Telegraph, it's called "The Return of Doctor Mysterio," and it will document the Time Lord joining forces with Grant, as well as a journalist (played by Wolf Hall's Charity Wakefield) to save New York from aliens. According to showrunner Steven Moffat, who penned the episode, "I’ve always loved superheroes and this Christmas Doctor Who dives into that world. My favorite superhero is Clark Kent. Not Superman, Clark Kent." So, does this mean that we'll see more of Grant's human side than his heroic side? It's not clear, but the glimpses we get in the trailer don't seem to suggest that:
Sounds great so far. My only reservation is the idea that Grant will only be a temporary addition to the show. The Doctor could really benefit from having someone superhuman around who isn't quite from his world, but is still otherworldly enough to fit in. I mean, historically, the Doctor has forged his closest friendships with his companions, and the companions have been there for two reasons: emotional and practical. Emotional: they're (mostly) there to ground the doctor a little, and to give him an earthly perspective. Practical: they're also there to make the show function. As outsiders to the Doctor's world, they're more accessible to viewers, and the Doctor ends up having to explain the ins and outs of his universe so they — and we viewers, by extension — can understand.
Obviously, the Doctor hasn't always had human companions — the First Doctor had Susan (a Time Lady), the Fourth Doctor had another Time Lady (Romana), an Alzarian, Adric — but, for the duration of the show, most of the time, the companions have been mortal. This has one obvious disadvantage. Think, for example, of all the many, many companions who have died in completely depressing ways while accompanying the Doctor: Peri Brown, Donna Noble, sort of Amy Pond... should I go on? Nope, we'll all be weeping into our laptops.
With Grant, though, the Doctor has a chance at a different sort of friendship — not as a companion, but as a peer. Like the Doctor, Grant is a being with supernatural abilities who is, for whatever reason, drawn to the earthly sphere. Like the Doctor, presumably Grant has had a bunch of human friends who he has tragically lost. Like the Doctor, hopefully, Grant's not incredibly likely to expire after his first alien encounter. And instead of the Doctor having to talk down to Grant, as is, however well-intentioned the Doctor, kind of the way when it comes to hanging out with earthly companions, he'd hopefully be able to address Grant as an equal. Heck, maybe even Grant might get to do some of the explaining — according to the trailer, he seems one step ahead of the Doctor.
So no, I'm not suggesting that Grant stay on as a companion — after all, Pearl Mackie looks like she's going to be a great fit for the role. But couldn't he be a fun addition to the Doctor's inner circle? In this Marvel-friendly era, it would be the smartest of all possible developments for the ever-evolving show.
Images: BBC; BBC America/YouTube