There wasn’t a new season of Doctor Who this year — but there is a special Christmas episode of the long-running time-travel show, which screens on BBC America on Dec. 25 at 9 p.m. ET. (BBC Worldwide North America and Fathom Events are also showing the episode in theaters on Dec. 27 and Dec. 29.) Written by Who executive producer Steven Moffat, “The Return of Doctor Mysterio” finds Peter Capaldi’s time traveler teaming up with an investigative journalist (Charity Wakefield) and a superhero to save New York from a deadly alien threat.
“Quite often with Doctor Who, you mash up two genres,” says Moffat. “Here, you’ve got the the magic and madness of Doctor Who meets the absolute silliness of superheroes.”
“I think Steven’s managed to invoke an old Christopher Reeve Superman movie,” says Capaldi. “You know on Christmas Day [in the U.K.], they used to play movies that you really wanted to see. He’s sort of made one of those. That’s what it is. It’s a Christmas special you want to see again and again, I think.”
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: “The Return of Doctor Mysterio” also stars Justin Chatwin from Shameless. What was it like working with him?
CAPALDI: Great! He was absolutely wonderful. He has that thing that American actors always have, which is they’re always very easygoing, and often slovenly in their speech, and you think, “They’re not going to be very together.” And as soon as the camera starts rolling, they’re absolutely pitch perfect and focused. I thought he was brilliant.
Is the episode scary?
CAPALDI: It’s scarier than Steven thinks it is, I think.
MOFFAT: I find it very hard to judge — and you never know what kids are going to be scared of. It’s something quite out of leftfield that usually frightens them. So, I don’t know. It’s a big, open-hearted adventure. People keep describing it as very moving, and so I’ll go with that. [Laughs]
Tonally, it’s quite close to the first of the Christopher Reeve Superman movies. The big thing I love about those movies, and when they do superheroes right, and the thing that used to fascinate me as a child, is having a secret identity, is trying to be two people, and how on earth the people around you don’t recognize you, when you have two different identities.
I tried to be a superhero when I was a kid. It didn’t work out. I decided I’d be Red Rat. I made him up. I had a red foil hat with two little holes in it, which I thought made me look exactly like a red rat, and disguised me perfectly. So, I put a cowboy hat on and reversed my Batman cape — obviously I had a Batman cape! — and I went out to fight crime, when I was about 6.
Did you find any crime?
MOFFAT: No. I started to wonder, as I moved around Paisley, [Scotland], what I would actually do in the event of crime, since I was just a kid, wearing a stupid costume. And then I tried to get home, without being seen by my friends, and failed. I denied who I was. All my friends recognized me. They’d say, “Hello, Steve!” And I’d say, “I’m not Steven, I’m Red Rat!” So, it was a disaster. Crime remained rife in Paisley, despite my best attempts at going down those mean streets.
CAPALDI: But they still talk about Red Rat!
Watch the trailer for the Doctor Who special Christmas episode below.