The Doctor Who Christmas special saw the return of Matt Lucas as Nardole, the warmly-dressed oddball who appeared in last year’s festive episode only to be beheaded and stuffed into the robot body of a headless king called Hydroflax. You know, classic Yuletide stuff.
His reappearance in the series was quickly explained by Lucas with a throwaway line in tonight’s special, stating that the Doctor (Peter Capaldi) had pulled him out of Hydroflax’s body and reassembled him to stave off loneliness after River’s death, with the pair implied to have since travelled together a great deal based on Nardole’s familiarity with the Tardis and other references made by the duo.
And of course, their travels together don’t end in tonight’s special. As seen in the series 10 trailer at the end of the episode, Lucas is set to join the Doctor on a number of his upcoming adventures alongside new companion Pearl Mackie – and while initial reports suggested he’d only be in a handful of episodes in the new series, he may now have a larger role than we realized.
“He was contracted for certain episodes [of the 2017 series], and he’s crept into far more of them,” head writer Steven Moffat said of Lucas’ evolving role (via DoctorWhoTV).
Matt Lucas as Nardole
“I think he’s going to end up being in all of them, in fact, because we love him.
“In the first episodes of next year’s series, he’s slightly broader,” Moffat continued, “but we more clearly establish in this Christmas one that he’s sly, and clever, and daft – but he’s not just rent-a-duffer, as he was in The Husbands of River Song, where he was a relatively small character, killed off early on, who happened to be played by Matt Lucas.
“This is a chance to slightly reconfigure him. He’s a wee bit cheeky to the Doctor, but he’s genuinely helpful and good at things.”
Now, this might not be an entirely accurate reflection what we can expect next series – Lucas doesn’t seem to be in every location in the trailer, and it would be tricky to impulsively write him into every episode on the fly – but it seems safe to say that Nardole and Matt Lucas still have a pretty big role left to play on Doctor Who. Lucky there’s plenty of room in the Tardis.