Series 5.11 – The Lodger

Written by Gareth Roberts
Directed by Catherine Morshead

Clive Owen can’t bring himself to tell Sophie that he loves her, nor does he know what the upstairs neighbor is doing that makes all that noise.  But thankfully, his new roommate may be able to help him sort it all out.

“People never stop blurting their plans when I’m around.”

I enjoyed this line.  It was a fun way to play on the “master plan reveal” that most Who villains inevitably do.  Perhaps it isn’t the arrogance of the villains, perhaps it is just The Doctor.  He makes you tell him things.

I have to admit that this is a hard episode to review because it is the most-strikingly non-Who story of the season.  The basic premise of The Lodger is that of a situational romantic comedy.  And from this perspective, it works quite well.  It is funny, you are pulling for the couple, and you really grow to care about all the characters.  But attached to this is the Doctor Who element of an upstairs neighbor that seems to be luring people to his flat and killing them.  That killing results in disturbances to the time stream, which causes The TARDIS to be unable to dematerialize.  Thus, The Doctor is stuck on Earth and Amy is stuck in The TARDIS, which may be on the verge of being lost in the void.  So, The Doctor must put a stop to the activities of the upstairs neighbor and to do so, he decides to rent one Clive Owen’s spare room.  This way, he can gather information on the guy upstairs so he will know what kind of situation he is confronting.

Honestly, this is the first obstacle to suspending disbelief.  There are very few incarnations of The Doctor that would bother with the pretense.  In fact, I don’t think any of them would.  They would bound up the stairs and confront the mysterious presence, the disturbance of the confrontation likely luring Craig upstairs as well.  The entire final sequence would have been sorted quickly.  But where’s the drama and comedy in that?  So, we must accept the premise that The Doctor is being uncharacteristically cautious.  Perhaps it is the recent death of Rory that has made him careful.  Perhaps he doesn’t want to needlessly endanger Amy or Craig.  Or perhaps we need a lighter episode to pick us up from Vincent and The Doctor and ease us into the plot-heavy series finale that follows.  Either way, The Lodger is a fun-filled romp that manages to be a very good sit-rom-com, but a rather odd and uneven episode of Doctor Who.  Again, it is very hard to imagine The Doctor would bother.  Well, perhaps The Seventh Doctor, but he would only pose as a roommate to manipulate the situation.  He wouldn’t have been as clueless as this Doctor, and if he posed as a roommate it is because it would have been the best way to achieve the ends he desired.  The story dynamic would be completely different, in other words.

I rather like bits of the story, but I have to admit it is rather forgettable at times.  I’m constantly aware that there is an episode between Vincent and The Doctor and The Pandorica Opens, but I have a lot of trouble remembering which one.  This makes me feel bad because, again, it is a fun little episode, but I’m not sure that, given Doctor Who‘s ability to take me anywhere in time and space, to show me the wonders of the universe, that I’m going to be particularly excited to see a romantic comedy.

Dry Rot of Death

I must mention, however, that I’m not entirely sure we are done with this episode.  The upstairs flat ended up being a time ship, an attempt to build a TARDIS, according to The Doctor.  This isn’t something that just appears in an episode because you need an antagonist.  Indeed, we have both a trailer and official confirmation that we will see this ship again.  So there may be more to visit with regard to The Lodger.  Or it may have just been a way to introduce elements that we will see later that have little to no bearing on this story.  Either way, I don’t know that it will change my opinion that much.

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4 thoughts on “Series 5.11 – The Lodger

  1. I don’t know if you are aware that this is adapted from a comic strip in Doctor Who Magazine, in which the Tenth Doctor becomes Mickey’s housemate?

    There are so many things that are wrong with The Lodger.

    The thing I hated most was the Doctor’s claim that you can do ‘anything you want.’ This is an hideous piece of middle class ideology that is a slap in the face of the program’s sense of social justice.

    The Doctor must know that you can’t do anything; you are limited by the circumstances that life places in your way. So many people are trapped in a life of poverty or disadvantage. Perhaps Sophie can afford to chuck in her job and become a volunteer with a charity, but there are millions of people in Britain who can’t do that because of their financial circumstances.

    What amazes me is that this was written by Gareth Roberts who wrote the very political and socially conscious NA, ‘Tragedy Day.’

    • I was aware of the original story, but I haven’t read it so I didn’t want to bring it up. I can see how exploring the dynamic between The Doctor and Mickey would have been interesting and possibly more effective than The Eleventh Doctor and a stranger.

      I see your point on the “you can do anything” aspect of this episode. You have a valid criticism. It reminds me a bit of the movie Office Space where a character talks about how ridiculous it is for school guidance counselors to tell kids they can do whatever they want because someone will have to haul trash for a career and no one would really choose to do that. There is a difference between telling people to find meaning in purpose in their circumstances, helping them to live to their fullest where they are without settling for something less dignified and telling people they can do whatever they want. Sometimes life just doesn’t work that way. Not all dreams come true. I can’t travel in the TARDIS.

      Maybe that was a slightly flippant dismissal. Regardless, I like when Doctor Who is socially and politically conscious, but not when it is overly sentimental. Granted, I liked Vincent and The Doctor so I am also a hypocrite.

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