Written by Gareth Roberts
Directed by Steve Hughes
The Doctor, while on his farewell tour visiting old companions, gets back in touch with Craig and discovers a mystery at a local department store.
“No, that’s impossible and also grossly sentimental and oversimplistic.”
I’m trying very hard to think of how to say I didn’t like it. I would love to be witty or clever about it, but in reality, I just didn’t like it. I’ll admit that The Lodger wasn’t one of my favorite episodes from series five. I almost view The Lodger as an experiment, not in the Warrior’s Gate or Ghost Light way, but in the “Doctor Who has never done ‘romantic-situational comedy’ so let’s try that” way. There were some good laughs in the fish-out-of-water/Time-Lord-out-of-TARDIS side of the plot, and a bit of a creepy “who is upstairs killing people” plot. But in all, The Lodger was a nice departure from Doctor Who, where we visited a different genre for a bit, but then back into the TARDIS for anywhere, anywhen, anygenre. And now we’re back at The Lodger. Or are we back at Night Terrors where a father’s love saves the day. Night Terrors may have been a rehash of themes in Fear Her, but give it to Gareth Roberts for a quicker turnaround in rehashing the climax from a mere three weeks ago. At this point, I’m starting to wonder if someone on the Doctor Who crew is either trying to reassure a father figure, or reassure himself about being a father. And maybe that’s a fair focus if someone on the show is attempting to inspire and comfort insecure men about being fathers. I can’t speak for England but here in the US, men are continuing to live as adolescents even after they have children. Perhaps it is due to apathy, or perhaps due to fear of responsibility and being able to live up to the demands of fatherhood. Good for you if you are wanting to inspire men to be better fathers, but are we going to be doing this every week now? Doctor Who has a tendency to delve into formulas, but I wouldn’t have pointed toward fatherhood as the predominant formula of the current era. Are we going to discover that the mastermind behind The Silence is The Doctor’s father? Ahem.
Formulas. They aren’t necessarily bad. Person of Interest, which I have been enjoying, has a stated formula, but it can still tell compelling stories within that formula. The Avengers has a formula that worked from week to week. The X-Files was no different. A formula is only as weak as its writing. But the problem I see with Cymru Who in this current series is a formula based entirely around suspense and humor. Often, I feel that stories this series have been a bit underdeveloped because of the need to convey both suspense (because we want to scare the children) and humor (because Matt Smith does humor well). The God Complex (a story I have given quite a bit of thought to because I feel I should like it more than I did) had an interesting premise at its core, a premise that explored faith vs. non-faith, the individual vs. automation and technology, but both of these philosophical questions were merely mentioned because the majority of the episode was spent in the suspenseful fleeing from a minotaur and humorous lines from David Walliams. And when we did get a scene that centered around faith, it was Amy’s faith in The Doctor, not a society’s struggle with and abandoning of faith. In Closing Time, we have more humor and suspense, this time with Cybermen, whose identity was really pointless. Any generic monster would do, but I suppose Cybermen would have had that extra geek-out factor. Perhaps, if fandom had not responded to the heart-warming comedy, they would at least quiver with excitement because the Cybermen have returned in a story that may or may not have been inspired by the Big Finish Companion Chronicle The Blue Tooth. I’m quite curious on that part. (And if we are going to be mining Big Finish for material, is there any chance at bringing one or two Big Finish writers aboard? Just a thought.)
I feel stupid saying this, but I feel that The Doctor has become too important for Doctor Who. Yes, I know whose name is in the title. Perhaps I should say that Matt Smith has become too important for Doctor Who. More specifically, Matt Smith’s performance. He is a good actor. He plays humor well, he has a good reparte with children, and he can convey ‘oldness’ when he needs play a scene heavy and tortured. Looking at what he does well, it is easy to see what the show has become. The Doctor is no longer a character that writers attempt to capture, it is an actor’s performance that they are writing to. This same thing happened in the David Tennant era. After The Last of The Time Lords, it seemed every other episode saw The Doctor crying and being tortured just because David Tennant did it so well. Now, it seems stories are being written to allow Matt Smith to do what seems to come natural: humor and interactions with children. We aren’t stretching The Doctor at all. Now, to be fair, this has happened before. Jon Pertwee started getting some repeated concepts, things that were written specifically for him, as did Tom Baker. The difference was that it was a few years into these actors tenure when this happened, and it happened because they demanded it or changed the scene outright. Here, it is being included in the script from the beginning. Or at the very least, it seems to be.
Back to Closing Time, with particular focus on the final scene. I felt the River Song portion to be the most interesting and compelling part of the episode. Sure, it was completely unnecessary and took away from the main plot of Closing Time, but as I didn’t care for the main plot, I found the final scene to be exciting. I genuinely am looking forward to seeing how this arc is resolved (if indeed it is resolved). I did enjoy the majority of The Impossible Astronaut / Day of the Moon, and I’m eager to see this final piece of the story, for good or for bad.