Doctor Who Review, Series 6, Episode 12: “Closing Time”
Written by Gareth Roberts
Directed by Steve Hughes
Airs Saturdays at 9pm (ET) on BBC America
This week, on Doctor Who: The Doctor tries being social, Craig and Sophie have a baby, Cybermen and Cybermats return, and Amy’s a model.
With series six of NuWho coming to an end, it’s time for one last romp with the Doctor before the (assumedly) dramatic season finale next week. Last season, a budget issue forced Steven Moffat and company to make a last minute switch, pushing “The Doctor’s Wife” to series six and putting “The Lodger”, a Companion-lite episode, in its place. This year, it’s time for the Companion-lite episode again and, for the first time in quite a while, we get a sequel. “Closing Time” sees the Doctor drop in on Craig and Sophie from “The Lodger” for a visit in the last days of his life, or so he thinks. This is a first for the Doctor, and we can soon see why- he may have been just going for a visit, but Sexy (that’s the TARDIS to us) has other ideas, plopping him down in the middle of a Cyberman invasion. As is often the case, hijinks ensue, the Doctor helps a new (well, this time old) friend find faith in him or herself, and the day is saved. It would be easy for “Closing Time” to feel incredibly formulaic or rote, but the episode is filled with such humor and wit, with just the right dollop of pathos, that it succeeds tremendously.
Not everyone was a fan of James Corden when he popped up as Craig in “The Lodger”, perhaps due to his public persona in Britain, but he was great there and he’s just as strong here. Craig is a wonderful foil for the Doctor, perhaps as he is one of the characters who knows him best (thanks to that time-saving headbump last time). The decision to give Craig and Sophie a baby, and send Sophie away for a weekend with friends, is wise, allowing for more one-on-one time with Craig and the Doctor, as well as letting the Doctor spend some quality time with baby Alfie, or as he likes to be called, Stormageddon, Dark Lord of All. This is great for (at least) two reasons. First of all, it lets the Doctor speak Baby again, which is always a hoot and will hopefully happen several times in the future, and secondly, it allows for the great scene we get about halfway through the episode, where the Doctor babysits Stormageddon and tells him a bit of his life. Gareth Roberts’ script is on the whole strong, but in the hands of a lesser actor, the Doctor’s repeated assertions of his old age and long life wouldn’t have worked. Often the similar moments during David Tennant’s tenure weren’t as successful, as he brought such energy and vitality to the role. Matt Smith however nails this aspect of the Doctor, again, showing us an old man, unsure of his legacy, weary, and ready to stop running.
The Cybermen, though they’ve popped up occasionally, haven’t been the main antagonist of a story in quite a while. They have a long history in Classic Who and are third only to the Master and the Daleks in story count (for villains), but the NuWho team hasn’t had much success with them. We’ve gotten some great moments from the Cybermen, but they aren’t particularly interesting and haven’t often felt like a credible threat. Luckily, Roberts steers clear of them, focusing more of the episode on the Cybermat, which makes its first appearance since the Classic series, and leaving the Cybermen for the final confrontation. The resolution, with Alfie’s cry for his father instilling the emotional response in Craig necessary to combat the cyberconversion, is obvious, schmaltzy, and on the nose, but after the downer endings of both “The Girl Who Waited” and “The God Complex”, a silly, improbable, groaner of a happy ending is a welcome relief.
We get a brief glimpse here of Rory and Amy, with Amy now a successful model and Rory looking about the same as ever, if a bit more buttoned up than we last saw him. It’s nice to get a bit of confirmation that they’re happy and healthy in the future, particularly if we’re supposed to believe that their time with the Doctor has ended (not buying it!). The Doctor’s obvious desire to talk to them, but decision not to, shows what could be considered either growth on his part or a loss of self-esteem. While his concern for his Companions is justified (he’s left quite a path of destruction), it’s also a bit of self-pitying egoism. As Craig rightfully points out, and as the viewers know thanks to the wonderful “Turn Left”, the Earth is much better off with the Doctor than without, and so are his Companions, come what may. The Doctor’s point of view is understandable, but though he dismisses Craig’s words on the matter, it’s nice to hear them said nonetheless.
The tag with River is interesting, showing a return of the Silence and Madame Kovarian and confirming that River is at least intended to be the titular Impossible Astronaut. This feels a bit too easy and straightforward for Moffat, and this fan for one still expects the Doctor to somehow end up killing himself, but it’s one hell of a promising teaser. This season has been uneven, with several great episodes, but almost as many misfires. “Closing Time” goes easily into the win column, but whether series six ends up topping series five will probably come down to the resolution of the season-long arc next week. Fingers crossed for another great episode!
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