Doctor Who #892: Closing Time

"You've noticed something. You've got your noticing face on. I have nightmares about that face."
TECHNICAL SPECS: First aired Sept.24 2011.

IN THIS ONE... Sophie leaves Craig with the baby for the weekend, and Cybermen under the department store.

REVIEW: A sequel to The Lodger, Closing Time is true to the spirit of the earlier episode in that it's about Craig bonding with someone (last time Sophie, this time their son), and not about the monster of the week. A "plotty" sequel would have tied the loose end of The Lodger, i.e. who that makeshift TARDIS belonged to. This is a sequel to the characters and tone, so a suburb comedy where the Doctor is allowed impossible new powers because it's all just a lark, isn't it? Where The Lodger had him doing telepathic headbutts, Closing Time features super-shushing (hey, it worked for Tom Baker) and the sonic making a mobile throw full starscapes on the ceiling in the baby's room. The Doctor talked to a cat in The Lodger, he speaks "baby" in Closing Time. And all the strange awkwardness and surprising popularity that made him Craig's foil in the first story are back as well. The Doctor working in a shop and making friends with everyone seemingly overnight. It's sweet and often funny. He and Craig (and the baby) have a good thing going.

The plot about Cybermen under the department store is fairly inconsequential, except as a catalyst for the baby (Alfie, or Stormageddon, if you prefer) to fall in love with clueless Craig. Kid had his first adventure with the Doctor really young! Being a rubbish Cybermen story, their assimilation of Craig (which looks pretty definite, I mean, would they?!) is undone by the power of love (which writer Gareth Roberts makes fun of, at least), which makes the Cybermen's heads blow up. Explosive emotional overload was stupid in The Age of Steel and still is. It's not all bad because we also get the first use of Cybermats in the new series, and these have nasty taser teeth. Pretty cool!

The story is a little slim, so gets padded out with arc material. It seems this is, from the Doctor's point of view at least, the day before the Doctor meets his fate at Lake Silencio. Holding a baby, he feels very old indeed, and at peace with himself (does he have his exist strategy already, or is he just more accepting of his fate than Doc10 was?). It's his choice to stop running and face his doom. He has a close call with Amy and Rory in the store, a reminder of why he travels alone now, though Craig flips that on its head by saying he feels safer WITH the Doctor. (Amy's become a model, judging from this episode, which is credible, though the name of the perfume and its slogan are right out of her travels with the Doctor so... is she also the perfume maker? Perhaps it's more likely this is a gift from the Doctor, having given the ideas to a perfumer and given him Amy's name. Just like Martha with UNIT, you know how it is.) When the adventure ends, things start to connect directly to The Impossible Astronaut. He gets his blue envelopes and his Stetson, and River is hijacked by the Silents, put in a suit and dropped in the lake. Catering to the larger story is normal for the penultimate episode, and these elements are well done, but I might have liked a fuller, richer Closing Time, with enough of its wit and charm to last the full 45 minutes.

ADDITIONAL MATERIAL: See Night and the Doctor for Closing Time's prologue, Up All Night.

SECOND OPINIONS: My original review, Approaching Closing Time, discusses a number of points, including the dating problems caused by a newspaper in Craig's house which I didn't want to address here.

REWATCHABILITY: Medium - Nice to see Craig again, and there's a lot of fun to be had, even if the plot itself is slim and a little bit rubbish.


Brian said...

"Stormageddon, Dark Lord of All" still remains to this day my favorite companion! Of course, I too speak baby, so I may be biased.

(although I love the ongoing joke that some folks have that Alfie will actually show up as a villainous adult in the Capaldi run with strange powers from his early contact with all of this alien tech AS Stormageddon and become the new Doctor's archenemy...)

Anonymous said...

Once again, the humor and emotional beats override a weak plot. This episode was tons of fun.

- Mike Loughlin

Siskoid said...

Brian: Surely Craig won't do that bad a job!


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