Saturday, 24 September 2011

DOCTOR WHO, 6.12 - "Closing Time"

Saturday, 24 September 2011

Its heart was in the right place, and I don't begrudge Doctor Who giving us a sentimental comedy, but episodes like "Closing Time" just aren't my cup of tea. They tend to turn The Doctor (Matt Smith) into too much of a jester for my taste (communicating with babies?), and writer Gareth Roberts isn't particularly good at crafting jokes or situations that make me laugh. This penultimate hour offered us some levity before next week's finale (which is all about deception and death), but most of it washed over me and felt like a waste of time. I'm almost certain next week's episode will be brimming with story, so it's a shame there has to be a budget-saving preamble when a proper two-part conclusion would have served audiences best.

Now aware of his impending, seemingly-unavoidable demise, and without his trusty companions around, The Doctor arrived to bid one-time pal Craig Owens (James Corden) goodbye, only to be pulled into one last adventure when it became clear Craig's local department store is the unlikely setting for an invasion of Cybermen. This episode was a quasi-sequel to last year's "The Lodger", but the idea of putting The Doctor in very ordinary surroundings wasn't as charming a second time. Still, it remains true that Smith and Corden have great rapport, and a Laurel & Hardy-esque appearance when sharing he screen, but too often their banter and silly quips became tiring here. And it's also a shame the Cybermen have become a bigger joke on nu-Who than even The Daleks, as the metal men constantly fail to elicit any sense of dread in viewers. Even when this episode climaxed with sweet Craig being turned into an automaton, the whole procedure failed because of something as eye-rolling as Craig "blowing up the Cybermen with love" because he heard his baby cry.

I appreciated Roberts' many nods to the Second Doctor (Patrick Troughton's a notable influence on Smith's performance)—particularly with the recycled line "you've redecorate; I don't like it" from "The Three Doctors", and the return of the cybermats that mostly appeared in '60s episodes--but it was a story that felt like bits and pieces thrown together. Some ingredients worked (The Doctor spotting Amy in the shop and realizing she's since become a famous model was lovely), some didn't (the razor-toothed cybermat attack), but the overall effect was watching an episode with practically no story having to rely on the antics of Smith and Corden to sustain it. By the by, should we now consider Corden the Catherine Tate of Steven Moffat's reign?

Of greater interest was the denouement, which was so separate from the story preceding it that I'm willing to bet Steven Moffat wrote it. Here we caught up with River Song (Alex Kingston), who's been researching The Doctor in the TARDIS-shaped journal he gave her, before she was reacquainted with Madam Kovarian and The Silence, forced into the "impossible astronaut" spacesuit and submerge in Lake Silencio in preparation to kill The Doctor. This answers a few questions in itself, but I remain largely puzzled by Madam Kovarian's plan. It doesn't make much sense to me, the more I think about it, so I just hope the finale explains everything in a satisfying way. Why a NASA spacesuit? Why keep River underwater in it? Why was young Melody Pond reflected in its visor back in the two-part premiere during some scenes, if it's the adult River Song trapped in there? Why does River have to be the one in the suit? And is the final part of River's mystery (who she killed to get herself thrown in prison) going to pan out as unsurprisingly as it feels it might do now?

Overall, "Closing Time" didn't work for me, but I can totally understand some people will be more tolerant of its sugary tone, and perhaps even enjoy a throwback to Russell T. Davies' era (even the sonic screwdriver was back to being a get-out clause for every situation imaginable—even distracting babies!) I'm sure most children under-8 won't be complaining, as this episode was great deal simpler than every other story's been this year, and it had a certain daffy energy that's hard to deny. But, for me, it just didn't appeal.


  • There was a fun allusion to K-9 between The Doctor and a toy ("robot dog—not as much fun as I remember").
  • Having Craig be the one to give The Doctor his stetson (which we saw him wearing in the premiere) was a really nice way to pinch Series 6 together in your mind.
written by Gareth Roberts / directed by Steve Hughes / 24 September 2011 / BBC1

Next time...