Doctor Who Series 6 Episode 12 review: Closing Time

Posted: 30 October 2011 in television
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You’re here for a reason aren’t you? You’ve noticed something and you’re investigating it. And because it’s you it’s going to be dangerous and alien.

Doctor Who - Closing Time

Since leaving Amy and Rory in their new abode at the end of “The God Complex, the 11th Doctor had undertaken a tour of time and space to bid farewell to old friends ahead of his date with destiny at Lake Silencio. Whatever happened to the Time Lord who never looked back and forever moved on? The final port of call was contemporary Colchester to say goodbye to Craig (James Corden) and Sophie (Daisy Haggard) whom he met in the previous season. Given the well-received reception of the pseudo-romcom The Lodger a follow-up was pretty much inevitable – but “Marking Time” may well have been a more apt title for this particular outing.

With the honourable exception of The Doctor’s Wife so often this year the non-Steven Moffat scripts had felt like a case of marking time until the next set of epic happenings and revelations from the pen of the showrunner. “Closing Time” was billed as the Doctor’s final great battle before he headed off to face his death at Lake Silencio – but a few battered Cybermen lurking underneath a department store hardly felt worthy of that description.

If the story was meant to be the last great hurrah for the Doctor before his final demise then from a “mythology” perspective then it would have made more sense for a character of the status of Sarah Jane Smith or the Brigadier to have been his final visitation but of course tragic real-life events rendered such meetings impossible.

Yes, he likes that “Alfie”. Though personally he prefers to be called “Stormageddon, Dark Lord of All”

Beside the attempt of the Doctor to pass himself of as an ordinary human, a great element of “The Lodger” was the Doctor’s inadvertent matching-making between Craig and Sophie, bringing the suppressed emotions of love that they held for each other to the surface. The removal of Sophie from “Closing Time”, apart from brief scenes to top and tail the narrative, was the biggest flaw of the episode. Clearly this was done to allow full flow to the premise of the Doctor and Craig being an odd couple (with accompanying mistaken-for-gay-couple misunderstandings) as they looked after the new addition to the family: Stormageddon!!! Alfie.

The presence of Alfie led into the most poignant scene in “Closing Time”: the Doctor’s introspective monologue as he cradled Alfie and mused about all that lay ahead for the human child. With a beautiful star scape projected onto the bedroom ceiling courtesy of The Mill, Matt Smith once again flawlessly conveyed the idea that he is truly a centuries-old alien looking back upon his life. Compare this scene with the one in The Big Bang where he reflects upon his life with Amelia Pond asleep before him. Possibly only Tom Baker before him has been able to convey the sheer alienness, ancient pathos, and utter trustworthiness of the Time Lord in the same manner as Smith. It’ll be a sad day indeed when the cool bow tie is hung up…

Way back in Terror of the Autons, the Brigadier commented that all the 3rd Doctor needed from an assistant/companion was someone to pass him test tubes and comment on how brilliant he was. That may be partly true but he also needs company and, as Donna once pointed out, someone to stop him from going too far along certain paths. For a fleeting moment the loneliness of the Doctor was shown when he caught a glimpse of Amy and Rory in the shopping centre in Colchester. As much as he loves his friends he cannot lead them onto their deaths.

What’s happening you metal moron… A baby is crying and you’d better watch out…Because, guess what…Daddy’s coming home!

Gareth Roberts chose the Cybermen to be the protagonists as he felt that the Doctor should battle one of the classic monsters before he faced his final curtain. The silver giants were also an apt choice as they provided an emotionless counterpoint to the feelings of friendship, love and trust that permeated the story. Since their beginning on Mondas, the Cybermen have been purged of all emotions and more than once their inability to comprehend the value of emotion, whether it be positive or negative, had been at the root of some past downfalls. In the Patrick Troughton classic The Invasion, Tobias Vaughn’s cerebration mentor induced severe emotional trauma in the cyborgs and lead to their defeat. In “Closing Time” it was Craig’s love for Alfie that caused the demise of the Cybermen – though the scene in question did teeter rather close to the worst of “Star Trek”-style emotional moralisation.

Whilst it’s all well and good having the Cybermen as the enemy except for the fact that the Mondasians did not convey a sense of genuine threat in any way. In A Good Man Goes To War” the Doctor destroyed the 12th Cyber Legion without missing a beat, yet here he had trouble with a handful of battered models that had been buried under Colchester for hundreds and hundreds and years. Though full marks for reinstating the original concept of the Cybermen that wasnlost during their rebirth in the Russell T Davies era. For possibly the first time since that decade they were represented as a race desperate for survival and preying on the organic matter of innocents in order to replicate themselves. And to add to the delight of the die-hard fans the silver rat-like Cybermat made their first appearance in the series since 1975′s Revenge of the Cybermen.

A return for Craig, Sophie and Stormageddon in a future series is surely a given but maybe give Roberts a break from the occurrences in Colchester and let him have another historical celebrity tale featuring a British author in the vein of his successes with William Shakespeare and Agatha Christie. For starters there’s Bram Stoker (vampires) or Arthur Conan Doyle (Sherlock Holmes and spiritualism) for starters.

By Silencio Lake, on the Plain of Sighs, an impossible astronaut will rise from the deep and strike the Time Lord dead.

Before any 2012 series the Doctor just has the small matter of his inescapable death to overcome. Armed with the stetson and TARDIS-blue envelopes he departed Colchester…and the narrative moved into a coda that must have been written by Steven Moffat as it set up the premise of the series finale with a mildly jaw-dropping occurrence…

With the abduction of River Song from the Luna University by Madame Kovorian and the Silence and her placement in Lake Silencio in the NASA spacesuit all the pieces are in place for “The Wedding of River Song”…

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