Doctor Who Series 5 Episode 11 review: The Lodger

Posted: 25 June 2010 in television
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All I have to do is pass as an ordinary human being. What could possibly go wrong?

Doctor Who - The Lodger

With the announcement of Richard Curtis (the master of rom com Love Actually, Four Weddings and a Funeral, etc) and Simon Nye (expert of the sit com with Men Behaving Badly) you’d have been forgiven for thinking The Lodger, a mashing of the two genres would be coming from their pens.

But no the man behind the words is the reliable wordsmith Gareth Roberts, who scripted the well-received celebrity historicals featuring William Shakespeare (The Shakespeare Code) and Agatha Christie (The Unicorn and the Wasp).

True, he co-scripted Planet of the Dead (the not-so-special Easter 2009 special) with Russell T Davies but everyone is entitled to an off-day…

Culled from the premise of his Doctor Who Magazine 1 part comic strip of the same name, Roberts beautifully plants the Doctor into an environment he’s never had to face before: living as a human for a week. Unlike Human Nature/The Family of Blood where his previous incarnation became physically human thanks to a rather flimsy plot device (hiding from an alien family because he didn’t want to be mean to them? That’s ridiculous for a being who has defeated gods and time), the Eleventh Doctor has to pretend to be a native of Earth. Other than the Fourth Doctor, this Doctor is the least suited to blending into everyday life thanks to his totally alien nature.

From his total unfamiliarity with money, through hogging the shower, inadvertently showing off at football (the one without the sticks), shaking up the call centre, and inability to find the on-switch on the screwdriver Matt Smith brings the Doctor’s alien qualities back to the fore in a way unseen since the stupendous Tom Baker departed way back in Season 18 (which is nearly 30 years ago). Amongst numerous other agendas the Grand Moff seems determined to remind everyone that our friend and guardian, the last of the Time Lords, the Oncoming Storm (as is explained to a rather bewildered footballer), is a 907 year old alien with vastly different values and ethics. He’s as dangerous as the monsters he protects the universe from.

Despite all the alien behaviour and unfamiliarity with human nature he immediately realises that Craig and Sophie love each other and that love eventually proves to be the saving of humanity when the timeship upstairs goes bonkers. The domestic with the apocalypse, what more does the viewer need on a Saturday night…

The original comic adventure was merely a snapshot of the Doctor coping with a domestic life, here a threat is thrown in for good measure, with horrific fairytales coming into existence once more with the voice in the attic that tempts you in but never lets you out. Doctor Who works so well in an Earthbound setting due to taking the familar and imbuing it with a edge of darkness. Who’s not trusting their quiet neighbour living upstairs now???

And what of the timeship? A form of TARDIS? Built by whom? Will this thread come back into play later on down the road? You can’t imagine the Grand Moff putting another timeship into the mix and not using it as a pay-off down the road. A pointer to the Time Lords being out in the universe somewhere? And how like the Jagaroth spaceship from City of Death was it…

A quiet week for Karen Gillan with Amy trapped in the TARDIS (were episodes being double-banked) but a lovely pay-off at the end with the discovery of her wedding ring in the Doctor’s pocket. Is it even possible for her to reawaken memories of Rory as he’s been wiped from the face of time? The Pandorica is opening, silence will fall, and all will be revealed soon…

Now as an experiment imagine the Fourth Doctor of Season 17 in the same situation with Lalla Ward’s Romana aboard the TARDIS with K-9. It would work.


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