25 September, 2011

Penultimate Musings (Doctor Who - Closing Time)

Gareth Roberts' episode of Doctor Who is the penultimate of this series, and was a much calmer approach to the end of a series than the previous five. Stunningly directed, and a better episode than Roberts' previous credits The Unicorn and the Wasp and The Shakespeare Code, Closing Time was a continuation of The Lodger, but managed to fit in perfectly to this season's theme of The Doctor's death. The one problem with this story were the villains, the Cybermen.

The episode was a fun one. Smith played his Doctor perfectly, and Corden shone again as Craig, the instantly likeable flatmate. Highlights of dialogue were the Doctor's dig at Britain's Got Talent, 'and then there's that silver rat thing' and all the Stormageddon stuff. The eerie tone of the music, direction and harsh lights of a department store lent themselves well to the episode; I can't help but feel that maybe the episode would have been well suited to Christmas, with the shopping rush on, and people going missing all over the place.

I thought the story allowed The Doctor to meditate on his own situation/impending death, whilst exploring humanity in its greatest of forms and looking to the future for baby Alfie. The episode was excellently placed between last week and the finale where the Doctor is believed to die. Craig says 'you always win, you always survive!' and puts a different perspective to the Doctor's 'I put everyone in danger' argument about companions from last week. Most interestingly, Craig and the Doctor seem to have a mates-relationship, not a companion-Doctor one.
The wealth of family life and even the 'Doctor-Craig-Partners' joke showed the diversity and brilliance of the human life that the Doctor has not been part of, and will soon leave. Craig's 'I can't cope' is a typical family worry and, again, showed humanity. During the Doctor's chat with Alfie, he speaks on humanity at ease, and, in his final day, manages to fit in with them brilliantly, rather than be an outcast. His line about 'a nagging sense of spiritual emptiness' hits home perfectly, and his 'save the tears for later, boy-o' was incredibly touching and moving. Although the Doctor can't die (can he?), he says 'I gave it one hundred and ten percent', the past tense hitting home, even if this plot is a little reminiscent of Tennant's final episodes.

The only problem I had with this episode was the use of the Cybermen. They were timid, defeatable, and reduced to exploding at ''love'' - a rather hackneyed plot device to 'the Harry Potter generation'. In contrast, I did feel a threat to Craig when he was captured by the 'metal morons' - even feeling that perhaps this was a little far for BBC1 on a Saturday night, but ultimately Craig was saved, and the entire spaceship could just be blown up like that. Using an iconic villain is only acceptable when they are a true threat, or else they will be reduced to nothing, and reduce the series' value.

Ultimately a very good episode, which even, perhaps, could have done without the Cybermen. The ending scene was an excellent lead into next week (I think we all knew that would happen) and has made me exceedingly excited to see how the Doctor's death is avoided, or if maybe, in a brave move, it will still happen. The Greg James cameo and the useless villain I could have done without, but ultimately, a strong and moving episode, almost entirely on the Doctor's personality - one of the more interesting aspects of the series.

NB However, I do not believe for one moment that Amelia Pond would release a perfume. Perfumes are only released and promoted by famous people - has Amy sold her story and made money on the back of her adventures? Very interesting, or lazy characterisation.

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