Closing Time

Doctor WhoAware that the clock is counting down to his appointment with a killer astronaut in America, the Doctor pays a last visit to his friend Craig, discovering that Craig’s become a dad – and a somewhat befuddled one at that. But no house call from the Doctor ever goes quite as smoothly as planned. Strange power outages have plagued the area, with a local department store at the epicenter of the disturbance. The Doctor does what he has to in order to investigate the store without raising suspicion: he gets a job there. Soon enough, between mentions of a “silver rat” roaming the store and a string of employees going missing, the Doctor discovers that Cybermen are lurking here. The Doctor’s plans for a quiet visit with his friend are further complicated when Craig insists on involving himself in the Doctor’s impending battle with the Cybermen. The lives of the Time Lord’s companions are nearly always in jeopardy, but if the Doctor doesn’t win this time, it could cost a baby his father.

Order the DVDDownload this episodewritten by Gareth Roberts
directed by Steve Hughes
music by Murray Gold

Cast: Matt Smith (The Doctor), Karen Gillan (Amy), Arthur Darvill (Rory), James Corden (Craig Owens), Daisy Haggard (Sophie), Alex Kingston (River Song), Frances Barber (Madame Kovarian), Seroca Davis (Shona), Holli Dempsey (Kelly), Chris Obi (George), Lynda Baron (Val), Paul Kasey (Cyberman), Nicholas Briggs (voice of the Cybermen)

Closing TimeNotes: Craig and Sophie first appeared in the previous season’s The Lodger. Cybermats first appeared in 1967‘s Tomb Of The Cybermen, and were last seen in 1975‘s Revenge Of The Cybermen; they’ve had some dental work done in the intervening years, and arguably need to go back for a second round. Lynda Baron makes her third Doctor Who appearance here: as pirate captain Wrack, she tried to make the fifth Doctor walk the plank in 1983‘s Enlightenment, while her first Doctor Who “appearance” was audio-only, as the unseen vocalist warbling the sung narrative throughout the first Doctor story The Gunfighters in 1966 – which also saw the Doctor wearing a Stetson.

LogBook entry & review by Earl Green

Review: I was a huge fan of The Lodger simply because it was so… un-Doctor Who, making the Doctor half of a blokey comedy duo – territory the show had simply never ventured into before. Closing Time follows up on that unlikely trip off the grid quite successfully, adding a new dimension via Craig’s fatherhood. As was the case with the 2010 season, Moffat-era Doctor Who is at its best when it veers away from what’s usually expected of Doctor Who, and Closing Time comes in right behind The Doctor’s Wife as the best episode of 2011, with Night Terrors following close behind in third place. Perhaps it’s not coincidental, but two out of the three episodes deal with fatherhood, and broadly speaking, all three deal with doing what must be done to take care of a loved one. There is indeed a theme to the 2011 season, one that resonates much more with me than the convoluted “Doctor’s predicted death-date” running plot.

But hey, while we’re on that, Closing Time services that running gag as well, and does it a damn sight better than the constant glancing at the TARDIS screen’s death notice for Closing Timethe Doctor. Matt Smith plays the solemnity and acceptance of a doomed Doctor beautifully, though perhaps the best take on that is the scene where he’s gently lecturing Stormageddon, the dark lord of all, that the real adventure is his now – and that life’s pretty awesome when you’re a kid and you’re being taken care of. It’s a charming, touching and honest scene – and it’s not just a little bit metaphorical: the infant the Doctor is addressing is, by proxy, the whole human race that he’s been coddling for untold hundreds of years (if not longer). The Doctor’s putting the entire species on notice that, out of necessity, he won’t be around to do the changing anymore.

The notion that Craig’s paternal instincts could save him from Cyber-conversion doesn’t hold water quite as well, and the script even knowingly winks at the audience and admits that failing in a nice bit of under-the-radar meta-interaction with the audience: “We know you’re thinking that was the cheesiest thing ever. But sometimes cheese is delicious. Roll with it just this once.” To be fair, it’s no more and no less cheesy than The Age Of Steel‘s Cybermen who shut down when they get their emotions back, or the freshly-converted Cybermen crying oil out of the corner of its eye in Doomsday. The new series has really robbed the Cybermen of their teeth, and there isn’t much point in crying foul on Moffat’s writing team when the de-fanging began under the Davies “administration.” (At least this episode shows us who’s got the teeth in the Cyber-food-chain…)

Closing TimeLess likely still is the just-happening to-spot-Amy-and-Rory gag, only one episode after the duo’s jarringly abrupt, almost Time-Flight-esque departure, but at least it was mercifully brief.

Sadly, that also applies to this almost-one-off detour from the season’s overriding plot concern, from which Closing Time was a welcome diversion. Here’s hoping that Craig gets a return visit next season. I don’t think he’d work as a full-time companion, but these yearly visits are turning out to be some of the high points of the Matt Smith era.