Stars: Matt Smith, James Corden, Karen Gillan, Arthur Darvill, Alex Kingston, Frances Barber, Daisy Haggard, Seroca Davis, Holli Dempsey, Chris Obi, Lynda Baron, Paul Kasey, Nicholas Briggs
Writer: Gareth Roberts
Director:  Steve Hughes
Network: BBC America, airs Saturday nights
Original Telecast: September 24, 2011

In the twelfth episode of DOCTOR WHO Series 6, “Closing Time,” the Doctor (Matt Smith) drops in on old friend Craig (James Corden) from last year’s “The Lodger.” The Time Lord is on a farewell tour (another one?) before facing his doom in 2011 Utah, but he can’t help getting involved one last time when he discovers a very familiar metallic presence lurking near a department store. With Craig and baby Alfie (oops, Stormageddon) in tow, the Doctor faces an old foe and fights one last fight before it’s all over.

How refreshing to just have an adventure again! The Doctor shows up somewhere, meets an old friend, discovers an old foe, and defeats their evil plans and moves on. Episodic, emotional, dramatic, exciting adventure; it’s been far too long.

It’s wonderful to have Craig back, one of the few characters/companions of this era with a genuine emotional core and a very endearing personality. The relationship between him and the Doctor is instantly charming in “The Lodger,” and it’s so nice to see that develop further in this episode. They make a great team, bouncing off one another with exceptional comic timing. The scene where the Doctor professes his love for Craig purely as an attempt to distract his friend is priceless, the subsequent mistaking of them as a couple with a baby is a delightful follow-up, and the running gag will surely make all those online “gay agenda” commentators either laugh or complain as they’re wont to do.

Given the mess the Amy/Rory storyline became, it’s a relief to have at least a week of the Doctor with someone else. Even Smith’s Doctor on his own and talking to himself – a tricky thing to pull off as many writers point out, since it requires the character to handle exposition on his own in what might be considered an unrealistic way – works phenomenally well and perfectly suits his whirlwind demeanor. With Craig, without Craig – it almost seems that with the weight of the story arc lifted, Smith just shines more brightly than ever. He gets to continue that boyish discomfort with human social niceties that played well throughout “The Lodger,” and this time he has Craig and Sophie’s baby to chat with as well. Whether engaging in comedic repartee or a moving conversation with a baby about his great age vs. the joys of a normal human life, I really do love his Doctor. His heroic apex, crashing through a glass door to save his friend is just pitch perfect. I want more of him this way, unfettered by the morose and convoluted saga with which his era has been intrinsically intertwined.

There’s also a lot of joy in reveling in aspects of the series’ history. For one thing, it’s a triumphant return for the Cybermats, one of the coolest footnotes in classic Cyber-history (largely from the Patrick Troughton era but last seen in a 1970s Tom Baker story) that get a brilliant makeover in this episode and pose a genuine but also funny threat. And considering how much Matt Smith is himself a Troughton fan, it’s delightful that one of his first lines in this story is a reprise of a Second Doctor quip from anniversary tales “The Three Doctors” and “The Five Doctors:” “Oh, you’ve redecorated! I don’t like it.” And he doesn’t just regurgitate the words; he makes them definitively his own. There’s even an echo of “Rose” in the department store setting.

I have to admit though, the sequence where the Doctor catches a glimpse of an Amy and Rory that have moved on – yeah, never mind – is rather sweet and resonates with the idea that the Doctor is always the (more or less) immortal cursed to see his friends pass him by. It’s a nice touch, made all the more satisfying by how quickly we then leave the oh-so-happy babyless couple behind.

One of the traps the new series fell into early on, and for an understandable reason initially, was that every time the show’s classic monsters reared their (often metallic) heads, they had to be part of some epic arc or two-part finale. But why can’t we simply have the occasional Dalek or Cybermen story for just one week? Thankfully we can, and writer Gareth Roberts continues one of this era’s few positive threads, which is to reinvent the modern Cybermen as a genuinely creepy threat once again.

It’s great to see them back as creatures that convert an entire human body rather than just dropping a brain into a tin can; to me, that never carried the same sense of skin-crawling horror that the original, zombie-like conversions suggested. Putting them in a position of desperation rather than supremacy, cowering in the catacombs and trying to rebuild from ruin, is also a thrilling twist. In fact, they may even be our old Mondasian friends again and not the Cybusmen from the alternate universe. Think about it, not an “upgrade” or “delete” to be heard even when in context it would have made the most sense; instead, we get a good old-fashioned “you will be like uzz!” This doesn’t necessarily make much difference to me, but I know it makes some fans apoplectic with joy, and that’s not a bad thing. Hail Mondas!

The dialogue is also sparkling from moment to moment. Roberts has written some gems of the new series and a few that might just miss the mark here and there, but he knows how to balance a love of what makes classic Doctor Who sing and what makes modern television drama work. We could do a lot worse than to have a lot more creative input from Roberts in the future.

In the last few minutes, the River/Pond storyline roars back in with a vengeance to set up what might be a pretty wet series finale. It is ironic though how almost every single episode after “Let’s Kill Hitler” has been about the deep emotional bonds between parents and children, and how love conquers all every single time…except when it’s Melody Pond.

In “Closing Time,” we see a father overcome Cyber-conversation itself to protect his child. Something tells me Amy and Rory would already be running the mass conversion chambers and planning the Cyber-conquering of the galaxy. Why does it seem that every writer crafting stories this year is hitting all the right notes of emotional realism while the show runner seems to have drained every last bit of it from his central characters? For God’s sake, at one point Roberts has the Doctor refer to the “deeply ingrained hereditary human trait to protect one’s own genes.” So do Amy and Rory lack this trait? Are these writers consciously taking the piss out of the arc by giving us countless tales that underline precisely what’s wrong with the central story? It does make one wonder.

Next time, Silence will…no, the question will be…ah, whatever. See you then.

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Article Source: Assignment X
Article: TV Review: DOCTOR WHO – Series 6 – “Closing Time”

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