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Review #3025: Doctor Who 6.12: “Closing Time”

Posted on the 26 September 2011 by Entil2001 @criticalmyth

Contributor: Gregg Wright

According to Gareth Roberts, 200 years have passed for the Doctor since “The God Complex”. A viewer who isn’t aware of this while watching the episode (as was the case with me) would have no reason to suspect that 200 years have passed for the Doctor, and would be left wondering how the writers planned to deal with that time discrepancy. 200 years is quite a long time, even for the Doctor, so I was a little annoyed at the existence of such a massive time gap.

Review #3025: Doctor Who 6.12: “Closing Time”

To be honest, my expectations were pretty low going into this episode. This is very much a sequel to “The Lodger” (also penned by Gareth Roberts), which I remember thinking was only an average episode of “Doctor Who”. But I liked “Closing Time” quite a bit. I really don’t understand all the hate for James Corden. I don’t remember liking him this much in “The Lodger”, but I thought his chemistry with Matt Smith was fantastic here; easily elevating the episode to an above-average rating. And the Doctor as an eccentric store assistant, playing around with children in the toy section, somehow seems so appropriate for this often so child-like version of the Doctor.

The Cybermen are never a very convincing threat, but in the end, this mattered little. The episode successfully rests on the strengths of its script and its two leads. The recurring gag of the Doctor and Craig being continually mistaken as being a gay couple may have started to run its course at some point, but it resulted in enough genuinely amusing moments to warrant its inclusion. And as wacky as the Doctor’s translation of “Stormageddon’s” speech was, I couldn’t help but smile at the whole of it.

Despite this being a heavily comedy-oriented episode, the Doctor’s psychological state is not ignored, giving the episode just enough dramatic weight to keep it from being filler. Matt Smith is brilliant, as usual, in these more serious scenes of quiet contemplation. I’ve often thought that Smith doesn’t get enough material like this in the show, and that his comic side (which is equally brilliant) is often over-represented. So I appreciated the way this episode managed to blend these two sides of the Doctor’s personality.

It might feel a bit odd to have a lighthearted, stand-alone episode just before the Doctor goes off to his death in the big finale. But I thought the episode fit quite nicely into the context of the situation. The situation with Craig provides the Doctor with a means of regaining some of his lost optimism and sense of self-worth. I was surprised to find myself liking the Rory/Amy cameo. It was essentially a way to show the Doctor that he hadn’t ruined Amy and Rory. I liked that the whole episode worked as therapy for the Doctor, bringing him back to the point where he can realize that, in spite of all his failures and weaknesses, the universe is better off with him in it.

The final scene is purely setup for the finale, with an adult River Song (having just received her doctorate in archaeology) being forced into the astronaut suit by Madame Kovarian and other agents of The Silence, and then appearing in Lake Silencio. It’s no real surprise that River is the one in the suit who kills the Doctor, but I think many of us (including me) assumed that it would be a much younger Melody Pond.

Whether or not the Doctor will somehow survive the finale isn’t even in question. But one has to admit that Steven Moffat has done an impressive job of seemingly backing the Doctor into a corner from which he can’t escape. So it will be interesting to see how he gets out of this. It’s no spoiler to say that the trailer doesn’t seem to give us any clues about how the Doctor survives. It does, however, provide a pretty strong hint about what the “silence” that’s supposed to fall actually is, but I’ll hold off on more speculation for those that don’t want to know anything in advance.

To make a long story short, I enjoyed this episode. I really did. It certainly wasn’t perfect. I’ve never been impressed by the Cybermen as villains (though longtime fans might argue that that’s because Cybermen have never reached their full potential in the new show, which I’ve often stated is all I’ve seen). The resolution is pretty ridiculous (though apparently the idea of emotion being a weakness for the Cybermen is consistent with earlier portrayals). But the comedic interplay between Matt Smith and James Corden, as well as the Doctor’s introspective moments, made for a fun and meaningful episode.

Rating: 8/10

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