Saturday, February 19, 2011

"The Lodger"

This episode is another curvy one. Partially it's a very watchable, fun, entertaining story which manages to be both mysterious and silly without either aspect coming across as ridiculous and provides a few interesting insights into the Doctor. Yet at the same time a lot of it is predictable, soppy, pointless and rather unoriginal. I suppose you could say that it almost bases itself around the two flatmates. On the one hand we have the Doctor, who is responsible for all the best bits, and on the other we have Craig, who is more or less landed with the ordinary bits. That's not to say that there's anything wrong with Craig; I know James Corden gets a bit of stick from some people for one reason or another but the only thing I've ever seen him in besides this was the mildly amusing Lesbian Vampire Killers which co-starred the unsurpassable Paul "The Man" McGann as the Vicar and in this I can't find anything too annoying about him. I kind of feel like Sophie, played reliably as ever by Daisy Haggard, could probably do a bit better than this slightly dull fat bloke from Colchester but I suppose she's not exactly an astoundingly interesting person herself, and part of me can't exactly begrudge these two characters who seem to prioritise the comfort of their familiar surroundings and each other's company. I mean, it's not exactly the most disagreeable scenario and I think it makes it fairly easy to empathise with these two characters. You can understand their motivation for doing what they do, and I think anyone who watches Doctor Who will know the reassuring appeal of 'pizza, booze, telly'.
I suppose then that leads us to the character of the Doctor. Now as I've already elaborated upon in several of these reviews, Matt Smith is basically the business. We certainly have an alien Doctor here, and I do like to think that the traumatic downfall of his all-too-human previous persona has encouraged him to re-embrace his differences. Nonetheless he's still a kindly soul, furnishing Craig with a huge amount of rent money, cooking his breakfast for him, saving his life from the rot in the ceiling, filling in at his job for him and making sure he gets the credit, and so on. Now it's all well and good to say that the Doctor never normally acts as weirdly as he does in this one during other episodes with contemporary humanity but he hasn't been in the situation of having to co-habit with humans really since the Third Doctor's tenure, and living in a flat and trying to simulate a normal life with humans is an altogether different matter to showing up during a crisis and saving the world. This is why I appreciate the performance here, and it reinforces more than ever that the Doctor has truly moved into new and different territory of character. His lines like "People call me the Doctor. Don't know why. I call me the Doctor too. Still don't know why." and "They never really stop," in regards to being described as a 'bit weird' by Craig all sum up important elements of his character that might have seemed somewhat lost in previous incarnations. I think it's symbolized in the bow tie: other people may find it, and him, incongruous, but he's comfortable and happy with his own identity and he doesn't care, and that's what Doctor Who should be doing - reinforcing the notions of self-determination, standing out from the crowd, following your own desires and achieving the potential you believe of yourself rather than following a herd mentality, and I suppose that's also reinforced by the Craig/Sophie plot and their discovery and admittance of what they really want, begun during the conversation about orangutans they have with the Doctor where he gives Sophie some advice and summated in the scene in the Time Ship at the conclusion.
There's a fair bit of silliness, like the football match for instance, but I don't really mind even though it's a little grating when the Doctor does his 'oncoming storm' thing with Sean. The 'science' is all hokey nonsense but Time Travel is an impossibility and the notion of the ship requiring a desire to leave is pretty ridiculous. If it had an auto-repair hologram why wouldn't it have an autopilot? Equally, it suggests that humans are too weak but the Doctor would be too strong. Why would his involvement destroy the Solar System? It's never really explained. There's the headbutt version of the Vulcan Mind-Meld as well which is kind of stupid and makes you wonder why they didn't try to weave Craig's realisation of who the Doctor was through the course of the plot rather than using a magic button at the end but I do like the Time Ship and I hope we get to see some exploration later on of its origin. The circular buttons make me think it could be of Dalek design but hopefully some slightly fresher alien is involved. I feel like the perception filter thing is becoming rather overused by this point, occurring in "The Eleventh Hour", "The Time of Angels", "The Vampires of Venice" and, for all intents and purposes, "Vincent and the Doctor", but the concept of there being no upper floor is suitably creepy and the mystery of what lies behind the door is played upon well.
Apparently this was based on a comic strip featuring the Tenth Doctor having to shack up with Mickey and thank Christ that we had this as an adaptation instead because the Eleventh Doctor is infinitely more suitable for emphasising the incongruity of an alien lodger as well as simply being better and more watchable. While I think in the original strip it must be a small mercy to have Rose safely trapped in the TARDIS in this story unfortunately Amy has to take the fall and while the story is a little overburdened already I think if some of the silly bits had been cut out it could have worked to have had Amy with the Doctor in the episode as well and the confusions which would eventuate from that scenario. I can't see how there could have been any kind of scheduling conflict since Amy already barely appeared in "The Hungry Earth" but I suppose this was just how it eventuated. All in all it's a decent episode, and a relatively fun piece of filler without coming across as particularly important, but it's entertaining to see the Doctor trying to operate in this scenario and it fits well into the overall scheme of the series.

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