Wednesday, September 28, 2011

"Closing Time"

"You don't have to go home but you can't stay here." How does the sequel to "The Lodger" fare compared to its interesting but rather frivolous predecessor? My brief summation would be: similar, but not as good. Gareth Roberts' contributions to televised Doctor Who have revealed a pretty thorough appreciation for the light-hearted side of things but this gets mixed in with the serious and contemplative through the knowledge that the Doctor is apparently going to snuff it next episode. All this is done fairly well and the humour is mediated with a number of touching and profound moments. My main complaint would be how wishy-washy the story is, and it was this insubstantiality of plotting which had me feeling a bit nonplussed. Sure, the plot of "The Lodger" was hokey bollocks too but it had a pace and atmosphere which "Closing Time" lacks and the mood of this more recent instalment would really have benefited from a stronger narrative.
So Craig Owens has a new place and a baby and he's trying to prove he can cope on his own while Sophie has a weekend away. What better opportunity to prove this than amid alien hijinks featuring everyone's favourite Time Lord? Lo and behold the Doctor shows up on the doorstep, notionally popping in for a last "social call" before his apparent death in "The Impossible Astronaut". How he knows he specifically has to go die now is still a matter of conjecture but we'll figure that out later. Anyway, the scenes with the Doctor, Craig and Alfie the baby are all pretty decent, with Matt Smith and James Corden having a strong rappor which shows through in their discussions. It's unfortunate that these tend to take over the entire show at points which reveals the lack of actual plot but they're all very touching moments, especially when Craig gives the Doctor the Stetson he's wearing in the first episode. The scenes with the Doctor talking to Alfie are good too; Matt Smith can carry an entire scene, including dialogue, entirely on his own without difficulty.
The stuff in the shop is a bit more variable. While the scenes with the Doctor working in the toy department are very natural, the dull shop assistant characters are hardly interesting fare and the jokes where the Doctor and Craig are mistaken for a gay couple become pretty tedious as they're increasingly overplayed. The plot too is pretty much just an excuse for the ruminations the Doctor experiences around Craig. While I suppose it's nice that we didn't have a completely arbitrary monster invented for this episode the Cybermen don't exactly get the best service imaginable. They only turn up for a few minutes and their presence is virtually unexplained. Once again their motive is solely towards "converting the planet". I remember a time when Cybermen had slightly more on their agenda than just making more of themselves. The return of the Cybermat is a nice element but overall I feel like the Cybermen were begging for more use. Similarly, the way in which Craig uses the "power of love" to resist conversion is, obviously, absurd. I dislike the New Series predilection for having the Cybermen with emotions repressed in a volatile manner instead of wiped clean and replaced with pure logic. While I can maybe buy that Craig's paternal instincts overrode the conversion machine interfering with his brain, why does it cause "emotional feedback" or whatever? And again, like in "The Age of Steel", why oh why oh why does this cause the Cybermen's heads to explode? Seriously, is this a cartoon or something? How would experiencing emotions make their heads explode? What's more, how would it make their ship explode? Does their near-lifeless crashed spaceship have repressed emotions too? I always thought that if they were going to do this thing with Cybermen violently experiencing emotions they should go on a rampage or something like a deeply, deeply repressed person might if they suddenly cracked. Regardless, they were underused. The plot could be summarized as "the Cybermen are trying to restore themselves" because all they do is suck some energy and abduct people.
What we do get is more from the Doctor about how he's exhausted from saving people all the time and more of his realisation that his attitude towards the lives of his friends could be construed as selfish and rash. It's a nice idea but maybe slightly overplayed by this point. You can't help feeling sorry for him, however, as he finally vanishes from Craig's house thinking he's essentially had his last adventure. The bit where he talks to the three kids in the street is a bit weird though, especially when you wonder why anyone would have been interviewed about this later for "eyewitness accounts". This leads us into our set-up for the finale, with River being abducted by Kovarian and the Silence. At this point the recitation of the creepy nursery rhyme from "Night Terrors" has just become absurd, and its ridiculousness is compounded only by the fact that we're meant to take it seriously. Kovarian just keeps repeating it for no reason and then we have the little kids recite "Til River Kills the Doctor." Real subtle.
"Closing Time" is worthwhile for all its touching little moments for the Doctor, and there's a sense of slow sadness which, to trivialise slightly, encapsulated to me a feeling evocative of Sunday afternoons and, appropriately, closing stores - that feeling of clinging onto something which passes too quickly that you would prefer to last forever before an ending. When the Doctor confesses in the Cyber-ship that he's going to die this last strange incident with Craig and the Cybermen feels like such a silly, inconsequential little diversion from something harsh and terrible that it's hard not to feel sorry for him and a little blue about how futile it would seem. It's not the weightiest stuff out there but with a title like "Closing Time" I hope it was intentional. It's far from a highlight of this rather scattergun series but as penultimate episodes go I think it does what needs to be done considering there's only a stand alone rather than a two parter to follow.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.