Doctor Who reviews: Closing Time
|REVIEWS - DOCTOR WHO|
The Doctor's Time. Is. Running. Out...
‘Closing Time’ effectively works as a sequel to last year’s hilarious and moving ‘The Lodger’, both written by Gareth Roberts and guest-starring James Corden as Craig Owens. Whereas ‘The Lodger’ was about Craig’s relationship with Sophie (Daisy Haggard), ‘Closing Time’ is about his relationship with their baby son. The former concerned romantic love, the latter paternal love, and in both cases, The Doctor was instrumental in helping Craig’s character arc along, though only in the context of inspiring him to act on his feelings.
Basically, these two episodes (as well as others) take the Scott Pilgrim vs. the World and Buffy the Vampire Slayer approach of a character working through real emotional issues by facing fantastical threats. This approach tends to be quite effective, since it combines the best of both worlds: the awesomeness of genre with the emotional resonance of drama.
‘The Lodger’ was an example of The Doctor initially causing problems for his friend, but then eventually making things better than they were before. And so it’s not surprising that as The Doctor’s death approaches, and he feels guilty for messing up the lives of his companions (as seen by his decision to leave Amy and Rory behind), that he might want to revisit this, as a way of trying to reconcile his feelings.
This is something The Doctor wrestles with throughout the episode, and is not only a personal dilemma for The Doctor, but also cuts right to the heart of perhaps the central question of Steven Moffat’s tenure as showrunner: whether The Doctor is a good thing or a bad thing for the universe. Indeed, the fact that the Silence are so convinced of the latter is precisely why he was killed in the first place.
Whereas David Tennant protests “I don’t want to go…there’s so much more I can do…” before having to regenerate in ‘The End of Time Part 2’, Matt Smith on the other hand, though he’s reluctant, almost seems to accept his death. And this time, it’s not regeneration death, it’s death death. He realises he’s lived a long time and had many adventures, and also that he continually places his companions in danger.
(Though Steven Moffat’s made it clear that he and Matt Smith are sticking around on the show for while yet (and Karen Gillan and Arthur Darvill will also return for Season 7), so presumably The Doctor’s death won’t be final. Or maybe it will, and they’ll just make prequels (which will inevitably be feverishly anticipated, and so despite their quality, will be unfairly considered disappointing…))
The title of the episode is ‘Closing Time’. Clearly this refers to closing time for the shop, as well as The Doctor’s imminent death. However (and perhaps this is over-analysis), The Doctor and Craig set out investigating the Cybermen as soon as the shop closes. It may be closing time for the shop, but that part of their adventure (in the shop that’s just ‘closed’, no less) has just begun. Perhaps this is subtly hinting that there’s hope of some kind after The Doctor’s death. (Or perhaps not.) Or if not hope necessarily, then at least something new. “Silence will fall when the Question is asked”, and this seems to have something to do with The Doctor’s death.
Why didn’t The Doctor just break free of the Cyberman’s grip earlier? Was that deliberate, to let Craig save the day by being a good father and showing his love for his son? Maybe because The Doctor’s dying, he knows he won’t be around to save the day himself much longer, so he wants to help his friends to become more self-reliant before he dies. Hence leaving Amy and Rory, and declining to go and say hello when he sees them by coincidence, right after Craig says “Some things are just coincidences…” Is this merely a coincidence…? Because it’s Doctor Who, which has lots of depth and subtext to the writing, not to mention subtle hints as to future storylines, it seems unlikely. Unless the point is that sometimes people assume things are significant when they’re really just coincidences. In which case, it wouldn’t have been coincidence that it was written that way, just coincidence for the characters.
Like in ‘Night Terrors’, the emphasis of the story is on the father’s character arc, learning to show his son that he loves him. This works well, but in both cases the character of the mother (who’s out of the house for most of the story) seems a little neglected.
The Doctor tidies up Craig’s house for him using time travel, but also using up some of the precious little time he has left. So probably the time travel allowed him to travel back to a previous point in Craig’s timeline (possibly several times), giving him more time to clean the house before Craig returned, but it still used up the amount of time that The Doctor spent on it.
The Doctor says he speaks baby. Although maybe he doesn’t, since The Doctor lies sometimes. In any case, The Doctor is very good at understanding, well, everyone, compared to most people, so maybe he gets the gist of it. Though he might be making up the bit about the baby wanting to be called “Stormageddon, Lord of All”. Interesting, towards the end, The Doctor says that the baby now prefers to be called Alfie, which is his actual name. Perhaps this reflects The Doctor’s perception of himself; he previously saw himself as some kind of mythic hero, like many other people see him, but now he’s coming to terms with the fact that he’s “just a mad man in a box”, and not only that, but also that he’s mortal, and as he tells Craig, “My. Time. Is. Running. Out.” He didn’t technically need to say it like that, but he’s The Doctor, he can be quirky if he wants to. Also it emphasises the immediacy of his own mortality.
Next week’s season finale is intriguingly titled ‘The Wedding of River Song’. Hopefully it’ll prove as brilliant as other Whoniverse weddings such as The Sarah Jane Adventures two-parter ‘The Wedding of Sarah Jane Smith’ (where David Tennant’s Doctor guest-starred, showing up to crash the wedding and help save the day), and Amy and Rory’s wedding in ‘The Big Bang’, where Amy remembered The Doctor back into existence to save the world.
[Torchwood S2 spoilers]
Though one wedding we sadly didn’t get to see was Owen and Tosh’s…
And will Captain Jack show up to declare “Weddings! I love weddings! Drinks all round!” Oh, wait, wrong Captain Jack…
That is, unless there’s a typo in the episode title, and it’s actually meant to be ‘The Weeding of River Song’, set in River Song’s future where she retires from time travel and takes up gardening.
More seriously, though, when Madame Kevorkian congratulates River Song on becoming a Doctor, one assumes that she’s completed a PhD. However, with Steven Moffat as showrunner, things are rarely that simple. Maybe she’s just married The Doctor, and so she’s now effectively Mrs. Doctor. How this fits in terms of timelines, though, is anyone’s guess. Oh well, wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey…
Perhaps they tell River Song that The Doctor’s already ‘married’ to Idris / the TARDIS, and her resulting jealousy gets her to kill The Doctor…
Anyway, how does Madame Kevorkian know she can trust the Silence (or the memory-erasers, or whatever they’re called)? They could do whatever they like, and then her memory would simply be erased whenever she looks away.
Incidentally, in Torchwood: Miracle Day, a character mentions “…something out of the corner of your eye…” Is this a hint that the Silence are behind the Three Families responsible for Miracle Day? Because that would be awesome.
The IT Crowd script editor (and Doctor Who fan) Andrew Ellard mused on Twitter in his analysis of ‘Night Terrors’:
“NT: “Saved through love” a recurring New Who trope. (The Lodger being one example.) I can’t begrudge that. A pure solution in a cynical age.”
In ‘Closing Time’, it’s even stated in dialogue, though The Doctor tries to explain it away through technical mumbo-jumbo…before admitting that, yes, basically Craig saved his son through love.
The Doctor dies, but perhaps he’ll ultimately, somehow, be saved by love. Perhaps Amy will save her best friend The Doctor by (platonic) love; like when she remembered him back into existence in ‘The Big Bang’.
Or maybe River Song’s (probably romantic) love for The Doctor will somehow overcome (or undo the results of) her brainwashing and manipulation by the Silence.
In summary, ‘Closing Time’ is funny, exciting, and features some intriguing foreshadowing of The Doctor’s death (or post-shadowing, or after-shadowing, or something, since we've already seen it in 'The Impossible Astronaut'), which he’ll have to face tomorrow (or next episode, which is actually on Saturday, a week after this episode was broadcast). Why do viewers always have to walk the slow path? And after that, it’ll be almost three months’ wait until the Christmas special, and then Season 7 won’t start until sometime in Autumn 2012.
So that’ll be another 9 or 10 months without new Doctor Who, unless there’s an Easter special or something (which, incidentally, would be a great time to ‘resurrect’ The Doctor after a cliffhanger ending, though the Christmas special would probably get in the way of that). If there's no Easter special, then hopefully the Christmas special won't end on a cliffhanger...
'Closing Time' is available to watch on BBC iPlayer until Saturday 8 October.
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