Saturday, 24 September 2011
Closing Time. Review.
The Doctor's rebirth in 2005 began in a department store and, with the irony that only scriptwriters can provide, I suppose it's appropriate that he should spend the last day before his death in one as well.
Already preparing for his predicted demise, the Doctor visits his ex-flatmate Craig (James Corden), only to discover Cybermen are abducting people, for spare parts, from a local department store. Investigating further, the Doctor discovers they're the crew of a ship that crashed to Earth a long time ago and have lain dormant underground until the nearby installation of power cables by the local council has awakened them.
The fact that I can sum up the entire episode in one paragraph says it all about the main problem with Gareth Roberts' Closing Time, which is it simply doesn't have enough plot to go round. With a handful of characters and only two settings, the thing feels very very slow moving and over-protracted. This is especially evident in the section where the Doctor and Craig are menaced in Craig's house by a Cybermat. The truth is the whole section - and every appearance of the Cybermat in the episode - could be removed without anyone noticing anything amiss.
There's also the problem that the set-up requires the Doctor and Craig to keep taking Craig's baby son Alfie into highly dangerous situations, which it's hard to believe they'd ever do. Craig certainly wouldn't and, as the Doctor's in guilt-mode about putting others in danger, it's hard to believe he would either.
But perhaps Closing Time's worst crime is it wastes the Cybermen, using what're supposed to be the Doctor's second deadliest opponents in an episode that's basically a bit of throwaway fluff.
The Cybermen are particularly let down by a weak ending as they just stand around while their plans fall apart around them. All they have to do at the critical moment is switch off the monitor that shows Craig his crying baby but, even when the Doctor's telling them exactly how the emotional response it's creating in Craig is messing up their attempts to Cyberise him, it still doesn't occur to them to do it.
If most of the episode feels throwaway, the one thing that isn't is the significance of its timing. This is the day before the Doctor dies, and we're never allowed to forget it. This is where the episode's main strength comes into play. That strength is Matt Smith as he handles the scenes where he has to contemplate his forthcoming death, and look back at his previous activities. As he's done before, Smith manages to perfectly convey the sense of being an old man in a young man's body while still coming across in other scenes as basically just an overgrown child.