Saturday 24 September 2011

Closing Time. Review.

Dr Who, Closing Time, Matt Smith and James Corden

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.

Dr Who, Closing Time, James Corden being threatened by Cybermen

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.

Dr Who, Closing Time, the Doctor captured by the Cybermen

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.


Kid said...

While everything you say is true, I found this episode entertaining. Either I'm becoming more easily pleased or, despite its faults, this episode was better than most of the earlier ones. Maybe something to do with not having needlessly confusing bits in order to give the illusion of complexity? Who knows. (Make up your own mind whether that's a question or a statement.)

Kid said...

Oh, and as the Cybermen had been there for centuries, were they OUR Cybermen or the alternate Earth ones?

Steve W. said...

I assumed they were ours, as they had Cybermats and, if I remember right, didn't have the Cybus "C" on their chests. I get the feeling that all the Cybermen in the Moffat era are meant to be the original Cybermen rather then the alternate Earth ones.

Kid said...

Thought so myself, but wasn't quite sure.

theoncominghope said...

@Steve W. Moffat did say somewhere that these are the original cybermen.

It was an okay episode, but there was no reason for having such a filler episode so late in the season.

And why the hell are the Ponds in Colchester?

7 Deep Thoughts on the latest episode of Doctor Who:

David said...

The opportunity of building the part 2 series storyline towards rescuing Melody Pond has been cast aside, and recent episodes have made no contribution towards building to the climax.

The best part of the episode was the last 7 minutes or so where we again pick up with River Song and scary-eyepatch-lady. Just a little of that in each episode in this second half of the season would have been enough to link the stories together and contribute to a satisfying end.
I fear this isn't going to happen, and that Stephen Moffatt will continue into the next season having abandoned the planning and writing of story arcs.

Steve W. said...

I think I've said elsewhere that I feel this season of Dr Who's fallen between two stools by having both arc-related stories and non arc-related stories, meaning it's like trying to watch two totally different series concurrently.

In retrospect I can't help feeling it'd have been better if the season had been all stand-alone episodes or all arc-related eps. This season's arc's simply been too in-your-face to get away with the mix and match approach to such things that Russell T Davies used to use for the show.

David said...

Agreed. Moffatt has proved in the past that he can so so much better than this. The question therefore is, why doesn't he? :(

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