25
Sep
2011
Dr. Who: Season 6, Episode 13
Closing Time
Michael Richardson
I feel like I say a variation of this every time I review Doctor Who, but I really find it amazing that one series can have totally tonally different episodes each week. This isn't like Community, where their spoof episodes, while different in style and subject matter are all seen through the lens of hipper than thou, inside the hoop irony. If Doctor Who wants to do a slapstick comedy, it commits, and it knows that it doesn't have to comment on the comedy in order for viewers to adjust. It helps, of course to have Matt Smith, a great actor who will forever be typecasted as that weird guy after he leaves the show. Smith makes his humor shine through in the serious moments and gives real pathos to moments that might otherwise be simply amusing. His face can shift subtly between mirth, anger and confusion within a glance, and every moment is infused with these contradictory feelings. So when Doctor Who stops trying to scare people and tries to make them laugh, the sentiment is already there.

I can't imagine anyone disappointed to see the return of Craig, the lovelorn, bumbling fool from last year's The Lodger. Him and his new love now have a baby named Alfie, though he apparently prefers to be called Stormageddon (can you blame him?). The Doctor is just stopping by for a visit, trying to get in everything before the day he dies. The show leaves it ambiguous about how much time has elapsed between the last episode and this one, though the Doctor gets a brief glimpse at Amy and Rory in the shopping mall, and the former has apparently established a modelling career. That points to more than a few weeks, though for the Doctor it could be centuries have by. We certainly get the idea that he is on the last legs of the fare-well tour - the sword of Damacles is poised above his head, ready to come down tomorrow. So why not spend time with a friend and his new baby?

Then the Cybermen get involved. Cybermen are a classic Who villain, almost as well known as the Daleks or, for a more modern example, the Weeping Angels. They're here to suck power from London in order to, I don't know, something or other. The plot this week is needlessly complex and surprisingly unnecessary. It basically gives our leads the setup for some funny action scenes, fighting with a robotic mouse and defeating the monsters through love. (The Doctor begins to protest that that would be way too sentimental, before he gives up trying to explain what actually happened). The real story here is about a Dad who things he's doing a terrible job, who just wants to do right by his son. The Cybermen are just an interchangeable threat that could put either of them in danger in order to show Craig how brave he can really be. I won't claim that's a particularly novel story, and on another show I might count it as a flaw. But Doctor Who always manages to add such charm to old story types that the cliches seem fresh again. If I may draw the comparison to Community again, one type of ultra-modern television points out cliches as part of the joke. Doctor Who actively tries to improve them.

At the end of the episode, as the Doctor goes off to face his death, Craig give him a Stetson, the same one he wears in the first episode of the season when we see him die. The soft touch of the episode ultimately gives in to the hardest reality. Death is knocking, and now we know the doctor must answer it. How he get's out of this one will be the question.

And let's talk about the coda. With next week's season finale, we need to get a lot of back-story in (Who finales are always more complex than they have to be, and I appreciate them sticking some exposition on to the end of this episode even if it doesn't really match up). So what do we find out? Well, the Silence are back (the aliens, not the organization, but I'll go ahead and guess that they're both). Doctor Who viewers will remember them from the beginning of the season - horrible creatures in black suits whom you forget instantly after you look away from them. It's a classic Moffat creation - taking a basic childhood fear and expanding them into a beast worthy of H.P Lovecraft. It's finally confirmed that River is indeed the person in the spacesuit who shoots the Doctor dead at Lake Silencio, seemingly against her will at this point. Eyepatch lady returns as well, so hopefully she'll be explained a bit more. And that's not even getting into the coming attractions for next week. Doctor Who finales are always awesome and incredibly fun, pulling out all their big tricks for an action packed episode. This looks to keep up that tradition

Miscellaneous:

Too many good quotes to list, but any time Matt Smith fakes talking to a baby or interacts with children is bound to produce a laugh. Old trick become much more bearable with him.

See you guys next week for the finale. It's gonna be awesome.
Tags: Dr. Who
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