Sunday, 25 September 2011

Review - "Closing Time"

Oh, what an episode. I think we needed "Closing Time", especially as the previous episodes have mostly been dark and intense. "Closing Time" was fun yet melancholy - a beautifully balanced character episode. The story didn't really matter - this was more about giving us all a breather and allowing us to enjoy "The Bromance - Part 2". James Corden, Matt Smith and a baby. What could be better? Throw in Lynda Baron and some Cybermen and you're pretty much set. In fact, as far as this episode goes, I want to "hug it and squeeze it and call it George".

The story was pretty traditional - people going missing in a department store, the Doctor investigates and finds the Cybermen behind it. But - as I said, this is not about the story. In fact, "Closing Time" is greater than the sum of it's parts. It's about the Doctor. 200 years have passed for him since the events of "The God Complex" and, on his final day before going to his death at Lake Silencio, he goes to visit his mate, Craig. Essentially, Craig is probably the Doctor's only "mate" and the only one he feels he hasn't "screwed up". Craig's other half, Sophie, has gone away for the weekend, leaving Craig to cope with baby Alfie. Or "Stormageddon, Dark Lord of All" as he likes to be known. (You have to wonder how many babies are now going to have "Stormageddon" as a middle name.) Giving the Doctor and Craig a baby to cope with was a touch of genius - leading to some superb moments and one-liners. Surely I couldn't be the only one though who winced every time Matt Smith - who is well known for his innate clumsiness - picked up the baby?

To his credit, the Doctor does try NOT to involve Craig and Stormy in the latest shenanigans but Craig is having none of it - the Doctor is his friend and friends help each other. Their "investigations" are hysterical - from being mistaken throughout the episode as a "couple" to Craig's problems in the lingerie department - so it rather stops you short when, in an emotion charged scene, the Doctor spots Amy and Rory in the store. Amy is being asked for her autograph by a little girl and it's not until the Doctor turns around that you see why. Her face is on a poster - advertising a perfume called "Petrichor" with the tagline "For the girl who's tired of waiting". The beauty and emotion of this scene lies with Matt Smith. You can see the emotions on his face, how he wants SO much to say something to them but instead he steps back out of sight. You would have to have a heart of stone not to have a little sniffle at this scene.

It did rather lull us into a false sense of security though. We're used to having a scene per episode that has been dubbed a "Matt Moment". A scene that seems specifically written to allow Matt Smith to show off the incredible ability he has to highlight the Doctor's age and how the weight of those years hangs on him. I thought the Amy scene was it but it wasn't. We were to be spoiled this time by having another "Matt Moment" that was beautiful, emotional and one of the best yet. The Doctor is left alone with "Stormy" whilst Craig pops out to get milk. Of course, "Stormy" starts crying and the Doctor tries to settle him down. He picks him up and simply talks to him whilst using his sonic to generate a starfield around them. Sounds simple... but it was beautiful.

Following on from our second "Matt Moment", the defeat of the Cybermen was somewhat obvious but, as I said before, it didn't matter. What DID matter was that the Doctor and Craig parted as mates - with Craig having given the Doctor a stetson. And then everything suddenly turned upside down. In an unexpected scene, we see River, Madame Kovarian and a couple of Silents. River is injected with something and is taken to fulfill her destiny - she is the astronaut beneath the lake who kills the Doctor. In our hearts, we always knew it would be River and whilst the finale looks particularly awesome, it shouldn't overshadow the rest of "Closing Time".

To summarise, "Closing Time" was a little gem. A funny, melancholy and wonderful gem. As the saying goes, "everything was Doctor Who and nothing hurt". The cast were excellent, in particular James Corden and Matt Smith who have formed a double act that is second to none, the director, Steve Hughes, did a brilliant job and the highest praise goes to Gareth Roberts for the script. I really rate Gareth Roberts. "The Lodger" was superb as was "Closing Time" and he's responsible for one of my favourite New Adventures novels: "The Highest Science" which introduced the wonderful Chelonians. I would so love to see the Chelonians in New Who and I really, really hope that Gareth Roberts gets to write an episode for Season 7.

Episode Rating: 9/10

Screencaptures courtesy of "enchantedfleur"