Doctor Who episode 783: The Lodger (12/6/2010)
‘It’s art. A statement on modern society: “Ooh, ain’t modern society awful?”’ The episode that probably did the most to fix the eleventh Doctor’s characterisation. Earlier on in the series, he’s been fairly tenth Doctorish, with Matt Smith’s quirky awkwardness imposed over Tennant’s invincible swagger. There’s still more of that to come (I’m thinking of the Stonehenge speech), but in later seasons, I think we see more of this take on the eleventh Doctor than the “basically, run” iteration – the “Season 17” Smith as opposed to the “Season 12”.
This is doubly impressive given this is adapted from a tenth Doctor comic strip. But it’s so expertly repurposed that, besides the concept and a couple of incidental details, the two things are entirely separate versions. This Doctor is a fish out of water, who knows about the Earth and human beings, sometimes better than they know themselves, but still doesn’t always understand them. The swagger is replaced by constant surprise, at himself, and everything else, causing chaos as he spins alarmingly through Craig’s life.
The story could be criticised as “slight” – although I enjoy the Brian Clemens’ Thriller aspect of Someone at the Top of the Stairs – if this were really about the mysterious time machine in the upstairs apartment. But it’s not, it’s about the Doctor having to kill time with Craig, helping him to sort out his life and finally address his feelings for Sophie. This smartly leans into elements of James Corden’s breakout role in Gavin and Stacey, without requiring him to play Smithy. The only thing I’d jettison is the fourth instance this series of flashbacks to past Doctors – it worked in The Eleventh Hour, and the library card in The Vampires of Venice was amusing, but we didn’t really need it in Vincent and the Doctor or here. But that’s a tiny detail: this is an enormously entertaining comedy, as good as The Unicorn and the Wasp.
Next Time: The Pandorica Opens