Doctor Who episode 798: Closing Time (24/9/2011)
‘You blew them up with love.’ The 11th Doctor is on his End of Time stye farewell tour, dropping in on old friends before his inescapable fate at Lake Silencio. No wonder it’s called Closing Time. I like how Roberts handles this, largely avoiding maudlin introspection, but never letting the audience forget that this is the Doctor’s last adventure. Fittingly, it riffs on the first episode of the revived show – this isn’t Henriks, but it might as well be. Even the open is the same – as Shona stays behind in the shop while her colleagues dash off, to finish up. Like Rose, she’s confronted in the dark by something frightening and alien – but the Doctor isn’t there to take her hand and tell her to run. It’s a taster of what the world will soon be like without him, and a perfect scene setting.
Bringing Corden and Smith back together was a no-brainer after The Lodger, and the same chemistry makes this fizz. The addition of Alfie adds a sequel-style wrinkle to the relationship, as do the occasional moments of the Doctor’s fatalism at what’s to come meaning this isn’t just a replay of the Doctor disrupting Craig’s life. The moment he opens up to Craig about what’s haunting him (a brilliant moment for Smith, who plays it like a guilty confession), only for Craig and Alfie to fall asleep, is about as downbeat as it gets. Their investigation in the department store; Lynda Baron’s comic misunderstanding of their relationship and the Doctor’s newfound ability to hush underdeveloped brains are all amusing. The cybermat is brilliant. If, in the end, it’s not quite as good as The Lodger that’s mostly because the original was so spot-on that there’s not much for Roberts to improve on (the “defeated with love” ending plays as parody).
The bits I don’t like are almost all “arc” related. Amy becoming a perfume model is a bit naff – I suppose it’s more likely than being a UNIT medic, but it’s weird for the female lead to ultimately be defined by her good looks. The children remembering the Doctor is just really weird, and the coda of Kovarian finding River doesn’t quite work. We’ve known it was River Song in the astronaut suit since at least Let’s Kill Hitler, so this is just confirmation by way of an odd-looking special effect rather than a shocking lead in to the last episode.
Next Time: The Wedding of River Song