Sunday, October 2, 2011

Doctor Who 6.12: "Closing Time"

“No, you’ve noticed something. You’ve got your noticing face on. I have nightmares about that face!”

“Closing Time” was a rather sad, melancholy episode of “Doctor Who.” I wasn’t quite expecting that, considering this episode was billed as a sequel to last season’s “The Lodger,” which was rather upbeat and fun. “The Lodger” was the first episode where I really at all accepted Matt Smith as the Doctor, so of course I was going to be critical of the follow-up. The episode marked the return of Craig, the Doctor’s bumbling landlord and friend from that episode. Unfortunately, his now-partner Sophie only makes a very brief appearance. Looking back on it, it’s kind of interesting that this was, as per usual, the nearing the end of season companion-lite episode, and in the Moffat-era, Craig and Sophie have appeared both times one of these episodes was needed. I guess does that make Craig the Doctor’s back-up companion or something?

The episode opens in a vaguely creepy department store where the power keeps flickering. The employees all blame that on the town council, of course, but since this is “Doctor Who,” we know better. It’s the end of the evening shift, and two shop girls, Shona and Kelly, are having a conversation. Shona offers to do all the closing chores so Kelly can go out on a date with her boyfriend. Kelly’s only too happy to take Shona up on the offer. The deal doesn’t work out well at all for Shona, though. As she’s cleaning up the dressing rooms, Shona runs into none other than a Cyberman.

Next we see our old pals Craig and Sophie at the new house they live in together. They have a baby, and Sophie is leaving to spend a weekend with a friend to get some rest. All their family and friends are worried about whether or not Craig will be able to function on his own with the baby for a weekend, and while he’s kind of scared about the prospect, Craig is bound and determined to prove he can be a good father. Not long after Sophie leaves, the Doctor shows up at the front door. Craig at first thinks Sophie called him to help with the baby, but the Doctor insists it’s just a social call. While making small talk with Craig in the kitchen, the Doctor gets an inkling that something’s wrong. He starts investigating around the house and finds the baby, whose name is Alfie. Although according to the Doctor, who does his “speaking baby” thing again, he’d rather be called Stormageddon.

The Doctor again assures Craig that this is a social visit, explaining that he’s on a bit of a “farewell tour.” I guess we’re nearing the point in his personal timeline where he’s supposed to go to Utah. But then he starts noticing things again, like the power flickering. He storms back to the TARDIS mumbling about how he can’t be noticing things and just needs to let people live their lives. When we next see him, though, he’s working in the toy department at the department store. Of course this was a pretty blatant attempt to take advantage of how Matt Smith works really well with kids. Craig brings Alfie to the toy department, and when he sees the Doctor there he demands to know what’s going on. The Doctor tries to shoo Craig away, going so far as to put him in an elevator. While they’re in the elevator talking about “beam me up Star Trek teleporters,” though, they are briefly teleported to a Cyber Ship. The Doctor tries to distract Craig from realizing where they are, but Craig turns around and figures it out. Luckily, the Doctor is able to use the sonic screwdriver to reverse the teleport, and they’re back in the store in no time.

Once they’re all safe, the Doctor tries again to shoo Craig away, but Craig still won’t agree to it. The last time he had an adventure with the Doctor, all the people who died were people who didn’t know the Doctor, so he reasons that being with the Doctor is the safest option. This makes the Doctor sad, because he’s spent so much time recently severing connections with humans he cares about in the hopes that it will keep them safer. He does agree to let Craig help with the investigation, though. The Doctor talks to an older cashier named Val, hoping some information about the Cybermen will have cropped up in the latest store gossip. She thinks he and Craig are partners and that Alfie is their baby, which is kind of cute. Meanwhile, Craig talks to Kelly, who is working in lingerie. This goes very badly, and Craig is being threatened by George the store security officer until the Doctor steps in.

Once Craig is cleared, he and the Doctor continue investigating. The Doctor thinks that Shona, who hasn’t shown up for work, was taken by the Cybermen. They need to find the Cybermat, which looks like sort of a silver mechanical rat. It’s draining power from the neighborhood for use by the Cybermen. Craig starts complaining about how both the times he’s been threatened by aliens in his life, the Doctor has been around. This is a low blow to the doctor, and the two have a bit of an argument about it. Craig leaves to change Alfie and blow off some steam, and the Doctor spots Amy and Rory across the shop. Amy signs an autograph for a little girl, and the Doctor looks up on the wall to see she’s been doing a modeling campaign for perfume.

The Doctor and Craig finally manage to catch the Cybermat, while meanwhile, George the security guard is attacked by a Cyberman while investigating around the dressing rooms. The Doctor hears George scream, and he rushes off to investigate. This, of course, results in the Doctor getting attacked at knocked out by the Cyberman. He wakes up with Craig and Alfie standing over him. They decide that it makes the most sense to go “back to base” (aka Craig’s house), and for some reason when he gets home, Craig decides he needs to go out for milk. This leaves the Doctor to take care of Alfie. The Doctor decides to go check on Alfie in his crib, and he gives Alfie a really sad and heartfelt speech about how Alfie has his whole life ahead of him, but the Doctor is very, very old. In the middle of this, the Cybermat wakes up and gets into Alfie’s nursery. The Doctor has to run out of the house with Alfie, and he accidentally leaves his sonic in the living room.

Craig arrives home completely clueless that the Cybermat is back, and he doesn’t answer his cell phone when the Doctor calls. There’s a big action sequence where the Cybermat attacks Craig in the kitchen and the Doctor has to break through the glass door to save him (after putting Alfie safely in a swing, of course). Then the Doctor gets attacked too. They both have to fight off the Cybermat for a bit before the Doctor finally subdues it. Once everything is peaceful again, and Craig, the Doctor, and Alfie are all hanging out on the couch, the Doctor tries to tell Craig about how he’s supposed to die tomorrow, but Craig has fallen asleep.

The Doctor sneaks out of the house while Craig is sleeping, but once he wakes up, Craig takes Alfie back to the department store. The Doctor has found the Cyberman base by following a tunnel in a dressing room that leads underground. When he gets there, he doesn’t have much time to investigate before the Cybermen capture him. Craig follows down the tunnel (after leaving Alfie safely with Val), and Craig arrives at the base just as the Cybermen have realized that they can’t convert the Doctor. They can, however, convert Craig, and they think he’d make a great Unit Leader. They put Craig in a conversion unit and start talking about how the first step is to purge all emotions. A Cyberman head slowly and creepily closes over Craig’s head. Val and Alfie are up on a screen in the Cyberman base, though, and everyone can hear Alfie start to cry. Hearing his son’s crying makes Craig start fighting against the Cyberman technology, and the Cyberman head opens back up again. The rest of the Cybermen sort of “catch” Craig’s emotions, and they can’t handle it. The Doctor and Craig run away from the base as it starts to explode.

Back above ground, Craig laughs with Val about how she thought he and the Doctor were partners, but then he turns around to see that the Doctor is gone. Craig then goes home to find that his house has been all cleaned up. It was the Doctor’s doing, and the Doctor appears at the back door for one last goodbye. The Doctor also takes some of Sophie’s TARDIS-blue envelopes and a very familiar Stetson hat from Craig. Just as the Doctor slips out the back door, Sophie arrives at the front door. And she knocks, which is strange, considering it’s her house, too. Sophie is thrilled to see everything in good shape and that Craig and Alfie apparently had a calm weekend. Then Alfie says his first word, and it’s “Doctor.” That little touch cracked me up.

The Doctor walks out to the TARDIS to begin his journey to Utah. Some kids playing in the street stop what they’re doing and gather around to hear the Doctor give one last speech. This transitions into River reading eyewitness accounts from all those kids. Then the eyepatch lady and some Silents appear, and it’s obvious things are going to get creepy. The eyepatch lady says that the Silents are River’s “owners,” so things to get creepy indeed. Some clerics bring in the iconic space suit and tranquilize River as the creepy nursery rhyme about the Doctor’s death starts to play. River wakes up in the space suit under the water in Lake Silencio.

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