Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Doctor Who Week 2013: "The Lodger"

“I'm the Doctor. Well, they call me the Doctor. I don't know why. I call me the Doctor, too. I still don't know why.”
-The Doctor

We continue Doctor Who Week, celebrating the 50th Anniversary of “Doctor Who,” with the episode that first made me like the Eleventh Doctor. Eleven is obviously going to be a big part of the anniversary special, since he’s the current Doctor, so it seemed appropriate to include one of his episodes in the festivities. This was the “companion light” episode of series five, back when all episodes of a series would air in one go. Companion and/or Doctor lite episodes would allow the production crew to catch up on filming days late in the production schedule. Some of these episodes were all time classics, like the fantastic “Blink.” The only episode of this nature that really wasn’t any good at all was “Love and Monsters” in series 2. I think the reason I liked the Eleventh Doctor so much in this episode was because it was the first chance he had to be really goofy. It’s an episode that showcases just how alien the Doctor truly is, a characteristic that is more pronounced in Eleven than many of his other incarnations.

This story was loosely based on a Tenth Doctor and Rose comic strip of the same name, where Ten lives normal life in Mickey Smith’s apartment for a bit while waiting for Rose to catch up to him in the TARDIS. A disturbance of some sort strands the Eleventh Doctor in a small village without the TARDIS or Amy (Amy is still inside the TARDIS). The disturbance is coming from a particular flat, and the Doctor conveniently arranges it so he can rent a room in the flat below the disturbance. His new flatmate is a man named Craig, played by Tony winner James Corden. Craig is a “sofa man,” perfectly content to stay put and live life without making a fuss. Craig has a good friend named Sophie. They’d both like to be more than friends, but they’re too scared to do anything about that for reasons that aren’t really articulated in the episode. I think it’s just general “oh what if it would ruin our friendship” stuff.

There is most definitely a sinister threat on the second floor of the Doctor and Craig’s building. It’s pretty vintage Steven Moffat stuff, really. A disembodied voice emanates from the building intercom and lures people into the upstairs flat. The disembodied voice can change to whatever is most likely to entice a passerby. It really reminds me of the gas mask kid in “Empty Child/The Doctor Dances” who goes around saying “Are you my mummy?” Anyway, when said passerby is lured in by the voice on the intercom, they then get fried. This creates a disturbance that causes trouble for the TARDIS (the Doctor has to shout instructions to Amy on how to calm the TARDIS down) and makes this really bad stain on the ceiling of Craig and the Doctors’ flat worse. The Doctor warns Craig not to touch the stain (of coruse Craig doesn’t listen, but more on that in a bit).

Anyway, the flatmate set-up gives the creative team ample opportunity to have fun with “How does the Doctor act in the real world” scenarios. Amy reminds the Doctor that he has to make an effort to act like a regular guy. In Amy’s estimation, regular guys watch television, go down the pub, and play soccer. So, naturally, the Doctor jumps at the chance when Craig asks him to play in a pub league soccer game. The Doctor doesn’t know if he can play soccer, but he’s naturally great at it, of course. I think this was my favorite part of the episode because Matt Smith had so much fun with it. He was an avid youth soccer player before a back injury quashed his aspirations of making a career of it, so all the footage of him owning the game is real. I thought it was cool that the creative team thought to include a real aspect of Matt’s life like that.

Eventually, Craig gets fed up with all the weirdness that comes with having the Doctor as your flatmate. There’s the contraption he built in his room to scan what’s going on in the upstairs flat, and then there’s the fact that he’s always showing up Craig in front of Sophie. Craig tries to kick the Doctor out, and the Doctor panics. The Doctor’s solution is to explain who he is to Craig in a very unusual way – he headbutts him repeatedly. Each headbutt somehow conveys more important information to Craig, such as who the Doctor is and what’s going on that has lead the Doctor to Craig’s flat. Craig accepts this explanation, I guess because it was downloaded directly into his brain.

The situation quickly gets more dire, because the latest person to be lured up to the upstairs flat is none other than Sophie. The Doctor and Craig rush upstairs to try and save her. Inside the upstairs flat is what looks like a TARDIS console. Somehow, an electric charge is drawing Sophie closer and closer to it. The Doctor manages to free Sophie using the Sonic, but the threat still remains. The Doctor figures out that the flat is actually an alien ship, and the ship’s emergency program is what has been luring people to it. The program is trying to find a pilot that can take the ship home, but the process burns out the brain of the average human. The emergency program quickly realizes that the Doctor has a different type of brain, and it thinks it has found the perfect pilot. Unfortunately, the Doctor’s brain is also a problem for the opposite reason – it would provide too much power to the ship.

The Doctor is being drawn closer and closer to the time engine console, but he thinks he has a solution to the problem. The ship needs to connect with someone who has no desire to go anywhere. And of course, that someone would be Craig. He tells Craig to connect with the ship and start thinking about all the reasons he wants to stay put. This has the dual result of Craig confessing his feelings for Sophie and defeating the emergency program (with an assist from Sophie, who also doesn’t want to go anywhere once she knows how Craig feels about her). The Doctor, Craig, and Sophie all have to hightail it out of the ship, as it’s about to take off. They stand outside and watch as it disappears.

With the ship gone, the TARDIS is once again okay, so Amy is no longer in danger. It’s time for the Doctor to go home himself. Plus, he gets the distinct feeling he’s a third wheel now that Craig and Sophie are spending all their time making out. Craig lets the Doctor keep his key to the flat as a thank you, even though he knows the Doctor probably won’t ever return. Finally, to connect this episode up with the season-long arc about the crack in Amy’s childhood bedroom wall, the crack appears again, and Amy also discovers the box with her engagement ring. Since her fiancé, Rory, was lost in the crack and she had forgotten him (and the Doctor didn’t do anything to help her remember), this probably won’t end well.

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