It’s a mark of how powerful the writing and performances are in Closing Time and how much I adore Matt Smith’s (and Steven Moffat’s) Doctor that this episode wrung more tears from me than almost any other this series. (The Doctor’s Wife takes the tear-stained top spot.)
There’s a great gathering together of themes here, a sense of loose ends being, if not tied off, at least being plaited neatly until we’re ready to fray them again. The lonely Doctor pops by just to say hello (and goodbye) to Craig before he treats himself to one last galactic spectacle – he has only a few hours before his date with death at Lake Silencio. Except that there are fluctuations in the electrical supply and people going missing, and try as he might, he just can not walk away.
(Spoilers from here on in.)
Typically the Doctor, who is trying his best not to get his friends in any more trouble in his last few hours, ends up with Craig at his side (and Craig’s baby Alfie – or Stormageddon, Dark Lord of All, as the baby calls himself – in tow too) dealing with a small, but potentially deadly invasion of Cybermen.
There’s a real sense of peril, despite the low-key alien threat. Not just because, as the Cyberman replies to the Doctor’s “What six of you?” with “You know that is enough”, but because you fear that Craig’s heroism is going to end really badly for him. And the Doctor’s melancholy at his impending death shouldn’t affect me (I know he’s going to be fine. I’ve seen the press release for the Christmas episode), but between the poignant dialogue and a storming, emotional performance from Matt Smith, my heart was breaking for him.
The many highlights of Closing Time:
- Sophie leaving Alfie in Daddy’s care while she goes away for the weekend: “I’ve labelled the food and I’ve sort of numbered it… Also my mum might phone. And your mum. And my dad… And I do know you can cope on your own and I may have drawn some arrows in the fridge.”
- The Doctor detecting another lifeform present in Craig’s house…
- Yes, I totally buy babies giving themselves more interesting names, that they call Dad ‘Not-Mum’ and everybody else ‘peasants’. Matches with my experience, anyway…
- Craig: “You’ve noticed something. You’ve got your noticing face on. I have nightmares about that face.”
- Could there be a better job for the Doctor than toy salesman? And we’d end up thanking him for saving us from wasting our money on lamps and vegetables too,
- The joke about the robot dog. As if any robot dog could be a patch on K9.
- The numerous Britain’s Got Talent jokes. From the headline on page one (Britain’s got torment) and the talk of Nina’s ‘journey’, through to the Doctor riffing about ‘living his dream, owning the stage and giving it 110 per cent’. It takes the supremely talented Matt Smith to give those words real emotional heft though.
- The visual cues from the get-go in the lift. ‘Someone’s being using a teleport’ says the Doctor, standing beneath a lighting arrangement that couldn’t resemble the ‘beam me up Star Trek teleport’ anymore if it tried.
- The Doctor’s frantic efforts to stop Craig noticing they’ve been teleported.
- Lynda Baron! It would be enough to have her appear, but to let her seed that whole Doctor and Craig as partner/companion conversation/confusion is lovely.
- Craig lampshading the central conceit of the whole show: “It isn’t just a coincidence is it? Aliens in Colchester? Aliens twice in my life, happening to me just when you turn up?” And the Doctor’s explanation: “It is a coincidence. It’s what the universe does for…fun” And as if to prove the point, here comes Amy, clearly famous now, with Rory at her side. And the Doctor delighted to see her, but hiding from her anyway.
- I might even buy a perfume called Petrichor, especially if it actually smelt like petrichor (the smell of rain on dry ground if you missed The Doctor’s Wife).
- The papoose conversation: “You’re far too slow when he summons you.” Craig: “When he’s going to stop giving me marks?” The Doctor: “Never. Parenthood.” Not to mention the fact that the Doctor is using his ten per cent staff discount to buy things.
- Alfie/Stormageddon’s preference is for a hot babysitter…
- I’m guessing the Cybermats under many Christmas trees this year won’t come with the real, bitey mouth feature.
- The Doctor talking to Alfie about a future of mortgage repayments, nine-to-five, a persistent nagging sense of spiritual emptiness, and apologising for his crabbiness on account of his age. And turning a run-of-the-mill nightlight projector into something gorgeous and wonderful.
- The cybermat coming back to life sequence had both me and Hat Jr on the edge of our seats. And I love that the Doctor gets to be an action hero smashing through glass for a change. And that the Doctor has an app for getting through shielding for ‘metastatic energy’.
- So many truths here, the Doctor is selfish, but the planet would be ruined without him, and yes the Doctor always needs someone, even if he won’t admit it.
- The neat reversal on last week’s climax as the Doctor tells Craig how much he believes in him, as he tries to help him fight the start of the cyber-conversion – the cleansing of emotions.
- It’s schmaltzty, that whole Daddy-baby-blowing-up-the-cybermen-with-love thing, but it rings true. The love you have for your kids is completely mind-blowing, and there’s nothing parents won’t do to protect their babies.
- That the Doctor would use up his precious time clearing up the house before Sofie gets back moved me to tears. (And “Even with time travel, getting glaziers on a Sunday, tricky.”)
- The mystery of the Tardis-blue envelopes is solved… as is the source of the Stetson.
- Just how sad (and wet) I am watching the Doctor set off on one last trip with his beloved Tardis. Especially when my brain knows it’s not even really the end.
- The shocking end as River’s ‘owners’ turn up to put her in the spacesuit and leave her to kill the Doctor.
What moved me was the Doctor’s conviction that this is the end for him. Whatever sleight of hand (gangers, alternative timelines, Miracle Day (as Flick Filosopher blogger MaryAnn Johanson points out, the events at Lake Silencio take place while Torchwood’s Miracle is still active, so he really shouldn’t be able to die)) Steven Moffat has planned to save our hero, the Doctor is feeling those hundreds of years weighing heavy on him now, all that death, all those companions, all that loneliness and responsiblity. There’s a sense, that for all he doesn’t want to go, he’s relieved that he won’t be screwing up people’s lives anymore.
I for one can not wait to find out how this story ends. Roll on next Saturday…
Posted by Jo the Hat