Episode Title: "Closing Time"
Writer: Gareth Roberts
Director: Steve Hughes
Previously on "Doctor Who":
The Doctor (Matt Smith) and his companions, Amy Pond (Karen Gillan) and Rory Williams (Arthur Darvill) were trapped in an alien prison that nearly cost Amy her life. Finally coming to terms with the fact that he would eventually get the people he loved killed, the Doctor dropped off Amy and Rory at their new home "to save their lives" and he left them behind. The Doctor was also fully aware of his impending death at the hands of the Impossible Astronaut; a fate which he seemed unable to change.
Craig Owens (James Corden) wishes his girlfriend, Sophie (Daisy Haggard) goodbye for the weekend as he assures her that he can handle being alone. As soon as she is gone, the Doctor shows up unexpectedly to visit Craig and he can barely tell that Craig has moved to a new home since the last time he saw him. The Doctor is seemingly on a farewell tour, but he notices something strange about the house… as if Craig isn't alone. The Doctor races upstairs and discovers the other lodger: Craig's baby, Alfie. As the electricity in the home flickers on and off, the Doctor tries to ignore the signs and leaves. But outside of his TARDIS, the Doctor decides to save humanity one last time.
The next day, Craig brings Alfie to a new department store and discovers that the Doctor is working in the toy department. At first the Doctor denies that anything is wrong, but he eventually relents and tells Craig that a number of disappearances near the store have convinced him that something strange is going on. Craig insists upon helping the Doctor and he says that the safest place he and his baby could be is at the Doctor's side. The Doctor leads Craig into a "broken" elevator that activates a teleporter, bringing them both inside a Cyberman ship.
To keep Craig from panicking or from noticing the ship, the Doctor makes an awkward pass and kiss attempt before Craig starts screaming. The Doctor reverses the teleporter and gets them back to the department store. As Craig leaves, the Doctor spots Amy and Rory in the store as a young girl stops Amy and asks for her autograph. The Doctor steps out of their view and he notices that Amy's face is used to promote a perfume called "Petrichor: 'For the girl who's tired of waiting.'" Later, the Doctor enlists Craig for his help in snooping around the department store for a "silver rat;" which the Doctor believes is connected to the Cybermen.
However, Craig's attempt to strike up a conversation with a woman in the shop almost gets him thrown out for harassment, The Doctor helpfully gets him out of trouble and he catches the rat, which the Doctor calls a Cybermat. The Doctor deactivates the Cybermat and takes it back with Craig to his home. Although the device is dormant, it springs to life and pursues the Doctor and Alfie when Craig steps out. When Craig returns, the Cybermat attacks him as well until the Doctor is finally able to shut it down and reprogram it to find the Cybermen. As an exhausted Craig holds his baby, the Doctor confesses that tomorrow is the day that he dies. But Craig passes out before he hears the Doctor complete his thought.
When Craig awakens the next morning, he finds a note from the Doctor that says he has gone to stop the Cybermen alone. Craig arrives just in time to find the Doctor being held prisoner by the Cybermen, but he is quickly captured and the reprogramming Cybermat is destroyed, leaving them without any hope of escape. The malfunctioning Cybermen assume that Craig is intelligent enough to be made into their new Cyberleader, so they begin the Cyber-conversion process. However, when Craig hears the cries of his child, he is able to resist the erasure of his emotions, sending an emotional feedback that destroys the Cybernen in the process.
Before he leaves, the Doctor cleans Craig's home to keep him from getting in trouble with his girlfriend. Craig also gives the Doctor a Stetson hat as he bids him farewell. Sophie returns and Craig tells her that nothing happened while she was away. But when the baby's first word is "doctor," the jig is up. Outside, the Doctor speaks to some children before departing in his TARDIS. Far into the future, River Song (Alex Kingston) goes over the eyewitness accounts of the children, who are among the last to see the Doctor alive. River is then confronted by Madame Kovarian (Frances Barber) and the Silence, who encase her in the suit of the Impossible Astronaut.
As River sleeps beneath Lake Silencio; she awaits the order to emerge and murder the Doctor… as it was in the past and as it always shall be.
For the penultimate episode of the season, I wasn't expecting a story like the one we got in "Closing Time." But for the most part, it hit the right notes and effectively set up next week's season finale.
If his return hadn't been spoiled by the trailers, it would have been a surprise to see James Corden's Craig again. If the Doctor was going on a farewell tour, Craig probably isn't as high on his list of loved ones as Amy and Rory. But their wordless cameo spoke volumes about how the Doctor feels about them. If he had even said hello to Amy or Rory, they would have jumped into the latest danger without hesitation. And he just doesn't want to do that to them anymore.
The Doctor's relationship with Craig is different. It's not that the Doctor wants to put Craig or the baby in danger, but he's not as close to them emotionally. The Doctor had some fun scenes playing opposite the baby, but that is all Matt Smith and his manic energy. It's never entirely clear if the Doctor really can speak "baby" or if that's just one of his favorite ways of dealing with infants.
For Craig, this episode firmly established him as one of the Doctor's companions… or partners, or whatever you want to call it. Even though Craig never actually got in the TARDIS, surviving two adventures with the Doctor has to count for something. Corden's presence on the show changes the entire dynamic. This episode and his previous appearance in "The Lodger" played more like a sitcom version of "Doctor Who." It was still good, just a little different.
There was a moment where it looked like Craig was going to be turned into a Cyberman, and that would have been an incredibly dark direction for the story. If you think that the Doctor carries a lot of guilt around now, imagine what he'd be like if that happened. It added a good sense of jeopardy for the script, even if the Cybermen never really lived up to their potential this week.
River's sequence at the end of the episode seemed a little shoehorned into the story, but it was still a compelling to see River face-to-face with Madame Kovarian for the first time since her birth. I can't remember the last time that River was so helpless in an episode; which made the reappearance of the Impossible Astronaut suit chilling. I think the majority of the audience had guessed that River was going to be inside the suit, but it didn't lessen the impact of the moment.
The big mystery now is how the Doctor is going to get out of this one. So, share your theories on what's going to happen in the comment section below!
Crave Online Rating: 8 out of 10.