Closing Time Review
Clint Hassell reviews Closing Time, the 12th episode of Doctor Who Series 6.
After two episodes of tension and heartbreak – and before what is sure to be an emotional, dramatic finale – Doctor Who gives us a breather. “Closing Time” was definitely played for laughs. Comedy is one of Matt Smith’s strengths and his episodes are written to feature a more comical Doctor. From Alfie – er, “Stormageddon, Dark Lord of All” – referring to everyone as “Mum,” “Not Mum,” or “Peasants,” to the Doctor’s oblique K-9 reference (“Yappy, the robot dog – not as much fun as I remember.”), to Craig screaming, “Metal rat! Real mouth! Metal rat! Real mouth!” at “Bitey” the Cybermat, this episode had some genuinely funny moments. I’m predicting now that we’ll see the Doctor “Shhh!” someone in the first half of Series 7, if not by the time we revisit Craig. The fact that Alfie had such a strong “personality” is a testament to both the writers and to Matt, who voiced Alfie’s running commentary.
Despite the humor, the true focus of “Closing Time” is the Doctor’s relationship to his companions. I was so happy to see writer Gareth Roberts (whose scripts I almost universally adore) continue the analysis started in “The God Complex.” Craig believes that the safest place to be during an alien threat is by the Doctor’s side. While this again references the theme of blind faith in a Doctor that “always wins,” it stands in contrast to the recent discussion that the Doctor turns his companions into weapons or, even worse, allows his bravado to endanger others. “Because of me, you and Alfie nearly died. Do you still feel safe with me, Craig?” the Doctor asks, before admitting, “I’m a stupid, selfish man. Always have been . . . . I put people in danger.” I appreciated that this discussion recalled two previous companions: Craig’s comment, “He always needs someone, he just can’t admit it,” is very similar to Donna’s closing remark in “The Runaway Bride,” and the Doctor’s off-handed, “See, I do come back,” demonstrated that he is still thinking of Amy, even after 200 years. (Which, does this now make the Doctor the one “who waited”?)
Speaking of Amy, I was completely surprised when, just as the Doctor said, “It’s a coincidence. It happens. It’s what the Universe does for fun,” he almost ran into previous companions, Amy and Rory. I still get chills when the Doctor erases Donna’s mind at the conclusion of “Journey’s End,” it still pains me to see Ianto ugly-cry in “Cyberwoman,” and the epilogue of “Vincent and the Doctor” still puts a lump in my throat – but I have only actually cried twice, while watching Doctor Who. The first time was when Rose was abandoned at Bad Wolf Bay, at the end of “Doomsday”; seeing Amy and Rory again was the second. God, I am so attached to the two of them. “Petrichor. For the girl who’s tired of waiting” – this little in-joke was brilliant, and maybe my favorite ever.
The barely-noticeable teleport effect in the shop’s elevator was so wicked cool, I gasped. I mean, you know it’s coming, but it’s so cleverly done that it’s believable that Craig missed it. Definitely one of my favorite Who effects ever.
“Closing Time” is funny, continues a series-long examination of the Doctor/companion relationship, and contains two of my favorite Doctor Who moments ever. So, why don’t I love it more? Perhaps because this episode felt like a sequel, and sequels are rarely as good as the original. Surely, I’m not the only one who wanted to see more of Sophie. Also, having the Doctor on a sight-seeing trip, revisiting old friends as he runs from his foretold death, recalls the final days of the Tenth Doctor. While I think the concept is terrific – this theoretically increases the tension going into the finale – the execution felt like a rehash to me. Perhaps it is still too soon to be making such close parallels between Eleven and Ten?
It’s fatuous that the sonic screwdriver turned a normal, incandescent light bulb into a hologram projector, and it really bothers me that the screwdriver has a laser-shooting setting. Carrying a weapon of lethal force is very out of character for this Doctor, and the concept is especially ridiculous considering there have been many times previous that the Doctor would have used a laser weapon, if he had one available to him. And how, after a metal Cyber-mask welded itself around his face, the sound of buzzsaws ominously whirring, did Craig escape with not a mark on him?
While it is always nice to see a classic Who villain, I felt that the appearance of the Cybermen was a mistake. So many interesting plot revelations occurred (The Mondas Cybermen are on Earth! How long have they been here?), yet, because the episode’s focus was on the character dynamics, what could have been an epic story (The Cybermen invade! The massive Cybership serves as their base!), became crushed into an afterthought of a denouement (“The Cybermen. I blew them up with love.” Please God, Retcon that from my brain!). Moffat is now wary of stories involving the Daleks because their overuse in recent series has left them defeated a few times too many to seem a truly terrifying threat. This episode accomplished the exact same thing for the similarly-iconic Cybermen. As a compromise, if a classic Who villain was desired, I think the Autons could have served an equivalent function. Regardless, just once, I’d like to see the Cybermen defeated in a way that does not involve overriding their emotional inhibitors. (Random question: Have we ever before seen the Cybermen rejecting the Doctor due to his binary vasculature? Is this a plot point from a classic episode of which I am not aware?)
As for the last scene, I love the little touch of River forgetting the Silence the moment she turns to face Kovarian. It was cool to see the effect in real time, after all of the atmospheric jump cuts in “The Impossible Astronaut”/“Day of the Moon.” Also, I find it interesting that, after years of the Doctor saving the world without anyone’s knowledge – a key theme of the Series 3 finale and “The Death of the Doctor,” and mentioned as justification for stealing clothes in “The Eleventh Hour” – it is the Doctor’s out-of-character, self-congratulatory remark (“I’m the Doctor. I was here to help. And you are very, very welcome.”) from which River (and by extension, Kovarian) is able to deduce the date of the Doctor’s death, thus sealing his fate.