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The Common Criticisms of Closing Time

Guest contributor Arjun Kotecha thinks the 2011 Cyber-adventure deserves another look.

closing-time-art

On 12th Jun 2010, fans were treated to a brilliant episode in The Lodger. (Although the mood was ruined after terrible performance for England vs. USA in the World Cup later that day but I digress.). Gareth Roberts, who previously wrote The Unicorn and The Wasp and co-wrote Planet of the Dead was asked to write an episode as slot was originally meant to be for The Doctor’s Wife, but there wasn’t a big enough budget for series left. The episode showed us the best of Matt Smith as his performance highlighted the ‘alieness’ of the Doctor, which the previous two incarnations struggled to do. His chemistry with James Corden was immense and the comedic storyline did not compromise the plot. It did very well especially when it was a low budget episode. Most fans loved the character of Craig, and we wanted more. So they gave us more.

In early 2011, BBC announced that James Corden was returning to reprise his role as Craig. Soon after that, we found out that the Cybermen were to return fully in his episode, in their first episode since Christmas 2008 (Excluding a cameo in The Pandorica Opens). What was not to be excited about! Cybermen are my favourite aliens and I loved the character of Craig, so this was brilliant. I had the same feeling when it was announced that Neil Gaiman was writing a Cyberman story.

When the episode finally came (eughhhh hiatus), I received it well, although I did get annoyed at the lack of screen time the Cybermen got. Although I had to watch it a few more times to appreciate the brilliance of the story. The episode seems to get a lot of flack from the fanbase, so I’m going to address some of the common criticisms of the story.

“The Cybermen were defeated by love, it was too easy and it was a Deus Ex Machina”

doctor-who-closing-time-promo pics (7)Here’s my theory. As we have seen, in Rise of The Cybermen and The Next Doctor, the Cybermen have an emotional inhibitor, to prevent them feeling anything and realising what they are. This is so they don’t go mad, and as we have seen, when the Cybermen realise who they are, their heads tend to explode. So they remove emotion as it is deadly to them. Putting emotion into a Cyberman is like putting diesel into a petrol engine.

The Cybermen said:

“Begin conversion. Phase one. Cleanse the brain of emotions”

This meaning getting rid of the all the diesel before we start the engine. Now, when a mother, or even a father is looking after a child, the affection for that child causes them to release a chemical called Oxytocin. The sound of Alfie crying would have caused the release of the Oxytocin. It has also been reported that a mother can lift a car (slightly) to save her child, due to these chemicals: endocannabinoids and opiods which the brain releases to give strength during stress. These chemicals act as the diesel in the petrol engine. So that’s why the Cybermen were defeated validly, with no Deus ex Machina. Sorry for the science lesson.

“The Cybermen were not in it long enough.”

closing time next time sgrabs(11)That was my initial reaction, but watching it again made me realise that the story made more sense with the absence of Cybermen. The Cybermen were not strong enough to start conversion of the whole earth, so they had to plan and do it slowly. They needed a Cyber Controller, someone clever, who would lead them to victory, so they had to wait in the shadows and wait for someone clever to come to them. The other thing was that the main focus of the story was meant to be towards Craig and the Doctor’s last adventure before the Doctor died. It is hard to please everyone in 45 minutes.

“The Cybermen were not scary enough.”

closing time next time sgrabs(12)I thought they were terrifying in Rise of the Cybermen. And the conversion process looked something out of a horror film. These Cybermen are running on spare parts. They have to do an alternate conversion, and it must hurt. Having your body compressed in like that before your emotions are removed. Usual Cybermen just have the brain removed from the body and planted into a cyber unit. This was a full body conversion, just like the Dalek conversion of Oswin in Asylum of The Daleks. Everyone forgets that they converted four other people before that. That’s more than what they killed in Nightmare in Silver.

Also I think these broken Cybermen looked far scarier than the other Cybermen before. The directing by Steve Hughes was brilliant in my book and the shot before the opening credits was amazing. One thing that scares me in Doctor Who is when the Doctor is powerless. When they were converting Craig, and Alfie was crying, the Doctor was helpless. His facial expressions and the emotion in his voice showed when he said this was heartbreaking.

 “Alfie, I’m so sorry! Alfie, please, stop. I, I can’t help him.“

In reality, the idea of a parent and baby being separated indefinitely is horrific. The Cybermen are ignorant of the trauma of separating from a child, because it is in their nature to do whatever is necessary to survive and upgrade and they are emotionless. They are scarier than you think.

Conclusion

To summarise why I thought it was good. I’ll give you a list. Everyone likes a list:

  • Very funny. The Doctor and Craig were brilliant and it was funny how Val thought they were partners.
  • STORMAGEDDON WAS SO CUTE!
  • Matt Smith works wonderfully with children.
  • Decent ending as I’ve explained.
  • A nice lighthearted episode in a darker series.
  • Wonderful Directing.
  • CYBERMEN ARE BACK!

Well I hope I’ve inspired you to take an alternate angle on things. Please remember that this is my opinion. I can’t wait to hear your opinions in the comments. Hope my first article went well!

Step back in time...

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105 comments
4sure
4sure

wow. i just realised: every single series since Moffat came along (and this includes series 8) has a cyberman story in the penultimate episode. and yet no one ever seems to care.


gunslinger19
gunslinger19

honestly, for me, the worst thing about this episode was the bit at the end when those kids see the doctor and we hear "he looked so happy and so sad," "i really liked his hat", it makes me cringe i normally skip that bit. it makes no sense  as well, why would the children care about seeing a man and y would they be used as sources after seeing him once, when plenty of people actually know him? if a a child had said "i really liked Churchill's coat" would that documentation survive and be used by archeologists centuries later? no it wouldnt. i also dont like the 'power of love' ending. its not so much the cliche as much as it just felt boring and too easy for the cybermen. surely, theyre mist dangerous when vulnerable? apparently not. basically any parent couldve beaten them. but it does make sense to an extent i suppose. and the comedy was good and craig was fine. so not a total disaster.

Ollie Walton Harrod
Ollie Walton Harrod

Not very funny. The usual humour.

'Stormageddon' being cute is not a reason for the episode being good. The kittens were cuter, in 'Gridlock'.

Again, Matt Smith's treatment of children really isn't relevant to whether it's a good episode.

Decent ending. - I still disagree. The few cases of mother's supposedly lifting cars, are a bit different to a restrained parent unsealing a Cyberman suit, with no way to do so. The Cyberman head casing was sealed at the front - literally like a blow torch sealing. But that was just cracked open because of parental instinct (i.e. the release of the chemicals you listed).

Darker series? Matt Smith's entire run has been more lighthearted. With a few dark bits here and there.

Directing. - Just as good as any other episode. Good character relationship between the Doctor and Craig.

Cybermen being back - Yeah, but in a not very threatening way. And the Cybermats were brought back. In an, in no way threatening, way. They've gone from deadly to comical (like the small droids in Star Wars). I know you did just try and explain why they're threatening, but I still think not. Also, you could make any killing process, a Doctor Who alien uses, sound horrific, in theory. That doesn't mean it comes out scary on screen. The Abzorbaloff luring, then sucking the lives of Bliss and Bridget into himself, leaving them to be helplessly in/on his body, for their whole lives, until they just become a scar of a face; hardly sounds appealing. Only then to lure Mr. Skinner, by use of the one he was falling in love with, and to then take him. Later he tricks Ursula and you see the uncomfortable process, and how helpless they are. While Elton has to watch the one he loves get her life taken away. That, with their reactions, for me, was actually, more sad.

Also, I hated the Daleks full body conversion in 'Asylum of the Daleks'. The Dalek is a supposed, final, mutated evolution of a human looking being. What you see is it's "travel unit" (from 'Genesis of the Daleks'). In other words, you're looking at a Daleks personal tank. Oviously, a lot of what is in Doctor Who, isn't real, but you can't infect a creature with something that will make it grow a tank out of itself, as well as a human creature inside that.

KingOrokos
KingOrokos

My problem with Closing Time isn't that the Cybermen were defeated with love, which seems to be the most common criticism of this story - a precedent was set for that in Rise of the Cybermen/The Age of Steel and in The Next Doctor, both of which end with the Cybermen being unravelled by emotion. In fact, I think it's fitting for an enemy whose modus operandi is to remove all emotion from other life forms - to 'upgrade' them into supposedly superior beings - to be defeated by the very thing they are trying to eradicate. It demonstrates the power of emotion, of 'love', over brute force and detached intellect, which in my opinion is very appropriate thematically for Doctor Who.


My real problem with this story is the pacing. Roberts tries to recreate that whimsical, buddy-movie atmosphere that worked so well in The Lodger, but the story here just doesn't accomodate that sort of tone in the same way. In The Lodger, the source of the conflict, the 'A-plot', was a mysterious entity in the flat upstairs; it was intruiging and certainly malevolent, but not immediately threatening. The Doctor was investigating it without actually confronting it, and that gave that side of the story a slow, almost relaxed pace that allowed tension to build gradually over the course of the episode; as a result of this, the story had plenty of breathing room to devote to its 'B-plot', the Doctor's interference with Craig and Sophie's budding relationship. In Closing Time, though, the threat should be much more immediate - the Cybermen have been established as one of the Doctor's most dangerous enemies, one of the most serious threats he has ever dealt with. To have them instead inhabit a story with the same relaxed pace and humorous attitude as that of The Lodger hugely diminishes their credibility as real foes. If Roberts wanted a story with the same 'feel' as The Lodger, then he should have avoided using such a 'serious' enemy; on the flipside, if he wanted to write a Cybermen story that really did them justice as villains, he should have adopted a less whimsical tone than he did in his previous outing. 

All this doesn't mean I didn't enjoy the story; I thought it was very entertaining, and the Doctor's monologue concerning his looming death was excellently performed by Smith. I just don't think the Cybermen were a good fit for the style of episode Roberts was trying to write, and they were mishandled and underused as a result.

DavidSJH
DavidSJH

I genuinely love this episode - I perhaps think they could have come up with a different monster instead of making the cybermen even more tame but otherwise a great episode!

MarlonJBonnici
MarlonJBonnici

Awful episode and I can give you just one name as to explain my feelings why.

James Corden.

EdWhovian
EdWhovian

CLosing Time- one of my all time favourites

YaelMoise waits for the trees to take over
YaelMoise waits for the trees to take over

Actually, my only issue with Closing Time is the scene where the Doctor turns Stormy's night light into a holographic projector at the flick of a screwdriver. 

The sonic screwdriver isn't a wand, people. He shouldn't be able to do that. 


I actually like Closing Time... except for that. 

Oh, and the scene at the end with the kids. I mean, how exactly did River get the pictures of the kids exactly as the Doctor saw them? Wouldn't it have made more sense to use the kid's headshots or something instead?

TheSoundofDrums
TheSoundofDrums

Great article in defending your opinions on this middle-grounded episode within the fandom. I for one thought your science lesson on the chemicals expelled from children towards their parents was interesting and did make the scene have more sense. I've never been one to fully criticise the scene (though I do find it a little cringe worthy to say the least) but say your article has given it more credit and legit meaning towards the Cybermen's defeat. But overall in my opinion I found that the two elements of Closing Time, i.e. Craig and the Cybermen, didn't go hand in hand. I found that the Cybermen were thrown in for the sake of it and weren't given a very good story. I always found that the scenes they did appear in were great but there was still too little of them. The story, as you well pointed out, was about the Doctor's last adventure before his death. The focus should've been on that completely with a minor enemy thrown in instead of misusing the Cybermen. Or the Cybermen should've been a bigger focus and the light-hearted nature through Craig's involvement should've been cut back or simply dropped in favour of a good Cyberman plot which could've worked well through the small ideas we saw. But that's just my opinion on Closing Time. Anyhow great article. I like when fans try to justify episodes that might seem fully appreciated within the fandom.

Mercy Reborn2
Mercy Reborn2

I liked Closing Time maybe it had a few faults but I thought it was ok and I loved little alfie

Liana21
Liana21

I love this episode, Matt and James should have their one sitcom one day in the future, they're lovely together.

I like the ending, it's a great message: There's no more powerful force in the Universe than the love of a parent for its child. And it's not a bad way to kill a Cyberman if you think of it, kill a feelingless creature with a powerful feeling.

StephenAHayes
StephenAHayes

It would make more sense if they Cyberman where Autons.

nparker
nparker

Closing Time was and is one of my favourite episodes ever! I really cannot understand people's criticism of it (but I accept their opinions because art is subjective). The cybermen were not the main part, they were more of a catalyst for the main focus- the Doctor trying to enjoy his last trip with a good friend. That was the point of the episode!

Seaborn W Deadman
Seaborn W Deadman

This episode basically gave what it said on the tin...it was cute, it was funny, it had lots of amusing interactions between The Doctor and Craig. Personally, I really like it. Don't we all love a lighter, sillier episode every once in a while to give us a little break from the heavier fare? As far as I see it this episode wasn't really supposed to be about the Cybermen, they just happened to be the villains. It was mainly about the Doctor and Craig, and of course the Doctor's impending doom. That's what it delivered. I see no problems here :)

allons_ywibblywobbly
allons_ywibblywobbly

I really like this episode. And I don't like Cybermen in general, but this was a funny episode. You people take everything so seriously :)) Craig and the Doctor were brilliant together. Stormageddon was indeed cute and Matt is really a fantastic comedy actor! 

Malohkeh
Malohkeh

On another note, "deus-ex machina" is an extremely lazy criticism.

Castrovalva
Castrovalva

okay, rewatched it.  Bits still make my toes curl with embarrassment, but the scene with Matt and the baby is exquisite.

Malohkeh
Malohkeh

I feel pretty mixed about this episode. It's got some of my favorite bits, but they're linked by a rather childish and half-baked story with some particularly cringe-worthy moments. Gareth Roberts is one of my favorite Doctor Who writers, but I don't particularly care for this offering.

MrRazza is wittily changing his name for each week
MrRazza is wittily changing his name for each week

I have quite a soft spot for this episode. For me the relative lack of Cybermen appearances is not so much a bad thing (though they could perhaps have been replaced with a different monster, they feel a little pointless), my favourite side is the humour around the Doctor's role in the shop and the interaction between him and the other characters.


For me the only real downside is that solution. And it's not really that it's a deus ex machina, I just don't really like the idea of the power of sentimentality being used too much. It feels cheesy. I suppose there's just still a little boy in me who just wants to see guns and fire and explosions... Overall though, it's just the case that this episode isn't intended to be a blockbuster. It isn't designed to shock or amaze, it's not meant to be full of revelations and developments, but it certainly isn't filler. It shows us just who the Doctor is, the positive impact he has on people's lives, and to build up on that emotional and touching side of Doctor Who to juxtapose with and really bring home the impact of the Doctor's apparent demise. 

Galax
Galax

“The Cybermen were defeated by love, it was too easy and it was a Deus Ex Machina” No, its not a DEM, no. It's not inconsistent. It makes sense. But it's still a really lazy solution as it is the SAME as before... Seriously, before Neil Gaiman, the Cybermen in the NuWho had always been defeated by making tgem realize who they were and/or implementing emotions in their brain. Boring. 

“The Cybermen were not in it long enough.” Cybermen in NIS are also in reconstruction and it is still the main focus... I mean, they WERE not in it long enough. Perhaps it was a good choice, still, the focus are once again on Craig & the Doctor. But this time I feel it didn't really work. There were good things to do with the Doctor knowing he will die the day after, but all we get is some lines from the Doctor that Craig never heard... “The Cybermen were not scary enough.” Ah, you take for exemple people they kill/convert. That's not a good thing. One person (Oswin) = Daleks scary. Thousands of people (Daleks in Manhattan) = Daleks not scary... ? Conclusion : there's no need to kill to be scary. There is also the directing, the sense of threat in the script... And there were actually scary pictures in NIS and some REALLY dark concepts in the two-parter from Series 2. What for Closing Time ? They are trapped, we don't really see them, when they can get the Doctor they leave him... 

Don't get me wrong, I pretty like this story... I mean, 5, maybe 6/10 ? The first part is great but... the Cybermen weren't well used and the ending was a huge let down. Basically :

"IM GOING TO SAVE YOU WITH MY MOUSE"

*crushing* 

"**** !" 

"You have failed !" 

"Ok but Craig you're going to die but me too !" God that line was selfish... An overall it was just ridiculous.












sontaran17
sontaran17

I completely, utterly and sensationally agree! Nice Job Arjun!

The Mind Probe
The Mind Probe

The story itself is sweet, but my main issue is it didn't have to be the Cybermen at all… it could have been any other monster (preferably a new one), as it didn't add anything to the Cybermen, and instead made them come across as weak.

MaddyKika
MaddyKika


I like Closing Time, but mostly because of Craig. His interaction with the Doctor is great!

Deus_Ex_Machina
Deus_Ex_Machina

Great article, you had some brilliant points. I've never been a huge fan of this episode, but I think I like it more than the vast majority of fans. Interestingly, it's the only episode to date that features River Song that wasn't written by Moffat.

Ollie Walton Harrod
Ollie Walton Harrod

@4sure Firstly, freaking SPOILERS!!!!!!!!!!!!! Some people haven't seen the last episode yet.

And secondly, I don't see why this should necessarily bother people.

KingOrokos
KingOrokos

@gunslinger19 Well, I think the reason River was using those children's stories as sources was because that was the last time, that she knew of, that anybody ever saw the Doctor prior to his 'death' at Silencio Lake (in terms of his personal chronology, not subjective time). But I do think that the whole scene with River at the end felt tacked on, and would have worked better as part of the beginning of The Wedding of River Song.

tealeaves
tealeaves

I don't think you can condemn the episode's ending as being implausible in terms of cyberman science as we don't really have any manual for how that works. We don't know how much power a cyber leader with human emotions would have to override their suit. We know that the leader of torchwood in Doomsday was able to maintain at least part of her identity inside her suit enough to attack other cybermen. We know that miss hartigan was able to override a whole army of cybermen why should craig not be able to use his powers as cyber leader to break out of a suit.

Also on the asylum of the Daleks thing. Nano genes, whilst hardly accurate science are based on real science. Although we talk about them 'infecting' what they really are is tiny robots that essentially re-engineer you from the inside out. Not infecting you as such.

Matt Smith is good with children was clearly a reference to his on screen presence with children not that he's just nice! He does act well against young cast members eg. Teh, acc, tdtwatw etc etc.

InspectorTimespace
InspectorTimespace

@Ollie Walton Harrod

"Matt Smith's entire run has been more lighthearted. With a few dark bits here and there."

Yeah, with the entire universe trying to kill The Doctor every few episodes, the occasional reckless act of genocide, the horrific spectre of death constantly looming over every companion. It's been a real barrel of laughs.


parrot999
parrot999

I can understand that sentament, but if you go back to the 2nd Doctor serial, The Invasion, the cybermen took a good amount of time hiding in the shadows before actually putting their plan into action... That was with a fleet. Here, we have a much smaller group of cybermen that are lacking a lot of necessary resources, so it fits the cybermen rather well, to be working behind the scenes...

I just wish they'd kept the fact that the cybermen were the threat from us 'till the end. If they hadn't almost immediately let the audience know what the doctor was dealing with, it would have really worked.

PaddyB
PaddyB

@YaelMoise Knowing the Doctor he probably would have adapted the projector earlier  and then turned on this setting with a flick of his screwdriver to give the illusion of being 'magic'.

Liana21
Liana21

I don't care how he use the sonic, that scene is absolutely precious and makes sound my biological clock louder than the Cloister Bell. Matt is lovely wih kidsand I want him fathering mine

EdWhovian
EdWhovian

Lol. I thought that was awesome!

Seaborn W Deadman
Seaborn W Deadman

Agreed, look at Wizard of Oz, one of the most popular films of all time...also one of the biggest deus ex machina endings of all time. Glinda literally pops in at the end and fixes the problem in a poof. And yet nobody seems to nitpick about this, everybody loves Wizard of Oz.

Whogasms
Whogasms

Thank you! But River Songs bit was written by Moffat

Amy is uniting the Earth Kingdom!
Amy is uniting the Earth Kingdom!

... which, ironically, would fail, because said parents would presumably not already be half-converted and therefore linked to the Cybermen's systems.