The Common Criticisms of Closing Time

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


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.


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.
  • Matt Smith works wonderfully with children.
  • Decent ending as I’ve explained.
  • A nice lighthearted episode in a darker series.
  • Wonderful Directing.

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!