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The Upstairs That Never Was

June 13, 2010

The latest Doctor Who episode, The Lodger, was nice. It wasn’t brilliant, neither was it awful, but it was nice. A more emotional, closer to home sort of episode that played out with more ‘awww’ than ‘wow’, but which nonetheless was fairly well put together.

This kind of stand alone episode is fairly safe because it’s unlikely to cause any great controversy or incite that much sustained criticism. This kind of episode can be a good opportunity for aspiring Doctor Who writers, or drama writers in general, to get their foot into the Whoniverse/TV drama door, and if their episodes are well received then they may be invited back, and then who knows. The possibilities, they say, are endless. However the flipside of this is that we may be treated to episodes which, though not really ‘bad’, are unlikely to stick in the viewers’ memories for very long. The risk with the stand-alone episodes is that if they are too independent and self-contained, and don’t pack enough punch to give them very much staying power, then they can easily be forgotten. We all have those episodes that we’ll happily watch over and over again (my favourite stand-alone episode is still The Girl in the Fireplace and whenever that’s on I’ll happily sit through it), but though I enjoyed The Lodger I don’t think it’ll make it onto my re-watch list.

However as I said I did enjoy it. I particularly liked James Cordon’s performance, which was understated and professional and shows that he’s more than just Smithy from Gavin & Stacey (remember that James Cordon had a stint in the very famous British play The History Boys, as did Matt Smith in fact). Though I’m a fan of Gavin & Stacey I do appreciate that Cordon isn’t everyone’s cup of tea as he’s often seen being quite silly and over the top, even when he’s not being Smithy. However, his more serious performance in Doctor Who here was solid and very convincing and shows that he can portray more than just bubbly enthusiasm, so very well done to him. I also thought Matt Smith’s performance was very enjoyable, especially the bits where he was trying to be normal and blend in (the Doctor playing football? How very topical).

The conclusion of the episode was clever in some ways but less so in others. The fact that the desire to leave was necessary before the cloaked spaceship considered a person to be compatible did fit in with story of Craig and Sophie, and it brought their sexual tension to the forefront of the plot right at the episode’s climax, but even so the whole “just kiss the girl!” thing still seemed somewhat shoehorned in. This is a shame because when you look back on it it does all fit together and make sense (how their romance has developed, how it’s relevant to the ship’s programming etc.), but on the first watch this plot cohesion was never going to be as apparent as the fact that Craig and Sophie kissing saved the world, and frankly whatever way you spin that it’s always going to sound a bit rubbish. However this was somewhat made up for by 2 things. Firstly the farewells between Craig, Sophie and the Doctor were very enjoyable (everyone loves a happy ending after all), and secondly we’ve finally seen something to do with Rory have an impact on Amy, and of course on the Crack. Next week’s trailer looks very interesting (good to see River back for it as well) and I can’t ruddy wait to see who or what is in the Pandorica (hope it’s not Davros though, that’d be a bit of a let-down).

Best bits:

  • The head-banging the Doctor used to let Craig know what was going on.
  • Sophie’s keys, especially when Craig and the Doctor see them in the door before they go upstairs.
  • There is no upstairs, it’s a one-story building!
  • The time disruptions, especially the one in the park when everyone keeps repeating apart from the Doctor. Very well filmed.
  • Why won’t you LAND!?
  • Amy finding the ring case, and the Crack getting bigger.
  • The Doctor’s intrusion into Craig’s romantic evening – excellent British cringeworthiness. The Doctor’s conversation with Sophie here was good too.
  • Can I put you on hold, I’m about to eat a biscuit.

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