Tick Tock Goes the Clock…
What with Craig’s affable character and a focus on clever dialogue and emotional development, Closing Time was never going to be an epic climax of the sort that many of us will be expecting for next week’s finale, but what it lacked in punchy effects and drama it made up for in warmth, humour and a resolution that harked back to Doctor Who’s simpler, child friendly roots. Sometimes you can blow them up with love, and that’s ok, because the smooth segway into that absolute corker of a cliff-hanger will keep the rumour mills working overtime until next Saturday’s finale. Speaking of which, let’s get on with things shall we…
James Cordon’s return to Doctor Who is something that I’ve been looking forward to for a while. I’m a big fan of James Cordon and I really enjoyed his performance last time he was in Doctor Who. This time round he was just as fun to watch, particularly in his dialogue with Matt Smith. All of the “I speak baby” bits were great, especially ‘Stormageddon’, but I think the stand-out line for me was when the Doctor looks at Craig like he’s an idiot for calling the Cybermat a rat and Craig retorts sulkily with “Alright don’t have a go at me just because I don’t know the names!” Given all the good bickering they did it’s hardly surprising that the shop assistant thought Craig and the Doctor were a couple! One particular thing I liked about having Craig back was that he filled the familiarity gap left by Amy and Rory’s departure last week. Craig provided a lot of the emotional core that the episode could otherwise have been lacking if the companion for the episode had been somebody totally new. Instead, because Craig was already familiar with the Doctor this meant the Doctor could be a bit self-deprecating and depressed – for example “because of me you and Alfie nearly died”, reminiscent of last week when he dropped off Amy and Rory – at which point it was up to Craig to bring the Doctor back to his senses and remind him why he does what he does, and why we humans are his favourite companions. It also meant that Craig could tell the Doctor “you always win, you always survive“, which roughly translates as ‘stop moping and get on with saving the day you muppet.’ Which he did, as usual, with a little help from his friends.
But what was really strange here was seeing the Doctor not wanting to help. This wasn’t like in The Fires of Pompeii where he knew he couldn’t help because it was a fixed point in time, or in The Girl Who Waited when he knew that having two Amys in the TARDIS would be impossible. This was different. He knew he could help, but he didn’t want to. He didn’t want to get involved because he’d done it too many times before. He was too tired. He was giving up. “I am through saving them. I am going away now.” Hearing the Doctor say that was a shock, because it shows that even now he doesn’t have a plan to avoid or postpone his imminent death – his full, final, proper death, not just a regeneration like in The End of Time – and this has made him defeatist. This is why I loved Craig being back. Apart from possibly Donna (pre-memory wipe), I can’t think of another Doctor Who character who could have pulled the Doctor out of this depressed state so enjoyably or convincingly without it seemingly overly sentimental or cliché’d. When he left in the TARDIS at the end of Closing Time he was going to his death, but he was no longer a shadow of the Time Lord he’d been in life. He was the Doctor, and he’s not done yet.
Much of the rest of what I liked about this episode comprises of my favourite lines, mostly involving baby talk, so rather than bore you with them now I’ve popped them into the Best Bits at the end. In the meantime though I need to talk about some of the bits I didn’t like about this episode. The first is the scene where George the security guard walked past where the Doctor, Craig and Alfie were hiding (I use the term loosely) and managed not to see them despite them not exactly being subtle or quiet. This bit rather annoyed me because George would definitely have seen or heard them! This was just the result of sloppy shooting – it wouldn’t have taken more than a few minutes to correct it – and when it’s primetime BBC you shouldn’t have sloppy bits like that getting through to the final edit. Happily this is the only example of such sloppiness that I can think of right now so I’ll excuse it. What I’m finding it harder to excuse is the Cybermen. The costumes used for the Cybermen here are clearly the same ones used for the parallel universe Cybermen back in Series 2. With no explanation of why parallel universe Cybermen are still be hanging around either here, when they appeared in The Pandorica Opens or when Rory spoke to them in A Good Man Goes To War, we’re left to assume that whatever Cybermen are left in this universe have randomly remodeled themselves along the Cybus Industries lines. We have to assume that they’re from this universe too, because one of them says “You know us. You are the Doctor” and they wouldn’t know who he is if they were from another universe. I fear that this discrepancy is being conveniently glossed over in favour of savings in the costumes budget.
My other nit-picking point is about Amy and Rory. If I’m honest I actually really liked seeing them together, happy and getting on with their lives post-Doctor. However, as was pointed out to me over the dumbbells by @Legs502 (fellow Doctor Who geek and my gym buddy), there are date issues here. The newspaper that we saw in Closing Time was dated in April, the day before the Doctor’s death (i.e. the day before the first episode of the series was aired). If this is the case then the Doctor’s gone back in time to see Craig, and if this is the case then which Amy and Rory are we seeing? Is it the Amy and Rory from before the current series – which I doubt because if so they’ve got less than 24 hours to get all the way from that shop to Utah on an American school bus – or is it the Amy and Rory that the Doctor dropped off last time – in which case he dropped them off before they left, meaning that two Amys and two Rorys were living on Earth at the same time without one lot running into the other lot, which would be tricky if one of the Amys is a model. And there’s another issue: the poster with Amy’s face on. Has she managed to sort a modeling contract already since being dropped off, was she modeling before they left to go to America, or has she always been a model as well as a kiss-o-gram and this is the first we’re hearing about it? This is less of an issue because at least some of the possibilities here do make sense, but the dates are still a bit of a discrepancy. Either that or there’s something strange going on here that’s significant and just hasn’t been explained yet, but then that’s what people thought about Rory’s name badge way back in The Eleventh Hour (the one with the issue or expiry date that was several years old) and that doesn’t seem to have come to anything yet either. It pains me to say so but maybe the Doctor Who continuity department isn’t quite as attentive as we’d thought.
As I said in the intro I rather liked the way the end of the episode transitioned, via the three child witnesses, from the Doctor leaving in the TARDIS to River investigating him in her library. There were a few retrospective nods before this moment of course, with the envelopes the Doctor took from Craig’s fridge and the stetson hat that Craig gave him as a parting gift. These seemed to be tying the ending of this episode back into the start of the series. By filling in the gaps of where the envelopes and the hat came from Moffat’s making the series more circular, and the Doctor’s death closer and more inescapable. Of course this is amplified a millionfold when we see that it was in fact River who was the Impossible Astronaut. Now, thanks to the information we’ve gathered throughout the series, we that River killed the Doctor, we know who set her up to do it, and now we know how they set her up to do it. I thought this was a brilliant use of the Silence monsters too. If you think about, this cliffhanger means the ending of Let’s Kill Hitler makes more sense. I said at the time that the ending for that was a bit too neat with Melody becoming River and no longer wanting to kill the Doctor. The Silence (the religious movement) wouldn’t have let her just walk off and start a new life so easily. Now we see it’s all part of a wider plan; let her have a pop at the Doctor in Berlin but no matter if she fails to kill him because then she spends lots of time researching his timeline and all they have to do is watch her – unobserved because their monsters are unremembered – let her find the established point of his death and then show up and make that death happen (“this is where it begins”). Maybe this is why there was a lone Silence monster by the lake in 2011 as well; to keep an eye on River. Or possibly it’s so she can keep her eyes on it, meaning that she kills the Doctor but doesn’t remember doing it, which would explain why the later River who’s watching the Doctor being shot doesn’t remember that she’s in the spacesuit.
Of course this assumes that it is River in the spacesuit, and even though we’ve seen her standing in it under the water I still say never assume anything when it comes to a Moffat storyline. After all, in the 60s the person in the suit isn’t River, it’s (presumably) Melody instead. How does that tie in? And how did Melody get from being a baby at Demon’s Run to a child in America in the 1960s, to another child in England so she could grow up with Amy and Rory and eventually regenerate into River Song in Berlin in the 1940s? Even before she becomes River Song she’s got a hell of a timeline!
The thing is though, despite all of the above with the ‘how’s and the ‘when’s and the ‘who’s, we still don’t really know why. What “endless, bitter war” was eyepatch lady talking about? What is this question that’s never been asked? Why do they want him dead and why are they risking so much to make it happen? As the Doctor put it, “I’d like to know why I have to die.” One theory that I came up with (but quickly dismissed because I was thinking on the wrong scale) was that the Silence were bitter because the Doctor had effectively ordered the human race to kill off all of the Silence monsters on earth. This happened in the 1960s, so by 2011 they would have had enough time to get annoyed about this and plot some fairly intricate revenge, resulting in the Doctor’s death in 2011 and him then traveling back to the 1960s to start the whole cycle off again. I quite liked this one because of the causal loop conundrum it presented, but as I said it doesn’t fit the scale. The Silence are a religious movement who are all over the universe, and who presumably are capable of time travel, so being annoyed because some of their monsters got killed is probably not just cause for a full scale war against the Doctor.
Sadly, aside from this non-theory I don’t really have much more to offer, conspiracy-wise. I’m sure if you want to go looking you’ll find plenty of it on the intertubes – why not start at the h2g2 Doctor Who thread where I normally go to see what’s being said about all things Who (it’s a long conversation thread so best to skip to the end and work backwards from there) – and if you’re the sort who just can’t wait for next Saturday then there’s the prequel to Saturday’s episode on the BBC website at the moment. The title of the finale episode is an interesting one too, but I’ll leave you to check that for yourself. Spoilers, etc.
Before we get onto my best bits though I will just point out two things. Firstly, has anyone else noticed that the Doctor’s been changing his coat? In Let’s Kill Hitler he was wearing a longer coat at the start, but in Night Terrors he was back to his old tweet jacket, and for Closing Time he was wearing the longer coat again. After the red bow-tie/blue bow-tie theory last series I’m just wondering if the coat has any significance here as well. Personally I suspect not, but I also pooh-pooh’d the bow-tie theory and that turned out to be right on the money. Secondly, we still haven’t found out what happened at the end of the last series. We got our happy ending and the universe got rebooted, but we never found out why the TARDIS basically went mental and blew everything up. The Doctor even said at the end of The Big Bang that he didn’t know what had happened there but that he’d like to look into it, and yet there’s been no mention since. I’m adding that to my list of unexplained things, next to Rory’s Badge and the Wrong Cybermen. I’m hoping that at least one of these three things gets explained on Saturday, but if I’m honest I’m not very hopeful that that’ll be the case.
- “And I do know you can cope on your own, and I may have drawn some arrows on stuff in the fridge”
- “How could she phone you?!”
- “You’ve redecorated! I don’t like it.”
- The robot dog. “Not as much fun as I remember.”
- All the bits where the woman thought Craig and the Doctor were ‘companion’ in the “old fashioned” sense. This notion went rather well with the “just keep looking at me” scene too, which by the way was hilarious.
- “You’ve got your noticing face on. I have nightmares about that face!”
- The Doctor rabbiting on at someone random, followed by “Why are you telling me all this?”, and probably a “Shhh…”
- Talking about the newspaper’s X Factor story: “Nina’s emotional journey, which in fairness is quite exciting.” A nice topical reference there.
- “I am so old. So near the end… I hope you have as much fun as I did.”
- Fighting the cybermat: “Don’t worry I have an app for that!”
- “I really liked his hat.”
Tick tock goes the clock, ’til river kills the doctor…