I would be lying if I said that I wasn’t a little underwhelmed by the penultimate episode of Doctor Who. It just felt like it could have been so much more heading in to next week’s series finale, and instead it was a fun but throw-away romp around a department store. It wasn’t a bad episode but it was just a little oddly placed within the arc of the series.
Closing Time did continue one of the major themes of the series however, in the importance of children. Craig survives due to the cries of his baby boy Alfie, the power of fatherhood and parenthood thrust to the centre stage. This has been a common factor all series long, in The Curse of the Black Spot, Captain Avery leaves his planet to ensure the survival of his son Toby. In The Almost People the ganger Jimmy discovers his humanity because of his son. In Night Terrors the father’s acceptance of his son is what saves the day. And of course, the most pivotal child related story of the series, Melody Pond, the daughter of Amy and Rory.
Doctor Who Episode 12 Review - Silver Rat
The Doctor is on his farewell tour, or at least that’s what he says, but like many famous rock bands that claim to be on their “farewell tour”, I’m sure this isn’t the last we have seen of the Doctor - there is a Christmas special currently being filmed for one thing! But as far as the Doctor is concerned, he believes this is the eve of his death, and is visiting his friends, which leads him to Craig (James Corden).
Craig, who we last saw in The Lodger, is now living a relatively normal life with his girlfriend Sophie, and newly born son Alfie or Stormageddon as he likes to call himself (the Doctor can speak “baby”). I’m not sure why Craig would be the character the Doctor chooses to see last on his farewell tour, but alas, his visit isn’t as short-lived as he was intending because there is something strange going on nearby. As much as the Doctor tries not to notice the flickering lights and eeriness in the air, he can’t resist investigating, and scans the area with his sonic screwdriver, and detects that some kind of teleportation device has been in operation.
The Doctor gets himself a job at a local department store, Sanderson & Grainger, which was actually a House of Fraser store in Cardiff. This made the episode particularly entertaining for me as I work at House of Fraser, not that specific one, but it was fun nonetheless, seeing our Buy & Collect counters on display, our Spring Event signage (which I had hours of joy putting out earlier this year), and our amazingly old-fashioned till systems. If only we had a spaceship of Cybermen in our basement, it’d make work-days so much more interesting.
Staff members have been going missing under suspicious circumstances, and on top of that, there is silver rat scurrying around the shop. The silver rat is not a toy, nor in fact a rat, it is a Cybermat, a fish-looking, piranha-mouthed, kind of pet of the Cybermen, made up of living things which aren’t “upgradable”. Cybermats were last seen on a Doctor Who television episode in the 1975 episode Revenge of the Cybermen.
As the Doctor tries to get Craig and Alfie out of the store, by taking the “out of order” lift, they find themselves teleported on to a spaceship, with a Cyberman looming towards them, the Doctor manages to quickly reverse it, disabling the teleportation device in the process. The Doctor tries to convince Craig to leave, knowing that he is risking his and his son’s life by being with him, but Craig believes the safest place for him and his son is by the Doctor’s side.
While the Doctor has been on his around the universe farewell tour, it appears Amy has become a celebrity of sorts. The Doctor sees Amy and Rory in the department store, and he watches from a distance as a young girl asks Amy for her autograph. Behind the Doctor is a huge poster featuring Amy’s face, advertising a perfume called Petrichor, which if you remember was the password Amy needed to think of in The Doctor’s Wife. I’m not sure how I feel about Amy being semi-famous, I suppose it shows that she has made something of herself without the Doctor, and having the perfume named Petrichor suggests she is more than just the face of the brand.
Craig and the Doctor stake out the department store after closing time, waiting to catch themselves a Cybermat. Although successful in their mission, the Doctor doesn’t escape fully unscathed. Following the screams of security guard George, the Doctor enters the basement, and he his assaulted by a Cyberman. The Doctor survives the attack, but he can’t explain how the Cyberman returned to the store so soon with the teleportation device switched off.
To me this was the least threatening the Cybermen have ever been. The idea of a crashed Cybership, with a small group of Cybermen trying to rebuild their “race” out of anything they can find, is a neat idea, but it was half-baked, and dealt with far too quickly.
With Craig out at the shops to buy milk, the Doctor has a heart to heart with baby Alfie. He confesses that he is going to die soon, that his time is almost at an end. How the Doctor is at his most truthful when talking to a baby is another mark for the importance of children in the Who universe.
Craig returns with the milk, and gets in to a fight with the Cybermat, which are stronger than they look. Luckily the fight takes place in the kitchen, so there are plenty of weapons around, such as frying pans and baking trays, it was like a Reeves & Mortimer sketch. With the Cybermat subdued, the Doctor reprogrammes it.
Returning to the store without Craig but with the reprogrammed Cybermat, the Doctor discovers an entrance hidden within one of the fitting rooms (an ideal escape for shoplifters). The entrance takes him in to the Cybership, which is not in space like the Doctor assumed, but is in fact on Earth, crashed years earlier, and the store was built on top of it. The Cybermen that survived have been taking scraps of all they could find to rebuild themselves, and are planning on converting the human race once they have enough power for their ship.
The Doctor is captured by the Cybermen who recognise him as the Timelord. Craig, attempting to save the day, enters the ship, but is also captured. Now, although I said the Cybermen were at their least threatening in this episode, this one scene did almost make up for it, when they converted Craig in to a Cyberman. Both Smith and Corden acted it perfectly, and for a second I really thought they were going to continue the fall of the Doctor, by having Craig stay converted. That would have been traumatic, perhaps a bit too much for tea-time tele.
Craig is able to reverse the conversion when he hears the cries of Alfie over the video-system, much like in Night Terrors, the father/son relationship is the defining factor. This overload of emotion causes the Cybermen to go in to meltdown and destroys their ship, while the Doctor and Craig teleport out of there. The whole “power of love” thing saving the day can become a bit weary, but I think it was very self-knowing in this episode, especially with Craig and the Doctor’s dialogue afterwards, “It was love!”.
As a parting gift, the Doctor uses time travel to clean up the mess in Craig’s house, before Sophie arrives home and finds the place in a state. The Doctor lets Craig know that Alfie is proud of him, and now wants to be called Alfie, rather than Stormageddon: Dark Lord of All. The Doctor tells Craig that tomorrow is the day of his death, and here things begin to set in motion the events of The Impossible Astronaut. Craig provides the Doctor with the stetson that we saw him wearing at the beginning of this series, and the Doctor borrows a bunch of blue envelopes, which we saw River and the Ponds receive.
I’m a little confused with the time-lines here. Is this episode happening in the future? Because when the Ponds receive their blue envelope in The Impossible Astronaut, they are living at their old house, not the house the Doctor gave them in The God Complex, and I believe they get the letter a few days before the Doctor is shot at Lake Silencio, not the day before. If the Doctor really dies tomorrow, then the Pond’s should already be in Utah, not gallivanting around a department store signing autographs. It only really makes sense if the Doctor travelled to see Craig in the future, perhaps a year later, picked up the blue envelopes, got his stetson, and then travelled back to April 2011, posted the envelopes, and travelled to Lake Silencio.
Before the Doctor enters the TARDIS for what he considers his last journey, he provides some parting words to a group of children playing on the street. We then cut to River Song, in the far future, researching the Doctor, and reading eye-witness accounts from those very same children. She notes the date and location of the Doctor’s death, before our favourite eye-patch wearing villain, Madame Kovarian enters, guarded by two Silence monsters - I knew we hadn’t seen the last of those suited skeletors! And the fact that Kovarian is working with the Silence, that leads me to believe that the eye-patch some how negates the Silence’s powers.
Kovarian informs River that she is basically their property, and has been since she was a child, the Silence have been around her for so long that it has effected her memory severely. She tells River that it is her that will kill the Doctor, and they force her in to the astronaut suit, and submerge her in lake Silencio, setting up the events of The Impossible Astronaut.
Closing Time was a fun but out of place episode, not really delivering as a penultimate episode leading in to what should be an eventful series finale. The last scene did however provide a great teaser heading in to The Wedding of River Song, and judging by the teaser, this one is going to be all sorts of crazy, and I cannot wait!