5.11 – “The Lodger”
The Doctor falls out of the TARDIS when something stops it from landing, leaving Amy trapped inside and The Doctor stuck on Earth. The something in question is alien and is causing something like dry rot in the ceiling of Craig’s flat. There’s something between Craig and his best friend, Sophie, though neither will admit it. Maybe The Doctor can do something about the something in the upstairs room, something about saving Amy and even turn something into some thing between Craig and Sophie. SOMETHING.
A nice guy who can’t express his feelings, who has a best friend, who’s a girl, who may or may not have the same feelings. Luckily, there’s a dorky friend, who the girl fancies at first, who will help them see that they DO love each other. Hang on, Richard Curtis wrote last week’s episode, right?
So, this season’s quirky, filler episode where The Doctor is without assistant (largely) is a RomCom. It’s a sweet enough RomCom, with Matt Smith getting to show off his comic talents as well as his football talents and steal the show as the weird friend. James Cordon is fine as straight man, Craig, and Daisy Haggard brings similarly sweet charm to Sophie (The Girl). It’s a story that plays to Smith’s strengths as the youngest Doctor – imagine Pertwee in this situation. “Can I play football? My dear boy, Sir Stanley Matthews is a close personal friend of mine.” Smith is great as a Doctor who doesn’t quite get how normal humans work and doesn’t really notice it. It’s an interesting contrast with his predecessors. The earlier Doctors strode into a situation and immediately started taking charge. Smith sort of does the same, but arrogance is replaced by innocence; effortlessly taking over Craig’s job or winning over everyone at the football.
If this episode has a stand out scene it’s when The Doctor encourages Sophie to follow her dreams to travel and help animals. To Craig, The Doctor is blundering in as usual, missing the real point and stuffing up his life. But The Doctor makes Sophie question what’s stopping her from going and makes her realise that it’s Craig. The Eleventh Doctor may misunderstand the trivial stuff like money and when people say annihilate, they don’t really mean annihilate, but when it comes to the important stuff he knows exactly what’s going on. Smith’s performances capture this so well – on the surface its all waving arms and floppy hair but there’s quiet cunning at work here too.
The alien threat, as in the thing that makes this episode a Doctor Who story, is less successful than the RomCom. Disembodied voices saying innocuous things in sinister circumstances have been used a few too many times for me. “Are you my Mummy?” coming from a kid with a gas mask glued to his face was really creepy. A door intercom saying “Please help me, I’ve had an accident,” proves to be just tedious. We do at least get to see The Doctor do some scientific stuff. He cures Craig when he’s infected by the patch of goo on the ceiling. He builds something to investigate the weirdness up stairs without alerting the alien-ness to his own alien character. So it’s a profound shame that the alien threat is neutralised by the love between, and to a greater extent, the desire of Sophie and Craig to go nowhere.
It’s different I suppose. The comedy elements are fine, the Doctor Who elements less so. The support is solid and Matt Smith delivers this from mediocrity, but even his formidable skills can’t lift this beyond a merely watchable and vaguely entertaining 6/10.
Written and edited by Richard Barnes