6.12 – “Closing Time”
The Doctor drops in on Craig, who is now living with Sophie and their baby, Alfie. Craig is looking after Alfie on his own for the first time and is stereotypically crap at it. His poor parenting hits a low note when he, with his baby, willingly follows The Doctor into a shop full of Cybermen.
Last season’s quirky little companion-lite filler was the mildly charming “The Lodger” – a sweet-ish romcom where eccentric weirdo (The Doctor) helps shy Craig find love with shy Sophie, while taking on an alien threat. This year’s quirky little companion-lite filler is a sequel where a sweet-ish romcom is replaced by the hilarious notion of a man (imagine it, a man!!) having to look after a baby. Having frequently looked after my two children on my own I find the so-called comedy implied by a Dad’s incompetence at caring for their own child somewhat offensive. It’s offensive to men, implying that we’re a bunch of morons who can’t emotionally connect with a baby, can’t understand how feeding works and don’t know how to change a nappy. It’s offensive to women, implying that they are somehow genetically wired to look after babies in ways that men are not, which merely backs up the misogynistic narrative about how a woman’s true role is as child-rearing home-maker. And even pushing aside why I find it offensive, it’s just not original or funny. For Christ’s sake, this is an Adam Sandler storyline. The Doctor and Craig even get mistaken for a gay couple.
From the moment Craig whinges about how crap at looking after Alfie he is and how the baby merely thinks of him as “not Mum”, this episode almost lost me, but I’m a fan so we stick it out. There are some amusing bits – The Doctor being able to speak baby and Alfie thinking of himself as “Stormaggedon”, The Doctor shushing everyone but claiming it only works once and on undeveloped brains. Once again, Smith brings the comedy in these scenes and when he breezes through the shop loved by all it’s all reasonably fun. James Corden as Craig is much the same as he was last year, but without an endearing storyline.
So unlike “The Lodger”, “Closing Time” has a lousy comedy story – how do it’s sci-fi elements rack up? People are going missing, strange power drains occasionally make the lights flicker and there’s a silver rat running around. There’s nothing surprising here at all. There are a couple of nearly tense moments when Craig and The Doctor get teleported to the Cyberman ship and only just manage to escape and if it wasn’t for the daft looking teeth in the cybermat, it would be quite exciting when it’s trying to kill Craig. Cybermen as a credible threat though continue to get undermined – the battered Cybermen can barely snatch one person at a time and the poor bloody Cybermat seems to be doing the bulk of the work. It’s slow going, getting their ship up to full power and I really doubt that these half dozen spare parts Cybermen could really conquer the world. In contrast, back in “Dalek”, one lone last Dalek ripped its way through hordes of heavily armed troops, sucked up the entire Internet and was about to murder everyone in Salt Lake City. I know which one worries me.
And as if Mondas’s finest hadn’t been emasculated enough, when they try to convert Craig his crying baby is able to provoke emotions that overwhelm Cyber-conversion technology, kill the Cybermen and blow the ship up. “You shall be like us…unless you feel strongly about it…”
The story with Craig fizzles to an end, after some first class tidying up from The Doctor and young Alfie accepting Craig as his Dad. It’s all a bit sad though because The Doctor knows he’s going to get shot at Lake Silencio the next day so he says some stuff to a bunch of kids who will remember it for ever, as opposed to telling their parents about the strange man in the alley. This leads us neatly to Doctor River Song doing some research before getting nabbed by Madame Kovarian and shoved into the Astronaut suit – but, if Kovarian can just turn up and make River become an automated assassin, was there any point in going through the rigmarole of engineering the Silence to take over the world so they can design a spacesuit that will fit River Song, kidnapping Amy and somehow programming River to kill The Doctor? I know he’s THE Doctor and so on, but surely, there are less complicated ways to shoot a bloke in the chest?
Dumb, unoriginal so-called comedy and Cybermen who actually arouse my pity, not fear and excitement – the poor buggers have not just been drained of energy, they’ve had every mark of their power sucked away. Cordon and Smith do their double-act to no great effect and we get a tacked on cliff-hanger. Young Alfie (or Stormaggedon) was quite cute, but not cute enough to give this uninspired offence any more than 4/10.
Written and edited by Richard Barnes