Developments So Far:
Last week, in a season that has become defined by its twists and turns, the Doctor and the Ponds (Amy and Rory Williams) went their separate ways, after the Doctor had, rightfully, became concerned that his adventures were too dangerous for them, and for Amy especially. The departure was amicable, poignant, and touching, but it seems to be doubtful that we’ve seen the last of Amy and Rory, especially with only two episodes left in the season (and Amy still narrating the BBC America version of the opening).
The Doctor also confronted, and defeated, a monster that reflected his own existential dilemma – an ancient, world-weary creature drenched in the blood of its unintended victims. Last we saw of him, he was forlorn and alone on the TARDIS, facing his oncoming death with dread and sorrow, but also with a touch of anticipation, having seen himself become the monster that the Anglican Marines in the future took him to be.
Let’s talk about Craig, shall we?
Well, to be honest, there isn’t that much to say about Craig. Prior to tonight’s episode, he’s only had one appearance on the show, albeit a memorable one, which came in last season’s delightful episode, “The Lodger.” An obvious play on Hitchcock’s silent classic of the same name, “The Lodger” had the Doctor locked out of the TARDIS (with Amelia simultaneously locked it) due to a mysterious entity living in the flat right upstairs from Craig Owens, an average guy stuck in a unfulfilling job and lovesick for his best friend Sophie. Moving into Craig’s flat as his new roommate, the Doctor proceeds to turn his life upside down (albeit in a good way), getting him promoted at work and helping he and Sophie realize that they love each other while vanquishing the malevolent artificial intelligence that’s interfering with the TARDIS. And, in the process, making a new and loyal friend. All told, it was a great example of one of Doctor Who’s more comedy-themed episodes, which they usually offer once or twice a season to bring down the tension of the larger story arch. It’s currently available for anyone who has a Netflix streaming account, provided you haven’t canceled your membership in the last week and created a “Save-the-date” for Cabbage Night so you and your friends can egg Reed Hastings’s house. Which, of course, I would never endorse; T.P.-ing alone would be perfectly satisfactory.
Our main focus then, as it was last week, falls upon the Doctor and his current death drive. The last time the Doctor found himself in a situation similar to the one he’s in now, it was during the five “specials” that culminated David Tennant’s run as the Tenth Doctor. During that period, the Tenth Doctor discovered that his time was coming to an end and, all told, he reacted to it quite badly. Instead of trying to face it with some stoicism and nostalgia, he instead fought against it tooth and claw, escaping into his own arrogance and at one point doing his best to run from what he knew was his destiny. In the end, though, when his archnemesis the Master was resurrected and it came time for the Doctor to save the world (again), he overcame his enemy and faced his inevitable death. As a final blessing, the Tenth Doctor received a little extra time to do what he should have been doing all along – saying goodbye to his friends and loved ones, settling all accounts, and passing into twilight being satisfied in an…um…incarnation (yes!) well lived.
Now with the Doctor again facing his own, seemingly inevitable death, he seems to have forgone the denial stage exhibited by the last Doctor and gone straight to melancholic “acceptance.” So, given that in tonight’s episode The Doctor will be faced with a reunion with his old friend Craig (and perhaps a final confrontation with an old and recurring enemy), will his outlook on his last days change? Or will he continue his somber march to oblivion?
Ladies and gentlemen, it’s “Closing Time.”
We begin with our old friend Craig seeing his now-wife Sophie off as she prepares to go spend the weekend with friends, apparently looking for a much-needed break. She keeps asking for assurances from Craig that “he can cope.” Intercut with this is the closing time of a nearby department store, Sanderson & Granger, where one of the supervisors wanders through the darkened store after hearing noises in one of the dressing rooms. Back at Craig and Sophie’s, Craig is fielding a call from his Mom, assuring her, too, that he’s completely okay: “Craig Owens can do it on his own…no one is coming to help me.” Just then, there’s a knock on the front door, and sure enough, it’s the Doctor. The Doctor: “Oh! You redecorated! I don’t like it.” Craig: “It’s a different house…” Craig assumes that Sophie called him in to help him through the weekend, but the Doctor assures him that it’s a social call. A very hurried and socially awkward social call, as the Doctor says hello/goodbye and tries to leave only to see the outdoor lights flicker. The Doctor tries to ignore it, but ultimately can’t…and charges into Craig’s house, determined that something is wrong. Meanwhile, at the department store, the supervisor also experiences the flickering lights, and decides to check on the “remaining customer.” The Doctor then barges into a room, discovering that Craig and Sophie have a baby (which, of course, he wakes). Back at the store, the supervisor pulls back the curtain of the dressing room, revealing a battle-scarred Cyberman. Cue the screaming…
After the credits, the Doctor and Craig are in his kitchen, where Craig is complaining about how no one can trust him to take care of the baby because, by his own admission, he’s “rubbish as a Dad.” During this, we receive a call back to “A Good Man Goes to War,” where the Doctor again reveals that he can speak “baby.” They also start a running gag where the Doctor can “shush” anybody, but it “only works once and on people with underdeveloped brains.” Craig’s son is named Alfie, but the Doctor reveals that he actually prefers to be called “Stormageddon: Dark Lord of All.” He also reveals that Craig is called “Not Mum” (and everyone else are “peasants”). Craig is, of course, curious as to why the Doctor is there, and worried that it is a portent of something far more serious. The Doctor, however, assures him that it’s just a social visit before he’s off to see other things, and further calls it his “farewell tour.” The Doctor picks up the paper and notices something troubling. Though he drops it and tries to ignore it, Craig calls him on it. The lights flicker again, and the Doctor panics, and insists that he’s “stopped noticing.” Craig tries to press him, and asks him about the “farewell tour” comment, but the Doctor shushes him and leaves…
Outside, the flickering lights continue, and the Doctor keeps marching toward the TARDIS – “I’m through saving them.” He gets to the TARDIS door…and after a smash cut we find the Doctor working in the toy department of Sanderson & Granger. Craig enters the store with Alfie while the Doctor is demonstrating a new toy to other children. After they depart, Craig complains how Alfie kept him up all night (Alfie, of course, has the same complaint about him) and again confronts him with the idea that he’s there to investigate something (there’s a cute K-9 reference thrown in here, too). The Doctor tries to deny this and send them along their merry way, but then notices a metallic creature whizzing along the store floor and then disappearing. Craig finally convinces the Doctor to tell him what’s going on, and the Doctor tells him that certain people are missing, which coincide with the power fluctuations.
The Doctor tries to hurry Craig out on a disused lift (which he activates with the sonic screwdriver). As they’re riding down, the Doctor also says that someone has been using a “beam me up Star Trek teleport” in the shop, but disguised it as something. And before you can say “disused lift,” the lights flicker on and off and the Doctor and Craig find themselves aboard a Cyberman ship. Craig, of course, is oblivious to this, and to distract him, the Doctor feigns “coming on” to him, wrapping his arms about him and trying to zap an oncoming Cyberman with a sonic screwdriver. Craig, however, finally notices, and the Doctor confess that he doesn’t really love him. The Doctor reactivates the teleport to take them back to the shop, and then fuses it so that the Cyberman can’t follow them.
Outside the store, the Doctor finishes telling Craig about the Cybermen, and Craig rightfully wonders why they haven’t just used their spaceship and invaded yet. The Doctor tries, again, to tell Craig to go, but Craig refuses, stating that the Doctor’s the safest person to be near. The Doctor is incredulous to this, given recent circumstances, but Craig assures him: “You always win.” The Doctor: “Those were the days…” The Doctor capitulates, and they head back into the store to investigate.
Inside the store, Craig asks what it means to “investigate,” and the Doctor tells him to look around and ask questions; he explains that this should be easy because he has a baby with him, and they’re innocent and helpless. The Doctor: “That’s why I always take a human with me.” Craig: “So…I’m your baby?” “You’re my baby.” He then gives Craig a hug, and the Doctor’s co-worker, Val the Jewelry Clerk immediately assumes they’re a couple. Craig wanders off, and Val comments to the Doctor that he and “his partner and the baby” look adorable. The Doctor immediately likes “partner” more than “companion” (too funny). Questioning Val, the Doctor learns about the “silver rat thing,” which we then see whizzing through the salesfloor.
Trying to be smooth, Craig tries to question the clerk in the lingerie department, but inadvertently creeps her out. She then calls over George, the burly security guard. The Doctor and Val take a quick look for the “silver rat” in the children’s department, when he’s quickly called away for problems with his ”partner.” George and the Clerk are both happy to see the Doctor (who has clearly endeared himself to everyone), and he immediately defuses the situation. The Clerk then talks about how her supervisor hasn’t come in, and the Doctor uses the “shush” on her to get more details.
Shortly thereafter, Craig and the Doctor are searching through the dressing room, where the Doctor tells Craig that “Stormy (Alfie) says you need to believe in yourself more.” The Doctor clarifies that the Cyberman took the supervisor, and that they are looking for the Cybermat, the rat-like machine that’s been draining the power from the area. The Doctor then stages a plan to wait until the store closes, stake the place out, and then capture the Cybermat. Craig then calls Doctor on the coincidence of the Doctor showing up just when the Cybermen are planning something, but the Doctor assures him it’s a coincidence.
After Craig takes Alfie off to the changing station, the Doctor turns and in the distance sees Amy and Rory, shopping. A little girl walks up to Amy and asks for her autograph, which Amy gives her. Avoiding her gaze as she and Rory head off, the Doctor watches the little girl speak to her mother, bragging about the autograph and pointing in the Doctor’s direction. The Doctor first thinks she’s point at him, but then turns and looks at the wall, seeing an advertisement for a perfume called “Petrichor” (a callback to this season’s earlier episode “The Doctor’s Wife,” where the word was a key plot element). Amy’s profile is on the advertisement, along with the tag “For the Girl Who’s Tired of Waiting” – telling us that Amy’s not only the model, but also likely the creator of the perfume. The Doctor appears sad, but also happy for Amy’s success.
Later that night, George is busy locking up the store while the Doctor, Craig, and Alfie look around. The Doctor gives Craig a papoose, in response to Alfie’s complaint that “you’re not fast enough when he calls you.” The Cybermat then appears, and the Doctor catches it easily…too easily. Assuming it must be low on power, the Doctor picks it up to examine it, and Craig comments that “it looks cute.” In a nice jolt, its visor then opens, revealing a human-like mouth with shark-like teeth. Craig panics while the Doctor zaps the Cybermat into dormancy. They then hear a scream, and the Doctor follows it to find George, dead in the changing room, having been killed by the Cyberman. The same Cyberman then knocks the Doctor unconscious…
A few moments later Craig wakes the Doctor, who discovers both George’s body and the Cyberman gone. The Doctor ponders how the Cybermen can be reappearing given that he shut down their teleporter (which should have taken them days to repair), and also mentions that the Cyberman wasn’t able to kill him because it wasn’t strong enough – “all spare parts.” Craig asks why the Doctor wasn’t taken, and the Doctor explains that “He’s not compatible.” (“Since when?” I ask.) Craig then tells the Doctor that they need to head back to base. The Doctor, excited: “We have a base?”
Back at Craig’s house, the Doctor is mixing tea in a typically unorthodox manner when Craig states that he’s going out for milk. As soon as he’s gone, Alfie starts crying, and the Doctor panics. The Doctor goes to comfort him, telling him that he has a long, human life filled with emptiness, “So save the tears for later, boyo.” The Doctor confesses to Alfie that he fells “so old.” Meanwhile, in another part of the house, the Cybermat comes to life. The Doctor picks up Alfie and tells him that his life is ahead of him, and tells him that “I hope you have half as much fun as I did.” He also encourages Alfie to go easy on his dad: “It’s not his fault he doesn’t have mammary glands.” Hearing the Cybermat, the Doctor stuns with the Sonic Screwdriver and then runs outside with Alfie.
Craig, of course, picks just that moment to return, and places his cell phone, set on vibrate on the end table just as the Doctor tries to warn him from outside. Wandering the house looking for the Doctor, the Cybermat attacks him. Hearing Craig’s cry, the Doctor jumps in through the glass door while Craig wrestles with the gnashing jaws of the Cybermat. In a fun little sequence, Craig and the Doctor best the Cybermat, which the Doctor determines was just “playing possum.”
Later, while Craig is comforting a sleeping Alfie, while the Doctor laments that he shouldn’t have gotten Craig involved. Craig, though, rightfully points out that if there wasn’t a Doctor, who else would be able to fight the Cybermen? The Doctor then begins to confess that his “time is running out” and that he’s going to die “tomorrow,” but both Craig and Alfie have fallen asleep.
Early the next morning, the Doctor takes the reprogrammed Cybermat, “Bitey,” and sets him loose to lead him to the Cybermen. Woken up by an answering machine message from Sophie, Craig panics and sees a note the Doctor had scrawled on the fridge “Gone to stop the Cybermen.”
At the store, the Doctor arrives before opening. Meeting Val, he ponders out loud as to how the Cyberman got into the store, before realizing, “Why am I asking you?” Back at the house, Craig slips Alfie into his papoose and tells him that “the Doctor needs us. He always needs someone…he just can’t admit it.” He promises his son that he won’t let anything happen to him, and then he heads out after the Doctor.
Back at the store, the Doctor enters the changing area, still muttering to himself as to how the Cybermen appeared. He then realizes they had a door hidden behind one of the changing room mirrors: “He didn’t teleport down…he climbed up.” Heading down the passage, the Doctor finds the crashed wreckage of a Cyberman ship buried underground from years before. The Doctor enters the ship and sees newborn Cybermen in stasis: “My, you have been busy…”
Upstairs, Craig arrives and asks Val to look after Alfie, leading into the funniest exchange of the episode: Craig: “The Doctor needs me.” Val: “I understand, you two need time alone.” Craig, running away: “Don’t follow me!” Val: “I wasn’t intending to!” Down on the Cybership, the Doctor has figured out that the ship has been there for centuries, but its crew was killed when it crashed. When the store was built above it, it allowed for enough power for the Cybermat and a lone Cyberman, built from spare parts, to start assimilating people. The Doctor gives them his usual ultimatum: deactivate yourselves, or be deactivated. However, he finds himself soon outnumbered by newly converted Cybermen…
Craig quickly follows him down and tries to bluff the Cybermen with a price scanner. The Cybermen are impressed that he’s discovered them and immediately decide to turn them into their new Cyber-Controller (the hive mind the Cybermen work from). The Doctor unleashes his plan to have the reprogrammed Cybermat drain them of their power, but one of the Cybermen steps on it instead. The Doctor, helpless, can only watch as they strap Craig into their conversion chair. The Doctor encourages him to fight their control, telling him that he’s strong enough to fight their control: “Craig – tomorrow I’m going to die…but I don’t care as long as you prove me right!”
It seems Craig is going to be converted as a cyberhelment seals itself around his head, but the sound of his son crying upstairs comes up on the CCTV system. Craig’s emotions begin to “reboot,” and the Doctor encourages him, “Craig – you wanted the chance to prove you’re a Dad…you’re never going to get a better one than this!” Craig overcomes the conversion and cries out for his son, which causes the emotional inhibitor on the Cybermen to overload. The Cybermen begin to explode, and the Doctor reactivates the teleporter just in time for them to escape before the ship explodes. Craig hugs his son, “I blew’em up with love!” The Doctor replies, “No, that’s impossible and also grossly sentimental and overly simplistic,” before finally admitted that, indeed, Craig “blew them up with love.” Val looks on, confused.
Later on, the Doctor explains to the Lingerie Clerk that the building will be fine as the mineral layer below absorbed the explosion. The Clerk: “Why are you telling me all this?” The Doctor: “I don’t know.” After Craig has put on some new clothes, Craig and the Doctor learn that Val had thought they were a couple. Before Craig can clear up the misunderstanding, the Doctor has vanished.
Craig returns to his home, thinking that the Doctor has left. But, sure enough, after he returns his house, he finds it to be spotless and tidied up. Craig is touched that the Doctor used up some of his last remaining hours to keep him out of trouble with Sophie, but the Doctor replies, “you’re my mate.” He also points out that “Stormageddon” seems quite contented, but Stormy informs him that he prefers “Alfie” now, and that he’s very proud of his dad. The Doctor then tells Craig that “It’s time…I have to go.” Craig offers to help him again, but the Doctor tells him flat, “No one can help me.” In a nice bit of continuity, the Doctor borrows some blue envelopes, harking back to “The Impossible Astronaut.” After telling him that he’s going to be going to America, Craig gives him a Stetson he picked up at a stag. “Goodbye, mate.” Sophie knocks on the door, and after Craig turns around, the Doctor vanishes. Sophie comes in, comments on how beautiful everything looks, and asks if everything was okay. Craig tries to tell her that everything was uneventful, but Alfie chooses that moment to say his first word: “Doctor.”
Outside, the Doctor approaches the TARDIS, “Well, old girl…one last trip, eh?” Off to the side, he sees three young kids watching him. The Doctor approaches them, and says, “Hey! I was the Doctor…I was here to help…and you are very, very welcome.” He then tips his hat to them. We then hear voiceovers of the kids recounting their meeting with the Doctor later.
We then fade into the future, where River Song is examining the eyewitness accounts from those three children in a smoke filled room. Suddenly, the One Eyed Woman is heard, reciting the “Tick Tock Goes the Clock” rhyme from “Night Terrors.” River doesn’t recognize her, and the One Eyed Woman tells her not to bother. River then turns around and sees that she is flanked by two of the Silence…River: “Who are they?” One-Eye: “Your owners.” Turning around, and thus forgetting them, River keeps listening as the Woman tells her that the Doctor will be struck down. Two Anglican Marines then step inside, carrying a Astronaut’s uniform. They grab her, and the One-Eyed Woman tells her that she made Melody who she is: the woman who kills the Doctor. River tries to fight them, but she’s sedated, and the One-Eyed Woman gleefully continues the rhyme:
“Tick-tock goes the clock, and all the years they fly…tick-tock and all too soon, your love will surely die.”
Our last image is of River Song, in her Astronaut’s uniform, underwater, as we hear the children singing another part of the rhyme: “Tick-tock goes the clock…’til River kills the Doctor.”
An enjoyable, if certainly downbeat, episode here; certainly not as entertaining as “The Lodger” and a little thin in regards to the overall story. It still managed to drive home the poignancy and pain that the Doctor is experiencing right now, while also setting up what is certainly going to be a potentially cataclysmic season finale. And Craig is a nice recurring character, even if I really don’t see anywhere to go with him from here.
One thing I have to say I haven’t completely enjoyed about Moffat’s tenure with the series is the downplaying of many of the classic Whoniverse monsters, such as the Daleks and the Cybermen. One of the better parts of Russell Davies’s run with the series was his reintroduction of the Cybermen as a truly terrifying and disturbing enemy in the second season after the original series had allowed them to descend into camp. Now their standing is nowhere near that diminished right now, and both their use in the climax and the Cybermat was genuinely creepy. But…they’ve definitely lost a little bit of their malevolent luster, and for most of the episode they were pretty much an afterthought that could have been exchangeable with any other monster of the week.
Next week is the season finale, which from a sheer narrative standpoint almost feels rushed, but I’m certainly dying to see what’s going to happen with the Doctor, Melody Pond, and the Silence. Will the Doctor really die, or will he find a way out in the end? What really is the Silence and who is the one-eyed woman? What is the question that will make “silence fall?” How, and why, will the Doctor claim to be two hundred years older than he is now before he dies? And what about his supposedly long backstory and relationship with River Song?
Next week – “The Wedding of River Song”