Monday, August 25, 2014

Doctor Who--"Closing Time"

I have always had a penchant for the Cybermen since discovering their heyday during the Second Doctor’s reign and again since their revival in the mid-’80’s. I am not certain I can say I like them more than the Daleks, but they are a refreshing change every now and then. Seeing their return in ‘Closing Time” was potentially exciting, but I have mixed emotions after viewing. The episode is highly entertaining, but not so much because the Cybermen were involved. It was all about the interaction between the Doctor, Craig, and Alfie.

The Doctor, knowing he is about to be killed, goes on a farewell tour the way the Tenth Doctor did before his regeneration. He stops by to visit Craig, whom he once shared a flat. Craig and his girlfriend Sophie have now moved into their own house and have a son named Alfie. The Doctor swears his is a social visit, but he becomes reluctantly intrigued by electrical power outages nearby that are centered on a department store.

The Doctor gets a job at the department store to investigate. Craig seems eager to help, partially because the Doctor’s ability to understand Alfie has kept him from being overwhelmed at babysitting all weekend while Sophie is out of town and partially because he suspects something is wrong with the Doctor emotionally. The interaction between the three is the heart of the episode. It provides for some sweet comedy gold with James Corden, a comedian with whom I am not very familiar, carrying on with what I assume is his usual antics. I think the moments when the Doctor is alone with Alfie were more amusing.

The two wind up capturing a Cybermat, but are forced to battle it yet again at Craig’s home. It is largely played for laughs. Some scenes in the short battle reminded me of Critters. Lord help me for that. Why do they call those things Cybermats, anyway? They should be called Cyberats. That is what they are. The Doctor reprograms the Cybermat to locate its masters. It does.

This is the point where the episode lags. The Cybermen have crashed centuries ago under the spot the department store was eventually built. The six of them have been biding their time building up strength to when they will conquer the Earth. Craig bursts in on the confrontation between them and the Doctor, and winds up in the conversion machine. He is fully turned into a cyber men, but rejects the conversion after hearing Alfie crying. So a father’s love for his son conquers the emotionless Cybermen. Call me cynical, but that is too corny for words. No other high emotion has helped any resist conversion in the past. While Craig’s emotional reaction fits in with the episode’s theme of him becoming a better father, I really wish it did not involve the Cybermen. They are tougher to defeat than that. Or at least they ought to be.

Two points tie ’Closing time’ in with the series story arc. One is the Doctor’s discovery amy is now a model for a print perfume advertisement. He has expressed concern that everyone around him is worse off for him being there. Amy’s obvious success without him confirms it, as he ducks out of the way when he sees her coming so she will not encounter him. The other is the set up for the Doctor’s murder, as we see the Silence and it allies kidnapping river Song and placing her at the lake in a space suit so she can kill the doctor as seen in the series premiere. We will catch all that in the series finale next week.

In spite of the lackluster way in which the Cybermen were dispensed with, “Closing Time” was entertaining. It was far more of a personal episode rather than an adventure. It might have been an improvement if some new aliens, or at least less prominent ones, had been used instead of the Cybermen. That would have taken away the only disappointing feature of the episode for me. Regardless, I have little to complain about. “Closing Time” is one of the best of the sixth series installments.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

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