In the twelfth episode of the sixth series of Doctor Who, the Doctor, in his final days, visits Craig Owens, where the two face off against a familiar villain and Craig proves that he is just as courageous as any Time Lord. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Doctor Who.
My brain drifted off to “Rose,” the very first episode of the revival series, just after “Closing Time” finished. There are a few obvious parallels between the episodes: a classic villain is found using a retail store to enact some sort of dastardly plan, and the Doctor takes an unwilling companion along on the journey. Thematically, though, while they are certainly different, I felt that “Closing Time” showcased just what made Russell T Davies’s revival such a success. Truthfully, what I love about the Doctor (and all incarnations before that) is the endless wave of hyper-intelligent, witty, and entertaining dialogue that spills out of his mouth. And each of the ten Doctors before Eleven had their own way of vocalizing their thoughts constantly. I’m sure this works well to help develop the character for the writers, to give us the Doctor’s thoughts through the medium of television, but it’s also in character for the Doctor to think aloud.
“Closing Time” might be the most dialogue-heavy episode aside from “The Doctor’s Wife” during Eleven’s run. Even if you take away the fantastic story and the emotional heart of this particular episode, I’d love it anyway because it highlights the absolutely mesmerizing character of the Doctor and how Matt Smith is the only actor who could play Eleven. In fact, I think the plot of “Closing Time” is stretched thin over what we actually get to see: the magnificent chemistry between the Doctor and Craig Owens.
It’s no secret that I adored “The Lodger” and we see here (again!) how uncomfortable and awkward the Doctor is with domestic life. The Doctor never settles down and the entire concept is just so foreign to him. But there’s something that draws the Doctor to Craig and brings out the same silliness we saw not only in “The Lodger,” but in “The Eleventh Hour,” when the Doctor first met young Amelia Pond. The Doctor’s wit and unknowing sense of humor is what I have come to like about all his incarnations, but…look, I feel pretty comfortable saying this. I love Eleven. A lot. A LOT. Like…I think I love him more than Nine or Ten, even if Nine is my first Doctor and Ten was in some of my favorite episodes. There’s something about the deeply flawed, guilt-ridden, and socially awkward Eleven that speaks to my soul. I THINK THAT ELEVEN MIGHT BE MY FAVORITE DOCTOR.
Oh god, BREATHE, MARK. BREATHE. I feel like I am in therapy. I know I’ve steeped some heavy praise on Eleven/Matt Smith before, but I honestly felt that, after “Closing Time,” that this is my favorite incarnation of this iconic character. I cannot imagine a new Doctor beyond him, and I cannot imagine being so attached to another actor playing him in quite the way I am with Matt Smith. And I recognize that while I do enjoy most of Eleven’s era, we’ve been given some bizarre episodes and a lot of un-solved continuity. Yet I still am completely fascinated by Eleven, this mix of contradictions, weirdness, emotional intensity, and quirkiness that is this Doctor.
We see so much of it come out in “Closing Time,” an episode whose title has a double meaning. Throughout this single story, we’re shown a Doctor who is preparing to die. And as much joy as this episode brings me, it is bittersweet for a couple of reasons, namely the upcoming death of the Doctor. (Which we’ve seen, by the way.) And I know that this series-long plot might not make a whole lot of sense right now (PLEASE CLOSE UP THIS GIGANTIC LOOSE END, MOFFAT), I’m still intrigued by it, so Moffat hasn’t entirely lost me. Say what you will about it (and I totally support people calling it bullshit), but I think that “Closing Time” works really well with the entire subplot of the Doctor’s death hanging over it. I don’t know how long it’s been for the Doctor since the end of “The God Complex,” but it feels like years. There’s obviously an unspoken reference to this when the Doctor sees Amy and Rory in the store he ends up getting a job in; enough time had to pass so that Amy could get a modeling gig. So how long has it been?
Anyway, that’s not important. Well, it was utterly heartbreaking, but LET US TALK ABOUT THE JOY OF “CLOSING TIME” FOREVER!
I REALLY LOVED:
- Stormageddon, Dark Lord of All. This is perhaps the best running joke of any Doctor Who episode of all time. I cannot get over how well this was, how it was used to legitimately deal with Craig’s growth as a father, and that we’d seen continuity of the Doctor being able to speak Baby. I am a proud peasant of Stormageddon, and I will proclaim this loudly until the end of time.
- The K9 reference!!! OMG.
- The Doctor’s ability to shush everyone in the episode. I WANT THIS POWER.
- THE DOCTOR HAS APPS ON HIS SONIC SCREWDRIVER. <3333333
- The Doctor’s magnificent chemistry when working with children. I mean this sincerely: I think the Doctor would make a fantastic elementary or middle school teacher. The fact is that the Doctor is interested in everything, and one of the great things about his character is the fact that he basically infects others with the desire to learn more about the Universe. At heart, isn’t that a basic description of the Doctor’s relationship with his companions? He shows them in just a few hours that the world is not what they thought it was, and he invites them to see more of it. Wow, I can’t believe I just took a moment where the Doctor was playing with a goddamn controllable helicopter and I intellectualized it. my brain.
- Speaking of companionship, let me state that I absolutely adored the way that Gareth Roberts dealt with the gay subtext of the relationship between Craig and the Doctor. I never felt that the butt of the joke was, “LOL MEN ARE SOMETIMES GAY.” Instead, the dynamic straddled the line between being a bit of fanservice, and the beautiful message given to us by Val. (I ADORE VAL. IMAGINE HOW GREAT “CLOSING TIME” WOULD BE FROM HER POINT OF VIEW.) I know that it’s 2011 and it’s not all that taboo to have gay characters or a gay subplot, but the fact that Doctor Who had a character express her joy that a child had two fathers (even if it wasn’t true) is a big deal to me. Even if the line had a humorous aspect to it, Val meant it, and nothing else erases that brilliant, genuine love she had for the Doctor and Craig. And let’s face it: the chemistry between those two men is a beautiful, gorgeous thing. Which leads me to the next point:
- I truly believed that the Doctor had lost Craig to the Cybermen and when the Doctor told Craig he loved him earlier in the episode, you could see he was telling the truth right at the moment that the Cyberman helmet closed up over Craig’s fast. Even thematically, it would have fit just as well as Craig’s love for Alfie saving his own life. The Doctor has avoided companions for so long because of what he did to Amy and Rory, and he had a choice to stay away from Craig, but he chose to stay. Here, he was facing his own actions again, and he was seeing how the very nature of who he was would affect those he cared about. I don’t think it’s a cop-out that Craig did not die, though. The story was just as much about Craig facing his own fears as much as it was about the Doctor’s death.
- You know, I actually do like the Cybermen. I haven’t always been completely sold on them, but I like the way they were used here.
- Stormageddon’s first word is, “Doctor.” YESSSSSS.
- I loved the fact that Craig was the one to give the Doctor the Stetson, and that the Doctor took those TARDIS blue envelopes from Sophie. Small bits of continuity like this make me smile.
So let’s discuss what we all need to discuss dearly. The final minutes of “Closing Time.” Lest we not forget, we have spent an entire series with the Doctor’s death looming over us. I’ve read enough fan theories to make my brain explode at this point, but one of the big “mysteries” of the entire thing is that River Song was indeed the person in the astronaut suit in “The Impossible Astronaut.” I’m still a bit confused as to how River’s programming works, and that’s the biggest thing I’ll need explained in the series six finale this weekend. We’ve seen River in her timeline after this. She ends up in prison because of this act, and it’s also clear that she is no longer under the power of Madame Kovarian, since….well, she doesn’t try to kill the Doctor ever again.
Still, I think that Moffat has a lot of loose ends to tie up in the mythology. Even if it doesn’t satisfy me entirely, I must say that the run of non-mythology episodes we’ve gotten in the second half of series six have been a real treat to me, highlighting some of the best parts of Eleven, Amy, and Rory. It makes me sad to see those two companions gone, and I imagine we’ll only get one more episode with them before they part ways with the Doctor. I mean, it seems that this is the end of their story for the time being, with this weekend’s episode being the last. It’s exciting to think of new companions for the future, but I really have grown to adore Amy and Rory.
oh god only one left SOB.