• 19th June 2010 • Review by Jonathan Capps •
First up, let’s get the obvious preconceptions out of the way. I think James Corden is shit. He’s a shit comedian and a shit celebrity and I want him to cock off. Gareth Roberts is also shit. He has written among the worse Doctor Who scripts since the new series began and he actually ended Planet of the Dead with The Doctor suggesting that the army might be a wise career choice. However, I didn’t go into this episode being entirely pessimistic, mainly because it’s impossible to not look forward to something with Matt Smith in it but also partly because the idea behind the episodes looked pretty good.
For reasons best kept to himself, Roberts has always written episodes with quite a bit humour in them, but has always ended up falling flat on his stupid, fat, right wing face. In The Lodger, though, he’s managed to write The Doctor’s ‘fish out of water’ schtick incredibly well and coupled with Matt Smith’s excellent feel of physical and verbal comedy it ends up being the strongest aspect of the episode. The fact that Roberts has written The Doctor as someone with little to no comprehension of being a ‘normal’ human does slightly go against previous moments in the series (so, The Doctor knows what Twitter is, but not football?) but it also helps the eleventh Doctor further distance himself from the know-it-all Tenth who was written and betrayed to be less an alien and more a slightly eccentric physics teacher. This ‘alienness’ and the distancing of himself from previous Doctors is something Matt’s been developing all series and here, in the last episode recorded, you can really see the final phase of Smith clicking 100% into the role. Next year, he’s going to permanently seal himself as one of the best Doctors ever.
Furthermore, and it really pains me to say this, but Corden was very good. It’s easy to forget now in the sea of shit comedies, shitter panel show appearances and the slagging off of SIR PATRICK STEWART, but he’s an established and very competent actor. Here, he does very well as someone for The Doctor to bounce off and he gives quite a subtle and likable performance, especially when you consider the suffocating (and sometimes painful) dominance of a character like Donna, an actor with whom I have a similar dislike for similar reasons. Craig and Sophie’s relationship is also played very well, even if it started to get quite heavy handed with The Doctor shadowing of Craig during the football game and the further jealousy that follows. It seemed needless to throw a spanner in the works of a relationship we were supposed to believe in.
So, this is an episode with some strong performances and some great characterisation and dialouge. A shame, then, that the story and its execution is a load of shit. If the ship is luring people in to activate its console, but is instead overloading their brains and burning them up, it then feels jarring that The Doctor would sit around downstairs and wait it out, all while more people are dying and he doesn’t even notice. The ending, too, feels like an incredibly hasty throwback to the RTD years with a hasty and garbled explanation from The Doctor, the companion of the week saving the day and ‘LOVE HAS SAVED THE DAY, DO YOU SEE?’ theme all present and correct. Oh, and as far as devices to confine one of your cast to a standing set for budget and time reasons, ‘it’s stopping TARDIS from materialising, or something’ is pretty transparent and clumsy.
At the end of day, Robert’s writing still feels like a classless version of RTD’s, only now his heavy hand is trying to emulate Moffat as well and the result is a curious mix. This is far from a terrible episode and, unlike last week’s, it’s Doctor Who through and through, but it was too throwaway for the episode 11 slot and felt too slapdash in its conclusion. It was more Fear Her than Utopia (that’s an extreme example and I am in no way comaring this to Fear Her, but you get the idea) and I would’ve liked to see a stronger link into next week’s episode. It’s possible this mystery craft will show up next week, but the callback will feel unearned as we simply weren’t given enough context or a satisfying conclusion this week. Instead we have a tantalising but bolted on tie in to The Big Arc, much in the same way as we did with Cold Blood. Moffat may have handled his arc perfectly in his own episodes, but the threads have felt neglected in the other episodes, which has damaged the overall impact of a clearly well thought through arc.
In terms of production it was an interesting episode. It was part of a block that was rescheduled to be the last to shoot (along with Amy’s Choice) and features not a single scrap of Mill CG. Anything CG you see is done in-house and it’s one of the current Hot Topics in the ongoing hear’say-fest that is Gallifrey Base. Rumours of this block being particularly ‘fraught’ for budgetary and schedule reasons could well be the start of what might be a turbulent time for the production if the recent rumours of people leaving left right and centre. We’ll wait until we get some confirmation before we comment on it in any depth, but if this series has been chaos behind the scenes, then it’s certainly affected what we’ve got on screen and I’m almost certain this finale is the going to be the best we’ve seen. Not long to go, now…