Doctor Who series 6 episode 12: Closing Time

Johnny Candon has an uncanny feeling that something is very good indeed...

 

5 stars

 

 

Air date: UK 24 Sept, 2011, BBC One

 

The Doctor on his walkie talkie

The idea of The Doctor taking a "farewell tour" as he nears the end of an incarnation is something we were first introduced to in The End of Time, Part Two.

 

In The Sarah Jane Adventures story, Death of the Doctor, he tells Jo Jones that he had gone back and seen every single one of his companions before he last regenerated. A nice idea in theory but the thought of him having a gander at Katarina's corpse drifting through eternity, or smiling with nostalgia as he watches Adric scream his face off on a crashing space freighter, does seem slightly ghoulish.

 

As Closing Time opens we find the Eleventh Doctor on his tour, and it's Craig Owens (James Corden) he's ticking off his goodbye list. From the get-go, not all Doctor Who fans are going to like this episode. Sure, it has hugely popular returning monsters in the shape of the Cybermen, looking fantastic, all battered, scuffed and broken. But they get possibly (and I've not timed this) around eight minutes of screen time in the entire thing. This may seem like sacrilege to hardcore fans but they are quite simply, wrong.

 

This is Doctor Who at its purest. It's a story of friendship and love. It's impossible not to like this story! It's just so incredibly cheerful with a massive dollop of heart thrown in.

 

James Corden gets cornered by Cybermen

In the Doctor and Craig we have our very own intergalactic Laurel and Hardy, with Smith and Corden in perfect tune and playing off each other beautifully. One scene in particular, in the Cybermen's ship, where the Doctor tries to distract Craig from their surroundings by declaring his love for him and going in for a snog, had me howling. It's also fun to imagine the same scene but with different Doctors. Hartnell is a particular treat.

 

Gareth Roberts has long been a favourite writer of mine but with Closing Time he really has surpassed himself. As with any Roberts script, the comedy comes thick and fast but it would be wrong to simply label him as the guy who writes the "funny ones". There are moments of genuine tenderness – the Doctor chatting gently to Stormageddon/Alfie in the bedroom, being a particular lump in the throat moment - but Roberts isn't afraid to go for the jugular, either, with Craig's Cyber conversion being a genuinely unsettling, but cracking bit of body horror.

 

Like I said, this episode won't be for everyone. Craig being saved by his love for his infant son will have some fans punching the wall. Good, I hope they hurt their hand. What it is for is a Saturday night audience looking to laugh, cry, be a bit scared and have their imaginations tickled wonderfully. Personally, I was grinning like a loon.

 

This is a story that reaffirms everything there is to love about the show. Yes, there can be space wars, and time wars and creatures that scuttle from the corners of your darkest nightmares, but without a central character as fantastic as the Doctor all those things amount to just another TV programme (called Spacey Timey Battlekick, I'm pitching it to Sky alongside Danny Dyer's Deadliest Space – Danny Dyer sent into space, no cameras, no sound. BAFTA).

 

Doctor Who: Closing Time

Closing Time shows us the Doctor for what he is – the best friend you could ever wish for, a lovely man being lovely. After this brief but beautiful catch up with a mate for a laugh (the Doctor with Craig, the audience with the Doctor), there is a feeling of inevitability for our heroes at the end. As River is strapped into her (impossible) astronaut suit by her owners, The Silents, the Doctor knows he has a date to keep at Lake Silencio, and Craig has to face up to his responsibilities as a Dad. One would be tempted to say the closing message is "Feel the fear and do it anyway," but for the fact that people who say things like that are such atrocious wankers.

 

Closing Time is a big warm hug of an episode and absolutely pitch perfect Doctor Who.

 

Johnny Candon

 

 

Doctor Who: Closing Time
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