Doctor Who: Closing Time
(1 episode, s06e12, 2011)
Here to help!
At the Sanderson & Grainger store in Colchester, Kelly and Shona prepare to close up for the night. Kelly is late for a date, so Shona offers to take her duties. Shona is perturbed that a customer is still in the changing rooms and is not amused at the flickering lights throughout the store.
Elsewhere, Craig Owens escorts his wife out the door for a weekend getaway, intent on showing her (and everyone else) that he can handle things on his own while she’s gone. Sophie has called a few people to check in on Craig, but he calls them back and tells them not to worry. He hears a knock at the door and, believing that Sophie has come back, answers it. To his dismay, his guest is none other than the Doctor.
His guest doesn’t like the new decor. Or the inexplicable power surges.
When he investigates, he finds a baby. Sophie and Craig’s baby.
Shona, on the other hand, finds a Cyberman. Surprise!
Craig tells the Doctor that he really can’t handle the baby. Alas, there are no off switches, but the Doctor has a secret weapon: He speaks baby.
It turns out that Alfie, the baby boy, prefers to be called Stormageddon, Dark Lord of All. Sophie is “Mum”, Craig is “Not-Mum”, the Doctor is “also-not-Mum”, and everyone else is merely “peasant”.
The Doctor says that Craig’s place is one more stop on his great farewell tour, of which he has spent a considerable amount of time waving at the Ponds through history. He sets out to visit the Alignment of Exodor, trying desperately to not notice the oddities around him. His curiosity gets the best of him, however, and he ends up as a toy salesman at Sanderson & Grainger. Nametag and all.
Craig is surprised to see the Doctor demonstrating a remote control helicopter. The Doctor explains that he’s living in the moment, even introducing Craig to Yappy the robot dog (which is nowhere near as fun as other robot dogs he knows). His attention is drawn to a silver blur, and when Craig asks, the Doctor alludes to several missing people and the ongoing power fluctuations. The Doctor ushers Craig out, but is convinced by Stormie to explain the teleporter. The teleporter in the elevator which soon whisks them away to wherever the Cybermen are hiding. The Doctor reverses it and starts searching, begging Craig to take Alfie and go, but Craig refuses. He believes in the Doctor.
The Doctor, Craig, and Stormie return to the store and investigate. The Doctor gets word of a “silver rat thing” from Val, the perfume saleswoman who thinks that he and Craig are a couple. Craig stalks the women’s department, completely missing the silver blur and getting in trouble with security. Craig gets bailed out by the Doctor (who is absolutely adored by the staff) and they both end up in the changing rooms where Shona was last seen.
Oh, and the silver rat is a Cybermat. Which makes these Mondasian Cybermen, not Cybus Cybermen.
Craig wanders off to change Alfie. In the meantime, the Doctor spots Amy and Rory. Amy has become a bit of a celebrity thanks to her perfume ads, and is surprised that a little girl wants her autograph. The Doctor beams with pride as he avoids being seen.
After closing, the Doctor, Craig, and Stormie go hunting for Cybermats. They find one, teeth and all, then follow screams to security guard George. A Cyberman knocks the Doctor out with an electrical charge and takes George’s body away. The Doctor is confused as to how the Cybermen repaired the teleport so fast.
The team regroups at Craig’s house. The Doctor whips up a science experiment and gives Alfie a pep talk, realizing that it is his old age talking. In the meantime, the Cybermat reactivates and attacks the adorable duo. Unfortunately, the Doctor locks himself and Alfie outside without the sonic screwdriver. The Doctor tries to warn Craig, but the Cybermat wreaks havoc. One broken back door and a recalibration of the sonic later, the Cybermat is disabled.
While dissecting the Cybermat with a normal screwdriver and a loupe, the Doctor laments his position. Tomorrow is the day that the prophecy – “Silence will fall when the question is asked”, even though he has no idea what the question is – descends upon him. Craig falls asleep and the Doctor goes back to the store to hunt with his new friend Bitey the Cybermat.
The Doctor finds what he’s looking for behind a mirror in the changing room, descending down a tunnel into the foundation of the store. Craig follows the Doctor, leaving Alfie with Val, as the Time Lord explores the cyber ship and is captured. The Cybermen don’t find the Doctor to be compatible, but start conversion of Craig into the new Cyber Controller. The Doctor pleads with Craig to think of Alfie as the helmet seals around his face.
Alfie’s cries across an open CCTV channel reawaken Craig’s emotions, breaking him free of the conversion and starting an emotional feedback loop in the Cybermen. Their heads literally explode and the ship blows up as Craig and the Doctor use the teleport to return to the elevator.
Oh, and Bitey? He didn’t make it.
The day saved and the “companion” miscommunication nearly resolved, the Doctor spirits away. He uses the TARDIS to help tidy up Craig’s house. He also reveals that Stormie prefers the name Alfie now, and also refers to Craig as “Dad”. The Doctor borrows some blue stationery and Craig offers him a Stetson.
Sophie returns, Alfie has a first word, and the Doctor moves on. He says hello to some kids, an event that is somehow chronicled in the records at Luna University in the 52nd century. There, River Song encounters Madame Kovarian while doing research. Kovarian and her Silence companions reveal that they have locked out part of her memories, relating the story of an impossible astronaut.
River is sedated against her will and dressed in a spacesuit. She awakens under Lake Silencio.
She’s destined to kill the Doctor.
On the one hand, this is a good dramatic break from the tension developed over the last four episodes. It does a decent job of connecting the dots leading into the finale, making it less of a filler story than its predecessor. On the other hand, the downsides here are pretty big.
First, James Corden isn’t particularly funny here, which acts as an anchor around this story’s neck. Second, and perhaps more damning, is how this story defangs the Cybermen. The Cybermen haven’t been a central figure in a story since the David Tennant era. The last time was The Next Doctor, but the last truly impactful stories were all the way back in Series Two with Army of Ghosts & Doomsday and Rise of the Cybermen & The Age of Steel.
The Cybermen here are, frankly, on the same level as The Next Doctor without the humor, the heart, or even the absurdity. They only serve to assimilate random victims and get blown to kingdom come as a function of the formula. They aren’t menacing, and they certainly don’t march anywhere. They’re nothing more than a prop.
I do appreciate several moments in this story.
- The Doctor’s telepathy makes a comeback as he quiets people with a simple command.
- The “I don’t like it” review of redecoration is a fun running gag from The Three Doctors, The Five Doctors, and Time Crash.
- The concept of another farewell tour, this one spanning 200 years or so.
- The acknowledgement that the Doctor always offers a choice to his enemies. In fact, some of the best stories present the enemy failure as their own undoing.
We also see how what Pond life is like without the Doctor. It seems they’re doing well enough. The use of petrichor was a nice touch.
But in the effort to set this series up for a home-stretch sprint, this light-hearted episode stumbles while rounding the curve.
Rating: 3/5 – “Reverse the polarity of the neutron flow.”
UP NEXT – Doctor Who: Death is the Only Answer
The Timestamps Project is an adventure through the televised universe of Doctor Who, story by story, from the beginning of the franchise. For more reviews like this one, please visit the project’s page at Creative Criticality.
8 thoughts on “Timestamp #230: Closing Time”
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