The Lodger moves in with what feels like remarkable timing, scheduled as it is on the second day of the World Cup and ending almost to the second before England and the USA kick off in South Africa.
Not only is it the blokey-est Doctor Who episode to date, it contains a whopping great scene in which the Time Lord proves himself beyond a natural at the glorious game – wearing a number 11 shirt, of course!
If you're both a footie fan and a Who nut – and there must be a fair few in that Venn diagram – this seems like spectacularly adept planning, with The Lodger serving as the perfect pre-match warm-up.
The casting of James Corden is a coup, and it's a pleasure to see him play a guy closer to chummy Gav from Gavin & Stacey than oafish, needy Smithy. But, while Corden probably doesn't come cheap, almost everything else about The Lodger reeks of all expense spared.
This was one of the last episodes filmed, and writer Gareth Roberts has evidently been handed the dribble-end of the budget. Of course, Doctor Who can be made effectively for diddly-squat; they did it frequently in days of yore. With The Lodger, sadly, minimal expenditure yields minimal returns.
At half-time, I feel I have to "register a personal interest". Gareth's a friend. He went to school with my sister and we became chums on an ocean voyage a few years back. The man has funny bones. He's scripted some of the juicier Sarah Jane Adventures, and I loved his witty, literate Doctor Whos that brought to life William Shakespeare and Agatha Christie.
So I feel awkward in stating that The Lodger doesn't quite tick my boxes. I'm not at all engaged by the avatar-up-the-stairs threat and, given the sitcom set-up, I'd hoped for more laugh-out-loud moments than good-humoured banter.
I'm fine with the Doctor's gaucheness, sweet nature, match-making… I don't even mind him chatting with a cat. Why shouldn't he? But thrust into a humdrum flat-sharing milieu, the Time Lord looks diminished. A junior Doctor.
The head-butt/mind-meld with Craig is demeaning, although I can imagine many laughing at its flippancy… And I enjoy any excuse for flashbacks of Messrs Hartnell, Troughton and Pertwee. Did anyone else notice the Doctor – maybe for the first time – numbering his incarnation? "11th!"
As for our 907-year-old hero running about practically starkers… Matt Smith fans, students of Time Lord anatomy and general pervs will certainly be freeze-framing one sequence to verify those Gallifreyan bumps…
I have to say that other Radio Times bods enjoyed it. And I've often gone against fan wisdom, cherishing Love & Monsters (2006) but being immune to The Caves of Androzani (1984), voted all-time best story by Doctor Who Magazine readers. So what do I know? The Lodger may not quite score 0-0, yet I think for me it'll always linger on the substitute bench of Who history.
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