I’ve never been happier that the Tardis is bigger on the inside than it looks from the outside. Because I want the largest, softest sofa installed in the control room. Because I want Craig Owens to feel at home there.
James Corden has guested twice on Doctor Who but, unlike other recurring characters I could name (yes, River Song, I mean you), he hasn’t outstayed his welcome. In fact, I’m desperate to see more of him.
Aren’t you? I’m tired of so many lovesick women hanging around the Doctor. It’s time for some bromance.
Think about it. Craig’s got all the right qualities for a companion. Yes, he has his fears, but he’s no coward – put someone he loves in danger and he’s Mr Impetuous. He displays unstinting loyalty to the Doctor, seeing the good in him even as all the Time Lord can do is blame himself for putting others in danger.
“You can’t help who your mates are,” he counters, cheerily – and it really is as simple as that for him. He thinks nothing of blundering in to rescue the Doctor from the Cybermen with only a barcode scanner for protection.
From the moment we first met Craig in The Lodger, my heart melted. This was down to Corden’s winning performance. Craig was endearingly awkward around Sophie, the friend he didn’t dare admit he loved, and touchingly crestfallen as the Doctor – his new flatmate – effortlessly outshone him on the football pitch, in the office – and with his beloved Sophie.
A little goes a long way with Corden. Just as his look of horror said it all when the Cybermat unexpectedly bared its teeth in Closing Time, all of Craig’s feelings for Sophie were captured in one fleeting, fond smile in The Lodger, as she admitted she had “only ever told Craig” about her lifelong ambition.
But let’s not forget the comedy. Looking back on Closing Time, there’s an awful lot of exposition from Craig – but you don’t notice it because the lines (and Corden) are amusing. And for me, Matt Smith’s portrayal of the Doctor is at its best when – whether the Time Lord is conscious of it or not – he’s being funny.
As with Catherine Tate and David Tennant before them, Corden sparks off Smith beautifully. Whether they’re squabbling, confiding in each other or saving the planet, there’s a chemistry between the two off screen that allows layers to gently peel away on screen, bringing hidden depths to light.
When the Doctor’s abstracted statements are greeted not with Amy’s sarcasm but with bafflement or a joke from Craig, the Time Lord seems less mad and more charismatic. And as the Doctor teases out Craig’s insecurities, the unassertive everyman becomes a bigger person – you realise the pressures he puts on himself to succeed, which are all the more noble for having gone unspoken.
So if James Corden can make room in his busy schedule – and the lovely Sophie (and demanding Alfie) can spare Craig – I’d love to see him travel in the Tardis. Standing shoulder to shoulder with the Doctor, armed only with his sense of humour and his unshakeable belief in doing the right thing, it’d be a challenging experience for Craig – and an absolute delight for us viewers.