The Lodger ★★★

The Time Lord takes temporary lodgings in sitcomland with Craig (James Corden)

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Story 211

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Series 5 – Episode 11

“Aren’t you lucky I came along? Less of a young professional, more of an ancient amateur, but frankly I’m an absolute dream” – the Doctor

Storyline
The Tardis struggles to land in modern-day Colchester, then flies off with Amy aboard and stranding the Doctor in a park. He finds lodgings at a flat in Aickman Street with a friendly chap called Craig. A sinister force lurks on the upper floor of the building and lures passers-by to their doom. The Time Lord reveals there’s an alien spaceship upstairs, and he fits in a spot of football and match-making between Craig and his friend Sophie.

First UK transmission
Saturday 12 June 2010

Production
March 2010. Westville Road, Penylan, Cardiff; Victoria Park, Canton, Cardiff; Lanelay Hall, Llantrisant; Upper Boat Studios.

Cast
The Doctor – Matt Smith
Amy Pond – Karen Gillan
Craig Owens – James Corden
Sophie Benson – Daisy Haggard
Steven – Owen Donovan
Sean – Babatunde Aleshe
Michael – Jem Wall
Sandra – Karen Seacombe
Clubber – Kamara Bacchus

Crew
Writer – Gareth Roberts
Director – Catherine Morshead
Producer – Tracie Simpson
Music – Murray Gold
Production designer – Edward Thompson
Executive producers – Steven Moffat, Piers Wenger, Beth Willis

RT review by Patrick Mulkern
Back in 2010, The Lodger moved in with what felt like impeccable timing, scheduled as it was on the second day of the Football World Cup and ending almost to the second before England and the USA kicked off in South Africa.

The “blokey-est” Doctor Who episode yet, and tapping into Matt Smith passion for football, it contains a whopping great scene in which the Time Lord proves himself 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 was spectacularly adept planning, with The Lodger serving as a 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 in spirit to chummy Gav from Gavin & Stacey than the oafish, needy Smithy. He’s warm and cuddly and wonderfully believable as lovelorn, sofa-loving Craig. 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 was evidently 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 patchy returns.

At half-time, I feel I have to “register a personal interest”. Gareth is 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 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 engaged by the avatar-up-the-stairs threat and, given the sitcom territory, I’d hoped for more 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 some being amused by 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… Well, Jon Pertwee looked decidedly un-Doctorly in his 1970 debut, singing in a shower and flashing a tattoo! In The Lodger, Matt Smith fans, students of Time Lord anatomy and pervs in general will certainly be freeze-framing one sequence to examine those Gallifreyan bumps…

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On a re-watch several years after its first transmission, I enjoyed the episode rather more than I did in 2010. The mini-bromance between Smith and Corden won me over. The Lodger never scored 0-0, was more of a 1-1, and for me it no longer lingers on the substitute bench of Who history.