Doctor Who: Closing Time ★★★★

James Corden returns as new dad Craig to help the Doctor tackle Cybermen in this department-store comedy

572
4.0 out of 5 star rating

Story 223

Advertisement

Series 6 – Episode 12

First UK transmission
Saturday 24 September 2011

Storyline
The Doctor catches up with his old flatmate Craig in Colchester. With Sophie away for the weekend, Craig is struggling to cope with their new baby, Alfie (who prefers the name Stormageddon). Investigating a spate of mysterious disappearances in the area, the Doctor takes a job in the toy section of a department store. He soon uncovers an infestation of rodent-like Cybermats, and finds the store was built upon the crash site of a Cyber-ship. The awakening Cybermen aim to convert Craig into their new leader.

Production
March to April 2011. At House of Frazer, Cardiff; Church Road, Penarth; Hensol Castle; Upper Boat Studios.

Cast
The Doctor – Matt Smith
Amy Pond – Karen Gillan
Rory Williams – Arthur Darvill
Craig Owens – James Corden
Sophie – Daisy Haggard
River Song – Alex Kingston
Madame Kovarian – Frances Barber
Shona – Seroca Davis
Kelly – Holli Dempsey
George – Chris Obi
Val – Lynda Baron
Cyberman – Paul Kasey
Voice of the Cybermen – Nicholas Briggs

Crew
Writer – Gareth Roberts
Director – Steve Hughes
Producer – Denise Paul
Designer – Michael Pickwoad
Music – Murray Gold
Executive producers – Steven Moffat, Piers Wenger, Beth Willis

RT review by Patrick Mulkern
“Something for the dads.” That used to mean Wendy Padbury in a catsuit, Katy Manning in mini-skirts, Louise Jameson in skimpy leathers, even Janet Fielding in a camisole. Leggy clotheshorse Karen Gillan is their modern-day successor. But now the “something for the dads” angle instigated by producer Innes Lloyd in 1960s Doctor Who has gained an entirely new meaning.

I moaned about it in recent episodes – the pervading father/son dynamic that has become a sine qua non of Steven Moffat’s Who. Now Closing Time indulges it to the hilt as fumbling new dad Craig learns to connect with baby Alfie during the course of the drama. And, this time, it works just fine.

There’s much comedy value in Craig tagging along with the Doctor, with Alfie in pushchair or papoose, being mistaken for the Doctor’s civil partner, the Time Lord translating Alfie’s goo-goo language (he calls Craig “not Mum”). And how brilliant that the baby’s first word is “Doctor”.

Only the explosive resolution – “I blew them up with love,” says Craig – is emotional overload, but what better way to deal with the emotionally deprived Cybermen? And writer Gareth Roberts has the wit and nerve to let the Doctor admit that Craig’s claim is “grossly sentimental and over-simplistic”.

Craig has earned his stripes as a semi-companion (factoring in last year’s The Lodger) and I’ve warmed to James Corden. It’s been a slow thaw. Needy Smithy was the only aspect I didn’t like about Gavin & Stacey, and Corden’s excessive braggadocio during the 2010 World Cup was less than endearing. But I was won over in 2011 by his spontaneity and impeccable timing in One Man, Two Guvnors, the National Theatre’s sell-out comedy.

I chuckled a lot during Closing Time, but there are moments of tension, too: a Cyberman lurking in a shadowy changing room, the fanged Cybermat… Almost every Doctor Who monster bears the scent of a shameless marketing opportunity; at least the revamped Cybermats (robo-rodents who last appeared in 1975’s Revenge of the Cybermen) have the grace to scuttle across the floor of a toy department. They’re even eyed up as a must-buy prezzie by store employee Val.

Good to see Lynda Baron still getting work. She exudes warmth and good humour from behind her shop counter without veering into Mollie Sugden territory. Terrific as Violet Carson in The Road to Coronation Street (2010) and forever identified with Nurse Gladys Emmanuel in Open All Hours, Baron also has a notable Doctor Who pedigree. She sang the charmless Ballad of the Last Chance Saloon that underscored The Gunfighters (a 1966 William Hartnell story) and in Enlightenment (1983) was operatic as pirate captain Wrack, opposite Peter Davison’s Doctor.

It’s incredible to think that, since he said goodbye to Amy and Rory in the previous episode, the 11th Doctor has been travelling some 200 years without a companion. Think back to the frenzied antics we glimpsed right at the start of the season (hiding under a 17th-century lady’s skirts; escaping Nazis in a Colditz-like tunnel) – they fill in some of the gaps. This already makes him one of the longest-living incarnations.

The thrust of the episode sees him preparing – and prepares us – for his imminent demise in episode 13. I’m glad when I previewed Closing Time I hadn’t seen the printed cast list, so the sweet cameo for Amy and Rory came as a surprise and I certainly wasn’t expecting the tense coda with River Song and Madame Kovarian.

Advertisement

Roll on the finale! We are all invited to The Wedding of River Song.