Thursday, 28 April 2011

Doctor Who: The Lodger

“Craig, the planet’s about to burn! For God’s sake, KISS THE GIRL!!!”

It’s so close. I can feel it. The Lodger tonight, the season finale tomorrow, and my Marathon will be over at last. It won’t be the end of my reviewing, of course- I’ll keep on writing the same sort of reviews in the appropriate parts of the forum (and this very blog!) until I’m completely up to date with all parts of the Whoniverse, and in a couple of weeks time I hope to be reviewing episodes the weekend they’re broadcast. But I’m not there yet, and the end of the Marathon is upon me. It feels big! Still, more, much more, on that theme tomorrow.

This story is an odd one, Marathon-wise. Ever since 22nd November, 2008, the day it all started, my Who viewing has been strictly in order and strictly Marathon related… except for current stories, as broadcast, plus repeat viewings over the following days. This hasn’t affected my Marathon, but The Lodger is different. Now then…if you haven’t seen The Impossible Astronaut, LOOK AWAY NOW.

Still here? Good. It’s an odd time for this story to come up in my Marathon. Normally I try not to be influence by anything I know about stories which come later, but here… it’s been hard not to take special notice of the set for the spaceship interior, or to look out for… things lurking in the background!

But let’s start at the beginning, and actually talk about The Lodger. We’ve seen suburbia and tower blocks before but it’s actually even more jolting to see a city park and some urban 1930s houses. I don’t know Colchester, and I’ve only once briefly been to Essex, but that’s ok: I have ready stream of stereotypes to keep me going. And I’m highly amused at Murray Gold’s channelling of the music from the end of The Empire Strikes Back in the moments where the Doctor realises he’s stranded in Essex of all places.

The set-up of stairs which people go up but never come down is a fantastic hook, but it’s general enough to hang around in the background for a bit while we have a bit of fun with the Doctor, Craig and Sophie and how they all relate to one another. Craig and Sophie are a pair of “best friends” who absolutely froth and steam with repressed love and desire for each other. We know damn well, because we’ve seen TV drama before and have a general idea how it works, that they’re going to end up together by the end of the episode by means of the Doctor as a catalyst. But the pleasure is in the “how”, of course. That and the fact this episode is very funny indeed.

The Doctor being placed in a “normal” situation is intrinsically funny, of course, but especially this Doctor, who is delightfully childlike in his complete and utter lack of self-consciousness. He’s better at football than Craig is. He’s better at Craig’s job than Craig is. But none of this is done with any arrogance; the Doctor even innocently wonders whether he’ll be any good at football.

This is an Amy-lite story, although Amy’s few scenes in the TARDIS give her some great lines. The production team has been very clever handling this; I can’t think of a Doctor-lite story this season. This is, if anything, particularly Doctor-heavy, and gives Matt Smith a proper chance to shine. His chat with Craig and Sophie, and his perceptive understanding of what makes both of them tick, are great. And, sticking to the childlike, he doesn’t like wine. Blimey. Takes all sorts, I suppose.

I’m not sure about the head butt, what with the children watching and stuff, but at least it save us a few minutes of potential exposition, along with giving us a fun little montage of old clips.

This is, of course, a re-use of the perception filter and room that shouldn’t exist from The Eleventh Hour, but I’m sure by now that this is deliberate. Moffat is trying to tell us something that’s going on. And yes, I paid particular attention to the exact appearance of what the Doctor calls “someone’s attempt to build a TARDIS” (hmmm!), to the exact appearance of the blue lightning drawing the Doctor’s hand to the central console, and to the apparent lack of any mysterious figures in the background, or unexplained glances from the characters…

The ending is pleasingly neat, with Craig and Sophie getting together being the exact thing which saves the day. I love the scenes where they gradually destroy their friendship. Aaaah! Good one, this. 4/5. But we end with another crack, and it’s a big one. And Amy’s found her engagement ring...

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