Series 6, episode 12: “Closing Time”
With the Doctor’s time running out, he stops by Earth to see a friend and finds old enemies lurking beneath quiet city streets…
I kinda feel like the Grinch finding fault with “Closing Time”, considering how sweet-natured and funny it is, but I guess I’m just going to have to. Sigh.
First of all, while I love to see our universe’s Cybermen, I really think they were wasted here, and yes, yes, I know that they’re running on low power and such, but still. It was nice to see a Cybermat again, and the shots of the lone Cyberman were suitably creepy, but once we got down into the ship, all the tension seemed to evaporate. And yes, it’s sweet and happy and as a father I can cheer a bit for Craig overcoming the Cyber-conversion by the power of his love for his son, but, and it’s a big but, that’s not how it works. Well, that’s not how it’s worked before anyway, with Cybermen being pretty much mechanical bodies with human brains inside… ah to hell with it. That’s not really what this episode is about is it? The Cybermen are here to provide the bad guys, but it’s really about the Doctor isn’t it?
This season has been greatly about redefining the Doctor’s relationships, first with his mortality, then with the TARDIS itself, then with Rory and Amy, and most importantly, with himself. We’ve seen the Doctor realize how much he puts those he cares about in danger, and how his legacy is viewed by those in the wider universe. It’s been something of a dark picture, with words like “god complex” and “vain” figuring heavily, and while he really is just trying to help, it seem that the results have led to Madame Kovarian’s War and the birth of the Silence, all for the fear of the Doctor. Episodes like “The Girl Who Waited” have shown starkly the kind of terrible decisions the Doctor makes on a regular basis, and how monstrous they can seem when someone like Rory takes a hard look at them. Rory changed there, and it would be Amy who would set aside her hero-worship in “The God Complex”, and where the Doctor would decide that putting the people he cares about at risk, no matter how lonely he may be, wasn’t something he could accept anymore.
Picking up somewhere in the neighborhood of 200 years later, the Doctor finds himself one day out from the events of “The Impossible Astronaut”, and while we don’t have a lot of details, it seems to have been a full 200 years. Somewhere in there would be the bulk of his life with River Song, and while we’ve had hints (Jim the Fish anyone?), there’s little we know about this period of the Doctor’s life, aside from River calling it the best part of hers. The Doctor doesn’t appear to be thinking much of his happier past though, as he stops by to visit Craig Owens on what seems to be a farewell tour of sorts.
Finding Craig with new son in tow, the Doctor finds himself in the new position of having to be talked into investigating the mysterious power fluctuations. Feeling his years, feeling as though he’s doing more harm than good, the Doctor seems to want to walk away, but of course he can’t, because then he wouldn’t be the Doctor, would he? Craig’s innocent belief helps. Craig’s logic that staying close to the Doctor is the safest thing to do is somewhat flawed, but more often than not, it does turn out to be the case, and with young Alfie in tow, you can see how he’s think that. That Craig’s arc here is somewhat clichéd (frazzled new father in over his head trying to prove himself) and that it’s just another spin on his story from “The Lodger” is a little disappointing, but I suppose it’s too much to ask that he change too much. He wouldn’t, after all, be the foil for the Doctor that he is in these two episodes. There, of course, is much fun to have with Craig’s son Alfie, or “Stormageddon” as he prefers to be called, because of course, the Doctor speaks Baby, and of note is the somewhat revealing and funny “conversation” the Doctor has with him in the nursery.
Ok, I do have a couple of problems. One, while it’s cute that the Doctor can silence babies with a sound, his repeated use of it on adults is kind of insulting after a while. And the repeated use of the “partners/couple/companion” misunderstanding of the Doctor/Craig relationship as a gay couple is sort of beat into the ground. And the simple-minded/obliviousness of the clerks is… ah, it’s a comedy episode. Still.
The interesting moment for me this episode came with the “cameo” appearance of Amy and Rory, and the revelation that Amy has become somewhat famous as a model for a perfume campaign. Welllll… that’s what a lot of people seem to have come away with, but I think it’s rather something more. Let’s consider the poster the Doctor sees shall we? Lovely picture of Amy of course, but then there’s the name of the fragrance: Petrichor. It’s part of the psychic key the TARDIS gives Rory in the “The Doctor’s Wife”, and it’s described as the smell of dust after rain, and it seems highly unlikely that a perfume company would come up with something so specific to the Doctor on its own.
More likely, and the line “For the Girl Who’s Tired Of Waiting” backs this up, is that Amy created the fragrance, and far from being just a model, she’s created a business. With the idea that Amy and Rory deserve a life that doesn’t revolve around the Doctor being part of the reason he left them, it’s clear that they’ve built one, and a successful one at that. The Doctor holding back from going to them, the hiding from them, and his rueful expression when he realizes that Amy has moved on, show that 200 years or not, the Doctor still regrets what effect he’s had on the two.
If you didn’t enjoy last years “The Lodger”, or James Corden’s performance as Craig in it, you’re probably not going to appreciate this episode a whole lot. While I did, I do find it somewhat odd that the penultimate instalment of the season is something this slight, even though it gives us a counterpoint to the last two episodes. Craig quite sensibly tells the Doctor that the Cybermen would have woken up and began killing and converting people whether the Doctor was there or not, and that the fact that he is there mean that the Cybermen will be stopped. So yes, while the Doctor is responsible for putting his friends in danger, yes, he’s frightening to those in power and those who think he might try and stand in their way, and yes, his ego and vanity are responsible for much that is negative, the fact remains: Without the Doctor things would be much, much worse.
We have to discuss the coda here, where River Song is oddly reviewing paper records that don’t seem to have any real reason to exist, and Madame Kovarian and The Silence reveal that they still aren’t done with her. It’s good on one hand, because we need more evidence that thier investment of time, money and lives are worth it in their creation of Melody as a weapon, but it’s a little odd as well. She’s just become a Doctor you see, and now they’ve come for her? Hmmm. We do have the answer finally as to who was/is in the Astronaut suit, and there went my pet theory… I was leaning towards the Doctor himself.
So, funny, sweet, odd in its placement, “Closing Time” gives us a reminder that the Doctor is a force for good, even as he struggles with his own feelings on the subject. We also get a nice lead in for our season finale… now we wait. For the Death Of The Doctor, and the “The Wedding of River Song”.