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Doctor Who XXXI.11: The Lodger (continued)

June 13th, 2010 (03:07 am)

Part Two

I saw the oscillation between 'old' and 'young' in the eleventh Doctor more clearly in The Lodger than I had before. The script makes the most blatant references to it yet, with the Doctor introducing himself to Craig as more "ancient adventurer" than young professional, even though superficially he's close to the latter (a precocious holder of a chair in something esoteric at the University of Essex, perhaps), he displays the wisdom of the former. Despite his youth, Smith's Doctor falls easily into the role of dispenser of armchair wisdom to Sophie, gently pressing her to acknowledge her ambitions. The Doctor tries to be a "bloke", and at times is good at it, not only with the aforementioned footballing, but also his insulting Craig over his weight, which seems to be the sort of thing a lot of chaps do to impress each other. Yet at other times he doesn't know what football is, slips and hurts himself in the shower; and while observing that the way that Craig and Sophie behave, it's a wonder that there are six billion people on the planet, his intervention threatens to separate them rather than draw them together. Without the TARDIS, his confidence is thinner, his bon mots less well-judged. Telling Craig who he is seems to come as a relief, though the idea is stressful enough to turn him for a couple of moments into Boys from the Blackstuff's Yosser Hughes. ("Gissa time engine.") At the same time, he's clearly been optimistic enough about his fate to look for clues left by a future self. (This was treated as a novelty in Battlefield twenty-one years ago, but since Blink, three years ago, has become part of the fabric of the series.) This writer allowed himself a wry inward smile when Sophie asked whether the Doctor might, on account of his alias, be a drug dealer... after all, the Doctor himself has proved powerfully addictive.

Love conquers all was a corny old resolution, but the episode didn't overdo the familiarity, with James Corden and Daisy Haggard pitching their performances just right so that their relationship could be followed by children but not alienate adults. There were pleasing touches of detail in the design - Sophie's red sheets, for example, doubtless say more about her than her pink fluffy keyring. The threat upstairs was dismissed somewhat cursorily - the holographic projection of the old man/young man/little girl wasn't enough in itself, and didn't give enough information about what it was or who it worked for. Who might have been TARDIS-building, and why didn't the Doctor seem more agitated by this? After all, it's hardly as if there are meant to be any Time Lords around from which to copy. The spaceship had echoes of the Jagaroth craft from City of Death, the most successful story of Gareth Roberts's beloved season seventeen, but it didn't seek to be the same design. I was also reminded of Mawdryn's craft from Mawdryn Undead, and possibly also the space station from Shada - but the point of the story was the what and how this affected the characters we knew, not the who or what of the plot, which (and we are back in the RTD era again) we are meant to fill in for ourselves.

Amy looked at her engagement ring much as Professor Yana looked at the fobwatch in Utopia. Karen Gillan is good (and better when she's not having to share the TARDIS with Arthur Darvill) but that expression at the close of the episode showed that she is shaping up to be as powerful as Derek Jacobi, which is no mean feat. In a season which has portrayed the Doctor as wizardly like none before - even including the Cartmel years - we still don't know the nature of the bond between the Doctor and Amy, both of whom are stalked by the same crack in the universe, but probably have a different relationship to it, which affects their relationship even though they might not be aware of it. So far, it works like magic. The fridge magnet message, 'The Doctor rocks' acted like an invocation to the crack - and perhaps, like Merlin (whom he of course is/will be/might be in a possible future), it's in rock that he will be imprisoned. Perhaps the ability to talk to cats - and the Doctor's grey-furred familiar proved an excellent spy (for a little while I'd wondered whether the Doctor was going to place Craig or Sophie in danger) - will help...

Next week, Private Eye's predicted invasion of the monsters from the back of the cupboard comes to pass. I'm intrigued that the Cybus Cybermen now have Cyber-ships; perhaps they were rescued from the void by Mondasian/Telosian Cybermen, and are being used as cannon fodder. Much, one hopes, like the multicoloured Daleks. Gareth Roberts and New/Missing Adventures books fans will like the mention of the Chelonians... and if the Drahvins are there, will they have any captured Chumbleys along for the ride? Though the cupboards must really be deep, if there are any of those still about...

Comments

Posted by: philmophlegm (philmophlegm)
Posted at: June 13th, 2010 11:56 am (UTC)
dalek

I thought it looked like Scaroth's ship too. He would be a good villain to bring back, especially if played again by Julian Glover.

Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: June 13th, 2010 01:31 pm (UTC)
Tom

Agreed - it would be good to see Julian Glover in Doctor Who again anyway, whether playing Scaroth or not.

Posted by: philmophlegm (philmophlegm)
Posted at: June 13th, 2010 02:51 pm (UTC)

Yes. One of that select bunch of actors to have appeared in the SF holy trinity of Who, B7 and Star Wars. Michael Sheard and Brian Blessed are also in that category. Any more?

Posted by: daniel_saunders (daniel_saunders)
Posted at: June 13th, 2010 09:04 pm (UTC)

New/Missing Adventures books fans will like the mention of the Chelonians

Much as they doubtless hated the episode's revelation that the Doctor has a belly button after all!

Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: June 13th, 2010 09:06 pm (UTC)

I'd not registered that... though didn't the Doctor have one, unlike other loom-woven Time Lords, according to Lungbarrow?

Posted by: daniel_saunders (daniel_saunders)
Posted at: June 13th, 2010 09:12 pm (UTC)

I only noticed because I happened to pause it at that particular point (when he was putting on his football shirt).

And, yes, on second thoughts you are right that the Doctor was the only Time Lord to have one.

Posted by: Dewi Evans (wonderwelsh)
Posted at: June 14th, 2010 05:10 pm (UTC)

I hadn't noticed the reference to chelonians - although I did spot the reference to Arcadia last week.

I wasn't that fond of this episode. Objectively, it was competent enough (bar the unforgivably rushed conclusion) but it wasn't really my cup of tea. Can't wait until next week though. I've been trying to work out what or who the most feard being in the universe might be. The best I can come up with is... the Doctor himself. But I can't see how that could work really.

Posted by: gervase_fen (gervase_fen)
Posted at: June 14th, 2010 06:41 pm (UTC)

"It was scary, but the ending was rubbish - no monsters" - review courtesy of the schoolgirls in my train carriage early this morning.

Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: June 14th, 2010 06:51 pm (UTC)

Had I been script editor, or story producer now I suppose, I'd have wanted to make the Doctor's powerlessness without the TARDIS more concrete - he knows that there are people being lured upstairs but he is powerless to stop them - or, we could have seen him do inventive things to save a few lives without blowing his cover. Secondly, the threat at the end of the story needed to be made more concrete - where did Sophie come from? Had she been processed, made 'live' in some way, and if so, by what? I'd have lost the headbutting, too. I did like the Doctor's subtlety (within the context of the story) in dealing with Sophie/Craig, though, and the attempt to explore how far the Doctor's apparent urbanity is shaped by his being able to live life at a very fast pace with companions to mediate for him.

Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: June 14th, 2010 06:57 pm (UTC)
MattKaren

I enjoyed the episode, really - I liked the return to the 'extraordinary ordinariness' which marked the first two RTD seasons particularly. I'd have liked a more dramatic conclusion, though, amid other changes which I've observed to gervase_fen below.

I suspect that the Doctor is the inhabitant of the Pandorica, and either he is there already - some kind of time paradox having been in operation all season - or he is imprisoned at the climax of the episode, and the final episode involves Amy(Amelia?)'s quest to get him back.

Posted by: fardell24 (fardell24)
Posted at: July 3rd, 2010 02:47 am (UTC)

Perhaps if the Drahvins are there, the Rills will be too..