You know that thing they say about Doctor Who and the infinitely flexible format? How it can go anywhere, do anything at all? One of the things it rarely does is gut-busting, hysterically funny. This week’s episode was. Additionally, The Lodger (BBC1, Sat) was sweet, life-affirming and deeply deeply romantic.
It didn’t muck about either. About ten seconds in The Doctor was flat on his back watching the Tardis disappear, with Amy on board. Abandoned in Colchester he has to find what caused the problem in the first place and try to fit in with human society. He has to – gasp – settle down somewhere for once. While he’s at it he’ll make himself universally popular, sort out James Corden’s lovelife, stop a galaxy-spanning explosion and take some time out to play a bit of football. Not to mention completely acing his first day at work in a call centre. What a boy.
This episode was completely and utterly owned by Matt Smith. I understand this was the last episode to be filmed, and it shows. Matt is totally at home in the part now (he was from his very first day, on The Time of Angels). This week he was distilled essence of Doctor – displaying all of the characteristics that makes the character so thrilling. He’s mysterious. He’s a genius. He’s effortlessly charming. He quips like a bastard. His hearts are well and truly in the right place. He wanders into people’s lives and makes them better, sometimes entirely by accident. He’s my hero, I love him, and Matt Smith is well on the way to becoming the definitive Doctor. He may well become my all time favourite person in the part, displacing the blessed Troughton (who has been lodged there ever since I first saw The Krotons back in the early eighties).
I really didn’t expect this episode to be much more than a bit of a breathing space before the mayhem that is about to be unleashed in next week’s episode. I certainly didn’t expect it to make my eyes water alarmingly as Smithy from Gavin and Stacey got together with Emmy from Green Wing. Must be getting sentimental in my old age.
That said, there were some alarming hints that things are about to go terribly, terribly wrong. The crack was back again. In the Glasgow Mind-Meld scene, Doctors five, six and seven were missing from the flashback sequence (Nine and Ten were swapped round as well). Am I reading too much into this? I don’t know, but it seemed like an odd omission. Having done for Rory already, is the crack rewriting Eleven’s past as well?
It’s been pointed out elswhere that some of the plot devices in this one were somewhat familiar – The Girl In The Fireplace seems to have been an inspiration what with a spaceship running on automatic nicking humans in order to rebuild itself, and a mental exchange of information. True, but to be honest, I’d rather watch The Oncoming Storm disrupting a romantic situation by popping up from behind a sofa festooned in wiring than any amount of “Lonely Angel” stuff anytime. Don’t get me wrong, I’m terribly fond of The Girl In The Fireplace, it’s just that… this was fun.
Occasionally Doctor Who can forget itself and can be a bit, erm, precious – forgetting that first and foremost it’s a family show, designed to entertain. This series has – amongst its many other triumphs – been massively entertaining.
What else stood out about this episode? The Doctor taking time out to have a chat with a cat (and the cat filling him in on everything he needs to know to successfully bring the plot to a conclusion). The football match – Matt Smith is legendarily clumsy, as he admits himself. On the pitch that all seems to disappear and he becomes grace itself. Football’s loss was acting’s gain though – it would seem that the sod can do anything he turns his hand to. I’d be jealous if I didn’t like him so much. The call centre scene. For the second week running, a ludicrous gadget-lash up. The headbutting scene. Eleven using reverse psychology to set Sophie on her true career path. James Corden being sweet, funny and all the things I never actually expected from him. Oh, this was a joyous episode. I seem to keep reiterating how much I’m loving Doctor Who this year, but it does seem to keep getting better and better. Long may it continue.
Karen Gillan meanwhile – stuck off on the sidelines for most of the episode – continued displaying her remarkable ability to mug for the camera. Her look of “yecchhhh” as The Doctor saves the day and gets Craig together with Daisy was priceless.
Once again though – switchback time at the end of the fun and games. Amy discovers the ring that the Doctor’s been hiding from her. She seems to begin to remember. This could blow their friendship apart. If nothing else, The Doctor’s got a bit of explaining to do next week. If he can find the time in between parading about in Stone ‘enge, reuniting with Steven Moffat’s favourite plot kick-starter (hello again, River), and dealing with what appears from the “Next Time” to be a mass rumble brewing involving more or less every race ever to appear in Who on Telly, in Print or elsewhere.
What’s going to happen? I’m damn well going to be here to find out.