Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Doctor Who: The Lodger

Craig: 'Has anyone ever told you that you're a bit weird?'
Doctor: 'They never really stop.'

A brilliant beginning, an embarrassing middle, and a disappointing ending. But enough about the England game—what about Doctor Who? (Boom tish!) Tonight's episode was a serviceable, if companion-lite, story about the joys of normal life, the intricacies of making an omelette, and how not to blow up the solar system. At times, it felt a little light on plot—but it was so full of humour that I didn't give a monkey's.

We were also treated to a rare glimpse of the Doctor trying to pass himself off as a regular bloke. What a train wreck that turned out to be. Despite being around humans for almost 50 years, it's remarkable how badly he blends in. There's nothing that says 'alien' like an air kissing, anachronistically-dressed, history professor. The sad thing is, despite being constantly reminded of his freakishness, he seems remarkably non-cognisant of the reasons why. The custard and fish fingers, perhaps? The crazy gadgets? The talking to cats? His continuous insistence that bow-ties are cool? From whose perspective? Certainly not that of a 21st century human.

On the plus side, the Doctor did rack up some cool points with his mad footballing skills. Poor Craig, no wonder he felt so threatened by the Doctor—he was everything that Craig wasn't. But, whose idea was it to air this episode just minutes before the England game? To be fair, the ratings didn't suffer too badly (just 400,000 down on last week), so maybe Doctor Who fans aren't football fans, or maybe they just forfeited the build-up (like me), and then switched channels as soon as the credits started rolling. If only the Doctor played for England. I'm thinking in goal—big hands, you know?

Tonight's story revolved around new characters Craig and Sophie, and was a solid, if unoriginal, traipse through the lives of two people hopelessly in love, but too afraid to admit it. Considering the subject matter, I'm surprised Gareth Roberts got the nod over Richard Curtis. Humorous domesticity is more up Curtis' alley, but Roberts' script was fine. The spaceship on the roof story, did feel like a bit of an afterthought, but the rest was vaguely entertaining.

Unfortunately, 'vaguely entertaining' is as good as it got. The script contained some superbly funny quips, but they were draped across a distinctly average plot, and as a result, the episode never really took off. The cast was good. Daisy Haggard was especially convincing as the reticent, but sweet, Sophie, but I'm still in two minds about whether having comedy actors on the show is a good idea. They come with too much baggage, and it's just too hard to see past their comedy personas. In the past we've had some real successes—Jessica Hynes, Catherine Tate, and Simon Pegg—but we've also had some real stinkers. (Ken Dodd, Peter Kay, Hale and Pace and Alexei Sayle.) Real actors do real acting so much better. When will they ever learn?

To be fair, Corden probably rated somewhere in the middle, and with his OTT persona turned down to low, Craig came across as a genuinely likeable character. He was even funny (in a subtle, not-at-all-like-James-Corden-y kind of way). But what exactly was that metal spatula, strainer thing on Craig's desk, and why could no one see it? It was bizarrely conspicuous. And talking to cats through a psychic link? There's a conversation I'd like to hear (though, as Wittgenstein posited, it'd likely be unintelligible... or about catnip). I don't recall seeing the expositional head-butt before, either. Kids are going to love that come school, Monday morning.

The Doctor spent much of tonight's episode without his usual gadgets. No TARDIS, no sonicing, just a regular screwdriver (with no 'on' switch), and a home-made scanner made from traffic cones, a lamp shade and some rowing oars. And yet, somehow, his clumsy (some may say tactless) verbal probing managed to yield positive results. His reverse psychology certainly worked on Sophie, and he did manage to reverse Craig's enzyme decay by exciting the tannin molecules in his system (i.e. he made him a cup of tea.) Lovely Charles and Diana teapot, too. Easily as cool as the Doctor's bow-tie.

The ending was admittedly cheesy—with love saving the universe, etc.—but what annoyed me most was that we never got to find out who was building the TARDIS! That was a massive plot development, surely? They can't just let that implode—it's probably the biggest story we've had on the show in years. What a shame they didn't develop it (assuming they don't in the finale.) And, of course, Amy finding Rory's ring, and the return of the crack in the universe, set up next week's two-part finale nicely—which, judging by the trailer, looks rather exciting.

Other Thoughts:

—As with season three's 'Blink', this was another story adapted from a comic strip featuring the tenth Doctor, Rose and Mickey. (Picture included up top for your perusal.)

—Nice picture of Van Gogh on Craig's fridge. The real Van Gogh, that is. Not Tony Curran.

—Noisy bloody machine! What was all that banging? People exploding?

—There was official confirmation tonight that Matt is the Doctor's eleventh incarnation.

—The zigzag plotter looked remarkably like the gear shift on a diesel bus.

—Obviously the Doctor's not too keen on wine. Or maybe it was just that wine.


Doctor: 'Craig? Breakfast! It's normal.'

Sophie: 'Because life can seem so pointless, you know Doctor? Work, weekend. Work, weekend. And there's six billion people on the planet doing pretty much the same.'
Doctor: 'Six billion people. Watching you two at work I'm starting to wonder where they all come from.'

Doctor: 'Annihilate? No. No violence, do you understand me? Not while I'm around. Not today, not ever. I'm the Doctor, the Oncoming Storm - and you basically meant beat them in a football match, didn't you?'

Doctor: 'Hello, I'm Captain Troy Handsome of International Rescue, please state the nature of your emergency!'

Doctor: 'Hello My Joergonsen. Can you hold? I have to eat a biscuit.'

Doctor: 'It's art. A statement on modern society. Oh, ain't modern society awful.'

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