Funny man James Corden returns to Doctor Who as Craig Owens and finds another alien threat close to home. But will we be calling last orders before chucking-out time? Sadly, yes; but let’s approach the negatives later.
Returning too is writer Gareth Roberts, who has penned so many memorable and wonderful Doctor Who moments including 2008’s ‘The Unicorn and the Wasp’ and last year’s ‘The Lodger’ (also starring Corden). Roberts created a magnificent pairing in The Doctor and Craig in their first outing and the double act continue to flourish in ‘Closing Time’.
Everyone’s favourite Time Lord is on the last days of his life (or so he says) and has popped in to see his old buddy. But things don’t go to plan as the Gallifreyan finds himself noticing something is amiss (despite his forced attempts not to). This leads to The Doctor taking employment in the toy department of a large store where people have been going missing.
Of course, as you no doubt know, it’s the Cybermen who are behind these disappearances, along with their “silver rat”, the Cybermat. Disappointingly (and not for the first time since 2005), the former inhabitants of Mondas are woefully underused and their threat is non-existent. At no point will you feel that these metal giants are going to trouble anyone.
Similarly, the story itself is largely absent (again, a criticism that could be applied to a number of episodes this year). ‘Closing Time’ feels like a series of scenes, or sketches, woven together and, like last week’s ‘The God Complex’, the episode seems to serve the ending of the story.
However, in fairness, it also serves the hilarious and genuinely engaging relationship between the two leads, Matt Smith and James Corden. The actors are on fine form and their football chuminess has moved on to more serious discussions as Craig gets to grips with being a father. Infuriatingly, for him, The Doctor fully understands Alfie, Craig’s son, who amusingly prefers to go by a more unique moniker.
Director Steve Hughes does an excellent job of jumping in tone from the darker elements of the Cybership to the store antics (combining ‘Rose’ with ‘Army of Ghosts’) and the fantastic chemistry between Smith and Corden combine to save ‘Closing Time’ from the ranks of ‘clunker’.
But the tenuous nature of the plot, the less-than-impressive CG work, the continuous references to The Doctor’s death and the, frankly, over-sentimental denouement (the fourth week in a row for an emotional resolution) means that the penultimate tale from Series 6 is a fun outing though almost entirely inconsequential.
Airs at 7.10pm on Saturday 24th September on BBC One.