Dear Steven Moffat: Closing Time

Dear Steven,

Our journey, much like The Doctor’s, is almost at an end, but before we slice open this series and conduct a hurried and slapdash post-mortem, missing the vital clues that might confer peace on an irritable and confused Whovian family, there’s the minor matter of Gareth Roberts’ Closing Time; penultimate jollies to calm the mind and prepare it for the membrane pounding concept pile-up, that is surely next week’s finale.

The Wedding of River Song, to which I wasn’t invited, is bound to be pregnant with pathos and melancholia and posturing and high-concept time babble, so our hope for Roberts’ Lodger sequel, was that it would be a pick me up, a breather, a banterthon, and consequently we’d all have the opportunity to enjoy a few jokes and nothing too intense before life as we know it comes to a halt, and reality is turned upside down. Well, you may congratulate Mr R, Steven; this episode wasn’t as good as The Lodger but it was a ball tickle; good clean fun.

It’s strange how Doctor Who can take something familiar and change it utterly. I’m not talking about lifts becoming teleport pads or department stores made sinister, they were already sinister, but James Corden, and the show’s knack, now shown twice over, of making him rather lovable, instead of the universal hate figure of legend.

Craig Owens is a fine character; not full time companion material, we all understand that – he’s a little too exasperated, not to mention domesticated for the life – but perfect for the occasional adventure. Roberts’ conceit, that Craig is an ordinary guy with modest aspirations, whose life is occasionally upended by the man with the 50s hair cut, is welcome, because we need not worry about the particulars. The adventure begins for us, as it does for Craig, the moment the poor sod opens his front door, and we know it’ll be over 40 minutes later. In the meantime we can sit back, minimise the porn window on our laptops and enjoy what the Celts refer to as “the craic”, though I wish they wouldn’t.

There’s a danger, naturally, that an episode built upon comic misunderstandings and japery, may becomes slight, perhaps disposable, but I think Closing Time just about dodged that bullet. Two things helped it along. One, with The Doctor’s demise imminent, there was an undercurrent of sadness to the whole thing, realised in lots of emotionally engaging snippets – The Doc reflecting on his age and past selfishness for example, a nice scene with the Timelord and Corden’s baby in which he turned the nursery into a planetarium and pondered the fact that he’d done everything he wanted with his life, while baby Alfie had it all ahead of him, etc – this was good stuff. Amy and Rory’s cameo was also a nice touch; what a relief to find that our favourite red head was fronting a perfume campaign and hadn’t slipped into a career as a lap dancer to pay off Rory’s gambling debts.

Two, the relationship between The Doctor and Craig is warm and dare I say, sweet. You can fully understand why people would mistake them for a homo-couplet; they look good together. Sure, the tone of the episode was jaunty, some would say farcical – you had to laugh as Craig wrestled with a mechanical rodent which, in true b-movie style, he seemed to be holding to his own throat, but this was the charm of the episode; it wasn’t heavy, just in turn touching and very funny, and sometimes that’s exactly what you need. If I feel half as good following next week’s finale, I’ll consider that a lucky escape.

Still, this was the pre-finale appetiser and consequently the final five minutes were reserved for the arc. Craig gave The Doctor his Stetson, he went to the TARDIS and suddenly, BANG, we were in the future and back with River and her evil sponsors. After a minor struggle she was reactivated as a weaponised curly-pow, sunk into an astronauts suit, the significance of which I’d forgotten, and left at the bottom of Lake Silencio, ready to strike.

Steven, my one hope for next week’s episode is that it holds some surprises. I say this, because the final scene of Closing Time fed my fear, a fear that’s been building throughout this season, that the simplest explanation for each mystery, seeded by you in a series of early ejaculations, is the correct one.

From the beginning of this series, River was our prime suspect for The Doctor’s assassin, not just because she’s implied her guilt for two years, but also because she gave the game away by exclaiming “No, of course not”, when she failed to kill the shooter, following the assassination. ‘Right, so that’s River then’ thought we, but nevertheless hope remained that you were cleverer than your audience and you were going to wrongfoot us – yet you didn’t. River, we thought, following a series of monster sized hints, is Amy’s daughter, but no we said, NO, that’s too bleedin’ obvious – so obvious in fact, that it turned out to be correct.

If the name of the game was to tie everything up in a coherent fashion, then you’d be winning, but surely the pleasure inherent in a non-linear plot, is that you show the effect, tease several explanations for the possible cause and then lead the audience down the garden path before revealing a fiendishly cunning alternate that undercuts our expectations? Getting to the destination by an unexpected route is half the fun but this season, thus far, you’ve signposted the path to the climax at every turn.

Now there’s only one head-fucking question left, namely how does The Doctor survive death? To be fair to you, Steven, there’s no obvious explanation for this, other than he doesn’t, so you’ll understand my disappointment if that turns out to be the case. The series, we know, will continue, as will Matt Smith, so we know that ending can’t stand, yet you burnt his corpse and told us it was a fixed point in time that couldn’t be changed. Having lead us exactly where we expect to go all year Steven, I hope you’ve got an absolutely fantastic explanation for this one – a solution that’s going to confound all your critics. It’s a big episode, we’re told, one that will set out a new vision for the series. If that vision is a couple of companions travelling through time and space with an urn, I won’t be pleased.

One last thing y’bastard; why is the astronaut impossible? The answer to that, I expect, is the crux of it. Don’t fuck it up.

Yours in time and cyberspace,

Ed

Catch up before it’s too late:

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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I dread the string of expletives you’ll utter if Moffat “solves” it all with another bloody time paradox…

    • We both know he’s thought about it.


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