Doctor Dan Stays With The Lodger!! Antepenultimate WHO!!
Published at: June 12, 2010, 6:13 p.m. CST by hercules
DOCTOR WHO 5.11 – "The Lodger"
WRITER: Gareth Roberts
DIRECTOR: Catherine Morshead
GUEST CAST: James Corden, Daisy Haggard, Owen Donovan, Babatunde Aleshe, Jem Wall, Karen Seacombe & Kamara Bacchus
As is customary before the series' two-part finale, "The Lodger" was an episode of palate-cleansing light entertainment, cheaply made and relying almost entirely on script and performance to see it through. Writer Gareth Roberts' history on the show has been mostly spent penning "historical episodes" like "The Shakespeare Code" and "The Unicorn And The Wasp", but here he adapted the idea behind a comic-strip he wrote for the Doctor Who Annual: what if The Doctor was stranded on Earth and had to pass himself off as an everyday human?
Arriving in modern-day Colchester, The Doctor (Matt Smith) was marooned after the TARDIS dematerialized with Amy (Karen Gillan) stuck inside; apparently the repercussions of a mysterious entity living upstairs in a local town house, which The Doctor decides to investigate first-hand by becoming the new flatmate of the residence's coach potato Craig (James Corden). "The Lodger" essentially became an odd couple comedy with The Doctor befriending Craig and becoming both an eccentric friend and frustrating rival, once it became clear he's a better footballer and call centre worker than Craig will ever be. With Amy stuck in a time vortex limbo (though able to communicate with The Doctor thanks to a space-time earpiece), the mystery of who or what is living upstairs had to be solved... especially as the entity keeps enticing passers-by into its room to be dissolved into a patch of ceiling damp...
I didn't expect to enjoy "The Lodger" as much as I did, but it actually felt very refreshing. I think this episode should have aired much earlier in the season, because it actually gave The Doctor opportunities to be charming and eccentric in a manner that allowed you to buy into him as a character and truly bond. Not that The Eleventh Doctor's been aloof and unknowable before now, but we've certainly missed having a focus on his personality and demeanour. The last time I remember being this enraptured with Smith it was way back in the premiere; everything since then has been quirks and mannerisms, ultimately.
Guest stars James Corden and Daisy Haggard were both very good, although the latter was sadly underused. Corden tends to divide opinion as a celebrity, but I thought the script played to his strengths as a normal, lovable guy who can't find the words to tell his friend Sophie (Haggard) that he loves her. A lack of communication that went both ways, naturally, and while the arc of their storyline was obvious and predictable from the get-go, it played out nicely and earned its moments well.
Above all, this was a very funny episode. Just seeing The Doctor try and approximate human behaviour was great fun to watch (air-kissing everyone he meets, even bewildered football players), and there were plenty of moments to make you giggle -- such as The Doctor mistakenly using an electric toothbrush as his sonic screwdriver, discovering he has extraordinary talent on a football pitch, making a crazy omelette, or talking to the cat.
The episode's storyline could perhaps have been a bit beefier, but it was more a spine to hang the performances on, so achieved that aim very well. It helped that it was pleasantly spooky (with the alien upstairs posing as silhouetted elderly men or pigtailed girls to lure people upstairs), and the big reveal of exactly what's been going on gave the episode's a boost because as it was something very different to what I expected. The plot also earned respect for finding a logical way to explain how The Doctor managed to get in touch with Amy once she'd vanished inside the TARDIS, and the last-minute sting (Amy discovering her engagement ring and, thus, total recall about Rory, presumably?) set-up the finale very well.
Matt Smith. I think he's been good for most of his debut series, but this episode certainly benefitted from focusing on his character almost entirely, and thus he built a much stronger connection with the audience. "Bow ties are cool", indeed.
James Corden. Like him or loathe him, he did good work here as an actor. Most of the problems you'll have about his character was script-based. I thought he created a warm, likeable character with relatively thin material.
Humour. Doctor Who can be a funny show (even if it targets kids with its jokes), and this episode was easily the most comedic of the series and kept you smiling. You've got to love The Doctor as a telephonist putting callers on hold while he eats a biscuit, haven't you? Or handing over £3,000 in cash as rent.
The lack of Amy? Yeah, maybe. She still screeched most of her lines, though. Damn, I really love the essence of Amy Pond as a character, but someone needs to sit Karen Gillan down and tell her to find some light and shade with this performance.
Unrelated to this episode, but how amazing did the trailer for next week look? Exciting stuff. But I do wish the trails were about half as long as they've been this year. They give far too much away.
Craig and Sophie. Their relationship was trite and obvious from the opening scene to the last kiss, which was a shame. Also a pity Haggard wasn't more involved in events, because the actress is a great balance between sexy and funny.
Head butts. Time Lords can impart knowledge through violent head butts? I mean, really? This felt like one of those silly contrivances we'll never see or hear about again, meaning nitpickers will always wonder why The Doctor doesn't just butt various villains he needs to convince of something in the future. Hey ho.
"The Lodger" is based on a comic strip Gareth Roberts wrote for a Doctor Who Annual, although only the core idea survives the adaptation.
A flyer advertising a Vincent Van Gogh exhibition can be seen pinned to Craig's fridge, having been part of last week's "Vincent And The Doctor".
This one of few episodes where The Doctor never shares the screen with his companion.
Matt Smith was a gifted footballer as a teenager, playing on the youth teams for Northampton Town, Nottingham Forest and Leicester City. Unfortunately, a leg injury put a stop to his promising career. Fortunately, he instead pursued acting more rigorously, and the rest is history!
Of course The Doctor's football strip number was 11, being the Eleventh Doctor.
Apparently, Time Lords can transfer memories and information via painful psychic head butts!
Rating: 4 / 5