Can’t think of a pun for this week, but hopefully River will die next week, in which case I can use ‘Ding dong, the witch is dead.’
One criticism which has been (fairly) levelled at me is that I have a tendency to highly praise things which are serious, and the more serious (and grim and depressing), the better – my feelings about Children of Earth, for instance, can be cited as evidence, especially the ending – but at the same time, I’m not averse to a bit of silly fun – ‘mild peril’ rather than ‘sustained threat’ and that’s exactly what this was – a bit of lighthearted, silly, fun, the calm before the proverbial storm.
OK, I’ll admit, at times, I found myself thinking ‘are they going to kill the baby?’ or, during the conversion scene ‘Is Craig going to be properly converted only to have all the Cybermen fail because he’s useless?’ Or better yet ‘is he going to be too fat for the cyber-armour to fit on?’ Instead, once again, the enemies were defeated by the power of love (nicely lampshaded by the Doctor’s dialogue), and it was quite entertaining that their heads literally exploded. I feel a bit sorry for the poor old Cybermen, though. They haven’t been a genuine threat in ages – probably not since the Series Two finale, and even then only until the Daleks showed up and killed them. Mind you, the Cybermats-with-teeth were quite good.
The episode was clearly not taking itself seriously, and was, in places, genuinely funny – the baby language thing, ‘Stormageddon’, shushing people, though not so much the hilarious recurrent gag about Val thinking the Doctor and Craig were gay, and the broad-brush store staff ‘old lady’, ‘chav girl’, and ‘security guard who’ll get killed off pretty quickly’ served their purpose as far as one-dimensional gags/corpses-waiting-to-happen can, but then again, this episode suffers from the curse of modern Who, namely that it’s difficult to tell a complete, satisfying and complex story in 45 minutes, a problem most clearly visible with the ‘and then love, for the umpteenth bloody time this series, caused the Cybermen’s heads (and ship) to explode’ ending, lampshaded though it is. That’s not to say it’s complete cop-out, or deus-ex-machina, or anything, just that it smacks a little of ‘right, now we need this sorted so we can have River arseing around in an astronaut suit’.
The Doctor/Craig dynamic was just pleasant to watch – genial, friendly, quirky without being kooky – and James Cordon manages to once again play a character rather than a caricature, though some of the credit must surely go to Gareth Roberts’ writing – they makes Craig likeable, where it would’ve been all too easy to slip into ‘blokey’ nonsense, and while there’s a smidge of that (gosh, I’m using a lot of italics this week), especially where his ‘oh, I can’t cope with the baby’ stuff, he mostly manages to come across as just a nice guy. This is also the Doctor’s going-to-die-soon episode, so we had him delivering the speech to Craig only for Craig to fall asleep, and the scene with the baby and the stars, where the Doctor eased from odd (not as overplayed as it was in The Lodger) into weary old man. The Amy/Rory cameo was another nice moment – although I do wonder how the Doctor has managed to miss that poster before if he works in the shop. Also, if the perfume Amy’s advertising is Petrichor… well, is anyone really going to want to smell like dust after rainfall? Also, stetson and envelopes.
In the end, I liked it because it had a decidedly (perhaps unabashedly) feel-good atmosphere, and much as I might revel in the dark and gritty, I appreciate 45 minutes of well-crafted levity – Doctor Who isn’t The Wire*. Even though it was the last hurrah, it didn’t have the funereal tone of something like Logopolis, which really layed it on thick. It was, as with the last episode, the story of the Doctor saving a few people from a few monsters – not so much an invasion as an invasion-ette – and didn’t succumb to overemotional melancholy. The only lapse was the rather clumsy foreshadowing (actually, I think ‘foreshadowing implies a degree of subtlety which certainly wasn’t present) wasn’t very welcome, facilitated as it was by the Doctor’s sudden decision to soliloquise to a group of random children on the street, who evidently weren’t taught Stranger Danger**. Or maybe I was just annoyed to see a good episode spoiled by yet another needless appearance from everyone’s least favourite tiresome bore River Song. Still, a pleasant diversion.
Next week, the first one-part series finale. I was about to say ‘should be interesting’ but it involves River Song so ‘should inevitably be tiresome and carry over to the next series’ would be more like it. For goodness sake.
*though perhaps Torchwood should aspire to be
**contrast with Remembrance of the Daleks