The Lodger was something of a sleeper hit for last series as Gareth Roberts hit of a fun vibe and ultra-quirky Doctor in what was probably the closest we will get for the foreseeable future to a RTD episode in the new era. I am not sure that the world really needed a sequel but equally I am not complaining that we got one either.
It’s another episode that I really enjoyed, but one which is a highly derivative curates egg. There is precious little of anything original in this story. As with the Lodger the general tone is that of the Doctor being in a sit-com as we get a continuation of the Men Behaving Badly set up, James Corden doing his usual “Smithy” type performance, Lynda Baron, AKA her from Open All Hours (and Enlightenment). On the Who side of things we have the throwbacks to the Doctor speaking Baby (and most of the same jokes), Matt Smith at his most Troughton-ish and of course the fact that this is a sequel story which also features the Cybermen.
As with The Lodger there is a lot of charm in seeing the Doctor in a blokey friendship with Craig and acting as a surrogate Uncle to Stormageddon. I would have liked to have seen some Doctor and Sophie moments too. The Doctor has after all had just as much of an impact on her life as he has had on Craig’s life. In a way they are the Anti-Ponds with the Doctor’s influence being entirely beneficial to both of them.
As I have previously said on this blog, I am not a particular fan of the Cybermen and the use of them in this story yields predictably mixed results. I liked the fact that Roberts went with presenting them as 4 would have it, a broken down rabble. If we can’t have the powerful and calculating Cybermen of the Flood; then I far prefer to have the metal vampires we have here to the bombastic Cybertroopers of Earthshock and recent years. In the best moments they had a feel of Noir and Hammer Horror about them which was reminiscent of their portrayal in Illegal Alien.
On the downside I think the episode does not build up quiet enough suspense or dread and the Cybermen themselves are rather overshadowed by the Cybermats in the fear stakes and by the Doctor/Craig/Arc stuff in the plot and character stakes. Worse still is Craig defeating the conversion process because he loves his son. Once again the Parent agenda raises its head, this time in a most puke inducing way. I know that this can be explained away on the basis that the Cybermen’s conversion equipment was probably not working properly, but it would have been nice if the episode had stated that outright. I find it difficult to believe that not one person in the history of Cyberconversion had previously thought about their children!
The highlights of the episode were the two quiet moments. I loved the little scene of the Doctor seeing Amy and Rory living their lives, that was really beautifully done and surprisingly poignant given that they had only both left about half an hour before hand in screen time! The second was Craig telling the Doctor that he should give himself a break. In terms of what we see in the TV episodes 11 is easily the most guilt-ridden Doctor and The Moff seems more than happy to explore this aspect of the Doctor. This Doctor is also the most manipulative seen since the show returned to our screens. What we are seeing is a lot of the traits of New Adventures being used to good effect on screen.
The New Adventures Doctor never really got that moment of forgiveness and understanding from a friend, although he came close with Benny. It was nice for 11 to get that moment of a friend pointing out how much worse things would be without the Doctor’s interference and meddling.
Last but not least was the final coda and the second abduction of River Song which was totally tacked on but still stupidly exciting. They missed a trick here though as it would have been an even better as an Epilogue to Let’s Kill Hitler.
This episode does not have enough focus to be a great episode but it was certainly a good one.