Doctor Who: Series 6, Episode 12
Written By: Gareth Roberts
Directed By: Steve Hughes
Produced By: Steven Moffat, Piers Wenger & Beth Willis
Broadcast Date: 24 September 2011
The Cybermen have been on quite a journey since their return in Rise of the Cybermen. They’ve pretended to be ghosts, fought the Daleks (and lost), built an enormous steampunk Cyberman in Victorian London and joined up with an alliance of aliens. But nothing can prepare them for what faces them in their final appearance (until tonight, at least): James Corden. The final part of Writemare in Silver, it’s Closing Time!Closing Time is the first ‘proper’ Eleventh Doctor Cybermen episode (despite The Pandorica Opens being reviewed last time, the Cybermen were on screen for around two minutes), seeing the metal monsters hiding under a department store, slowly rebuilding their army by capturing and converting unsuspecting humans… and that same department store just happens to be near where the Doctor shows up on Craig’s (last seen in the Lodger) doorstep.
The focus of Closing Time is certainly not the Cybermen – it’s, as with The Lodger – the Doctor and Craig’s ‘bromance’ – but there’s now a third wheel in proceedings – Craig’s baby, Alfie – or Stormageddon, Dark Lord of All. Only in Doctor Who could a baby be a fleshed-out character with opinions and a clear character arc, but it’s a clever part of the episode and gives the episode a nice emotional focus… but sadly, Closing Time somewhat overdoses on the emotion.
As with a lot of the episodes I’ve covered in Writemare in Silver, the first half of Closing Time is easily the strongest. Matt Smith and James Corden continue their excellent comedy double-act which proved to be a surprise highlight of The Lodger, it’s genuinely funny (not hugely surprising given this is written by one of the funniest Doctor Who writers there is, Gareth Roberts), and the Cybermen, whilst not hugely scary, are at least doing a good bit of lurking in the shadows, where, as I’ve mentioned before, the Cybermen work best.
In Series 6’s only concession to the monsters of the classic series, the Cybermats make a welcome return. The Cybermen’s robotic pets were an unlikely creature to return over some of the more popular monsters of the classic era – but they’re used quite well here. Granted, they’re mainly used for comedic effect, but they get a good scene in the latter half of the episode – they might be quite cute, but they do pack quite a bite.
But, onto the Cybermen. As I mentioned earlier, they’re used rather well in the opening half of the episode, only appearing in the shadows… but when they take centre stage at the end of the episode… they’re awful. The Cybermen have never been utilized particularly well since Rise of the Cybermen – but it’s arguably their worst appearance yet.
They could easily have been replaced with any Doctor Who villain, even one of the weaker ones, they make some really baffling decisions during the episode (when they find the Doctor… they knock him out and leave him), and they’re just not very threatening. It’s almost forgivable given that the rest of the episode is pretty great and the Cybermen aren’t really the focus, but the decision to include them does seem a little pointless, given they don’t add anything new.
But of course, what most people remember from Closing Time is the Cybermen’s defeat. The Cybermen have always been surprisingly easy to defeat in past episodes, but being defeated by love is a new low for the Cybermen. Yes, it’s utterly sold by Matt Smith and James Corden, but the Cybermen’s defeat by a crying baby is just a bit rubbish – the Steven Moffat era has become known for sentimental endings, but this is probably the worst there is. The Age of Steel went down a vaguely similar route, but at least that had a decent idea at its core and a good payoff – there’s none of that here.
But happily, Closing Time has a little more up its sleeve. The scene where the Doctor sets off for his last trip is a great moment, and of course, there’s the far better, real ending. Closing Time is the first standalone Episode 12, but it still does its bit to set up the finale, with an excellent final scene revealing just who is inside that astronaut spacesuit. Granted, it’s a little tacked-on and tonally out of line with the episode, but it’s an atmospheric teaser for The Wedding of River Song nonetheless.
In conclusion, Closing Time is a fun, well-written episode with a great double-act at its core, but it utterly wastes and the Cybermen, draining every drop of their intimidating nature in the process.