Sunday 25 September 2011

Closing Time

Yet another story built on the premise that a Yeti in a loo is a good idea. Unfortunately, it's a terrible idea. A Yeti in a loo is not scary; it just looks stupid. Likewise Cybermen in a department store look even more stupid. One of the consistent failings of this season has been the inability to recognise that if you want things to come across as scary and menacing, you have to tone down the comedy.

Closing Time gives us the return of the Cybermen. As with their last appearance, they are big clunky, stupid robotic things. At no point in the episode do they provide any sense of menace. If you thought the Cybermen being vulnerable to bullets in Attack of the Cybermen was annoying, just watch them being defeated by 'the power of love.' We also see the return of the Cybermats, who are equally silly.

James Corden also makes a return appearance. He is dreadfully annoying. A lot of reviewers point out the fact he has a lot of chemistry with Matt Smith. I don't care. He's not the sort of character I want Dr. Who to have chemistry with.

Moffat seems to be a bit obsessed with fatherhood. We get another story sentimentalizing fatherhood and its trials. It is starting to get a bit annoying. We don't have any exploration of motherhood to counter-balance it all; Amy's concern about her daughter is always fleeting and seems to be a bit half-hearted. Themes of fatherhood tend to point in a conservative direction and one can see a decidedly middle-class flavour to the Moffat producership. Doctor Who these days is no longer about people who are outsiders and on the fringes of society, like Ace and Dodo, but about middle-class people. Notice the Doctor's comments to baby Alfie about human life; he talks about mortgage payments and working 9-5. Middle class existence is now the default position for human life in Doctor Who. People who can't get mortgages are outside of the scope of the current series. At times it seems as though Moffat and Co. are singing from the same hymn sheet as David Cameron. I'm an active Conservative party member who believes our prime minister is a decent chap, but I'm not sure I like Doctor Who preaching the message of 'Broken Britain' and the 'Big Society.'

Having seen the departure of Amy and Rory last week, it was very irritating to see them making a cameo in the very next episode. It turns out that Amy has now found fame and fortune in the gold-paved capitalist wonderland that this show now celebrates. This is the same Amy who grew up without parents, was receiving psychiatric treatment and doing a job that would put her ouside of respectable society. The show seems to be out of touch with the realities faced by people outside of a comfortable middle-class existence.

The ending with Mrs Kovarian, the Eyepatch Lady is dreadful. I love camp, bitchy female villains, but this was the stuff of childrens' cartoons. There was also a clear lack of narrative development. There is no sense that the events relating to River Song are moving of themselves, but are being put into place according to script. We are practically being told "now this bit happens next."

It's nice to see Lynda Baron being used again, but it's a shame it is in such a terrible story. It is remarkable to see how much continuity has been brought up in this half of the series. Right at the beginning, we get the Smith referencing Troughton in The Five Doctors and later Tom Baker in Revenge of the Cybermen. This is only a week after we had a reference to the Nimon. As we know from many 80s stories, lots of continuity references do not make a bad story good.


  1. You are so very, very right about all this. I mean a Cyberman beaten by love!!! Weren't the Daleks also beaten by some emotional thing like that last season in Gattis' episode? Didn't RTD do a crying Cyberman already? It seems as thought science is out the window now that we have snogging and the inevitable ensuing childbirth. This is no longer science fiction in my opinion.
    The show now sucks in a way that only the reintroduction of Mel could make sense of (Actually I think she would likely improve the current state of things). The only way I can deal with it now is to say to myself: "Don't worry, it isn't really Doctor Who. It is a show for teenage girls that is very loosely based on Doctor Who, and happens to share the same name."

  2. Thanks for the comment.

    Personally, I like Doctor Who when it moves into the realms of fantasy and away from hard science, but I hate the crass way it has been done in recent episodes.

  3. If you don't like that sort of thing then fair enough, but I thought that on its own terms it was fairly successful.

    As to the whole "Yeti in a loo" thing you seem to be overstating your case a little. You could argue that a Yeti in a loo was what the TARDIS was in its first appearance!

    Also, by rejecting this you could be rejecting the idea of "Invasion" stories altogether, and they're an essential part of the show's heritage.

    It's been overused in the past certainly, but I still reckon it can be effective on occasions. It's not even that much of a problem in this story either, we mostly see the cybermen on their ship underground rather than in the dept. store.

  4. Thanks for offering your thoughts. Have you visited this blog before?

    No, the TARDIS in Unearthly Child has nothing to do with Yetis in public toilets. Right from the start we do have the wondrous being hidden in the mundane, but that is very different from the premise that a monster becomes more monstrous for being placed in a mundane setting. What is more, the Hartnell era featured only two stories in a contemporary setting. The 'Yeti in the loo' did not really come in until the Troughton era.

    Invasions are a big part of the Doctor Who heritage? Maybe, but they are generally rubbish. I think it is absolutely fair to say that most invasion stories in the show are rubbish. There was always a tendency to fall back on generic and unimaginative stock invasion plots.

  5. "Don't worry, it isn't really Doctor Who. It is a show for teenage girls that is very loosely based on Doctor Who, and happens to share the same name."

    -beautifully put.

  6. "Invasions are a big part of the Doctor Who heritage? Maybe, but they are generally rubbish."

    I'm starting to realize that there is very little of Doctor Who that you actually like. I know that you detest the Hinchcliffe era (that's three years' worth), generally dislike Pertwee (another five) and on top of that think that invasion stories are rubbish. There's not much left!

  7. I'm not much of a fan, am I?

    Then again, I like Hartnell stuff (an invasion free zone). I like a good deal of the Graham Williams era (another invasion free zone), much of the Davison era (pretty thin on invasions).

    Do Delta and the Bannermen and Remembrance of the Daleks count as invasion stories?

  8. I didn't mean to question your devotion or interest in Doctor Who, even in jest. I just found it strange that you dislike so much of it.

  9. Ulysses Gamma-Hose1 December 2011 at 16:47

    The Doctor's comments about mortgage repayments and 9-5 working hours are simply a brief way to express normal modern adult life in a way the viewer can understand. That's all it was. Just saying to a baby, "One day you will have to put up with boring, grueling adult things."

    Anyway, I'm pretty sure this episode is a deliberate parody of Russell T Davies stories. Look at it; starts in a department store where a member of staff encounters aliens (Rose); endless talk (from the old woman) about how lovely a gay couple can be; and the villains defeated by human emotions, riding roughshot over actual logic. And more than anything else, Closing Time is concerned with the emotions of it's characters first and foremost, and only throws in a (quickly dealt-with) sci-fi adventure plot because it's expected. Nothing more RTD than that.

  10. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

    That was no doubt the intention, but it betrays the assumption of middle class normality. The show assumes that everybody is a middle class liberal with a happy family life. Anything that does not fit that norm is just ignored.

  11. I'm afraid I disagree with everything you said about this episode except with how pathetic the Cybermen look. It's nice to know that they're the Mondas Cybermen, just in the Cybus design, but I think it would've been better if Craig was turned into the Cyber-Controller and then destroyed with the rest of the Cybermen. Craig was still entertaining and Alfie was awesome. The Cybermats were fantastic, and the episode was both funny and dark. A decent episode that could've been better in a mundane season.