The Doctor: I think it’s fair to say, in the language of your age, that I lived my dream. I owned the stage. Gave it a hundred and ten percent. I hope you have as much fun as I did, Alfie.
Production Code: 2.12.
Doctor Who Season: S32 (Ep12).
Story Number: 223. (Footnote ).
“Closing Time” – obviously it’s a pun title, with a double meaning (and not the first one this season. “The God Complex?”). Before we knew it was set in a department store but after we knew it featured the return of the Doctor’s friend Craig Owen, the title conjured up images of them sharing a few pints of ale, the “last orders” of a pub.
21st Century Doctor Who has introduced the concept of the “guest star companion”, that is, a companion (that most elusive of Doctor Who definitions) who isn’t one of the regular leads of the programme, but turns up now and then – Mickey (a companion eventually), Captain Jack, River Song. Companions return for stories now much more often. Monsters return, as they have since 1963.
Craig isn’t a companion though (or is he?), not having seen the inside of the TARDIS (then again did Liz Shaw? Hmm), so does that make him unique in this history of the programme – a returning… comedy-buddy?
This story is a sequel, something which isn’t unique for Doctor Who – it’s Snakedance to The Lodger‘s Kinda, The Web of Fear to The Abominable Snowmen.
“Closing Time” – the other meaning for the story is what happening in the precredits: the department store staff closing up the store. Curiously, Shona at closing time going down the corridor and meeting the monsters is a parallel with opening story of the Ninth Doctor’s era (and 21st Century Doctor Who), Rose – except the Doctor was there to save Rose; no such luck for Shona. (So there’s a certain symmetry with the opening story for Nine and this supposedly “closing” story for Eleven.)
Like Rose, the monsters are very much the B-plot, with the A-Plot being the interaction between the leading characters.
The Doctor’s on “bit of a farewell tour” though decides to divert his plan to investigate what’s going on. The emotional journey of Britain’s Got Talent is frontpage news, but the Doctor’s been noticing what’s been happening in the other pages, the disappearances.
“Someone’s been using a beam-me-up Star Trek teleport!” After a surge of popularity during the 2005 season, it seems no-one in Doctor Who says “transmat” any more, rather it’s “teleport”. (Star Trek having given the world a popular knowledge of the word teleport.)
Obviously the Army of Ghosts Cybermen were seaten by a Time Energy Crack in a similar fashion to the giant mecha Cyberking of The Next Doctor, else Craig would remember what the world-TV-news-appearing-upon Cybermen were. (It won’t be the last continuity-question unanswered when it comes to these Cybermen. There was some sort of explanation for the The Next Doctor ones. But these…)
What Craig does remember – “I remember from last time… you always win, you always survive”, (explaining why he thinks it sensible to keep him and Alfie in the orbit of the Doctor), and he’s keen to help the Doctor investigate.
The Doctor says that Alfie is a ready-made assistance for getting people to relax and talk:
“That’s whay I usually take a human with me”
“So I’m your baby?”
There’s a lot of great comedy in this episode!
Once Craig is off investigating the Doctor can really try and figure things out, but not without some more comedy… “Partner, yes I like it, is it better than ‘companion’?”
“Sounds old-fashinoned. No need to be coy these days”.
After the Doctor’s saved Craig from his own inept investigation and he’s explaining about the coincidences that the Doctor Who narrative needs to function (“It’s what the universe does for fun!”), there’s another coiincdence. The perfume advert scene though is weird. (I guess it could be that Amy and Rory have set up some sort of perfume company, or Amy’s or model now. Or something.)
They manage to scoop up what they’re searching for, “the silver rat”, then it’s off in response to George’s shout…
What happens next is slightly bewildering – the Doctor’s surprised and knocked cold by the Cyberman but not before he’s observed it long enough to deduce the Cyberarm that surprised him was “spare parts”.
“Why are they using spare parts, why?” (It’s part of the whole thing of the Cybermen not yet being at full strength though.)
The Doctor’s trying figure things out away from the store. The Cybermat in a plastic bag on a kitchen table, sort of an emblem for Nu-Who: in that it’s something old from the programme made new, contrasted against the everyday settings that the programme now often likes to use.
Stopping Alfie crying he tells him the story of his life, how he “owned the stage” The Doctor’s like Prospero putting down his enchanted wand. It seems the Doctor took the minotaur’s words about death to heart and he’s accepted that the Doctor dies when he’s 1100 years old. (Is this something the Teselecta passed on? How does the Doctor know “it’s time” exactly?)
Cybermat! The Doctor runs down stairs and outside with Alfie leaving the Sonic (by accident) and Cybermat inside, phones Craig…
For a “last adventure” this is very “small scale”, crashing through patio doors to wrestle with a Cybermat, though quite epic in its own way.
(The Cybermat is a bit like the Auton hand of story “Rose” to continue the parallels with that story.)
Clever that the “controller” of the inevitable toy version of the Cybermat has an “in-story” equivalent (the Doctor has one).
The spaceship showdown: as to how this spaceship got here or whether they are Cybus or Mondas variants of Cybermen there’s no real explanation. The Cybus logo has gone: is this the Cybus ones moving on, the Mondas ones adapting the tech or what? (They just “are”.)
“You will be like uzz” – direct quote from introduce-the-Cybermat story Tomb of the Cybermen and the conversion seems more “Classic” than Rise of the Cybermen – though is it just because they’re not at full strength?
The resolution is “very Nu-Who” though.
I WEAR A STETSON NOW
Quite an emotional “last scene” for the Doctor – “Hey, I’m the Doctor – I was here to help. And you are very very welcome”, which segues into the final scene which is almost another mini-story entirely.
It’s a great final image though that Nursery Rhyme playing over it after Kovarian says hers, what’s that all about? (And who’s saying it exactly?) I suppose it illustrates how this event at Lake Silencio has been woven into the myths of the universe and children know this rhyme, it’s part of the mythology of the universe like the “Demon’s Run” poetry of A Good Man Goes to War.
So, the Stetson, the Lake, the circle is almost closed – the season could end with this episode and it would all make sense, we know “what happens next” with The Impossible Astronaut…
However there’s one more episode of the season, and surely it won’t be as simple as that…
Footnotes (and links)
223? If this is the end it’s a lot of stories.
As with Last Orders by Graham Swift