Writer: Gareth Roberts
Director: Steve Hughes
THE ONE WHERE The Doctor makes a social call on an old friend, only to find an even older enemy lurking near by.
VERDICT Reuniting the Doctor and Craig (James Corden), a double act last seen in “The Lodger”, Gareth Roberts delivers a feather-light episode that, despite some faults, neatly guides proceedings into place for “The Wedding Of River Song”. As a light-hearted breath before next week’s series climax, it works wonders. Corden and Matt Smith have an easy comic chemistry that keeps things engaging and entertaining even though plot-wise, there’s not much in the way of meat on the bones.
Saying that, it’s refreshing to see a real villain involved this week. Admittedly, the Cybermen are relegated to little more than clunking comedy bad guys, but at least they are properly bad, and not just, oh, I don’t know, an overenthusiastic ship’s medical unit or a scaredy cat alien. Their presence is minimal, but really, that’s no bad thing. Ultimately, it gives the Doctor and Craig plenty of time to crack wise and have a mini-adventure while causing the Doctor to have a serious think about leaving humanity to its own devices.
Whatever questions may be raised about the Cyberman plot – and there will no doubt be many, from their lack of real menace to the incredibly cheesy way Craig escapes them – the real focus is the Doctor and his farewell tour. Matt Smith has a tough job on his hands, but thanks to a performance full of subtleties and real heart, he makes it look easy. The Doctor knows his time is nearly over, and he retains his manic, irrepressible quality, but it’s a front that is edged in blue. Arguably the best moment is when he’s left alone with Stormageddon, Dark Lord Of All (or Alfie, as his parents know him), a scene that tugs on the heartstrings without being over mawkish.
It’s those little moments of sad-eyed loneliness and resignation that lend weight to what would otherwise have been a paper-thin episode. The final minutes, featuring River (now Doctor) Song as the Silence prepare her for her trip to Utah, feel a little tacked on but certainly raise the goosebumps in preparation for the finale. As things come together in those last moments – the blue envelopes, the cowboy hat, the space suit – there’s a palpable sense of impending disaster that ensures that the wait for next Saturday is going to be a long one.
DID YOU SPOT? Petrichor, the name of Amy’s perfume, is a word last heard in “The Doctor’s Wife”, when she had to think of the smell of dust after rain in order to access one of the TARDIS’s old control rooms. Bloody awful name for a perfume, though.
WTF? The Cyberisation process seems to have changed a hell of a lot since “The Age Of Steel” – if Craig had been Cyber-ised like that – with all those whirling blades and limb lopping – there’s no way he’d have got out of it, no matter how much he loved his baby.
The Doctor: “I’m the Doctor. I was here to help, and you are very, very welcome.”