Review: Doctor Who – 5×11 – The Lodger

James Corden and Matt Smith in the Doctor Who episode 'The Lodger'

In the UK: Saturday 12th June, 6.40pm, BBC1/BBC HD
In the US: Saturday 26th June, 9/8c, BBC America

Just in case you thought you could somehow avoid the football or even James Corden talking about football this Saturday, Doctor Who comes along to prove you wrong. Spoilers and post-match analysis after the jump.

Plot
There’s a house on Aickman road with a staircase that people go up, but never down… To solve the mystery of the man upstairs, the Doctor must pass himself off as a normal human being, and share a flat with Craig Owens.

Was it any good?
It was actually pretty good, an enjoyable Love and Monsters-esque story with the Doctor (and the errant Amy) as almost a diversion to the main plot – will James Corden and his gal pal realise they’re supposed to be more than just friends?

It’s a bit of a shame that this was the traditional "give the actors a break" story – although Matt Smith was still front and centre, it was clear that Karen Gillan was on the TARDIS set for about a day so she could have a holiday for the rest of the filming. But this was a decent character piece that allowed us to get to know the new Doctor and to a lesser extent Amy than we’ve been allowed to so far. At last, we’ve had a chance to breath.

The storyThe story itself was a bit throwaway, a bit Sarah Jane Adventures. There’s a flat from which no one returns and the Doctor becomes a lodger in the flat below so that he can investigate. There was plenty of artifice and "hang on, why doesn’t he just… and why do they go up those stairs… and why…" moments, but on the whole, there was plenty of timey-wimey stuff to maintain the higher brain centres, and scary moments for the old reptile brain to get the willies.

The love story with James Corden was a little dreary, with two people of not much joy and inspiration finding that being couch potatoes together and not achieving anything with their lives could save the world. Couldn’t see that making it into the RTD’s "be all you can be" world of Doctor Who, something I will miss.

But, the real fun of the episode was finding out what the Doctor might be like interacting in the real world for a change. It turns out that he’s the weird Peter Egan to James Corden’s Richard Briers in an Essex-man version of Ever Decreasing Circles, good at everything without even trying, and almost every aspect of the story was thoroughly enjoyable. Matt Smith was simply marvellous, full of nuance and subtlety; James Corden was good and not Smithy (for a change); there was a football scene that was actually interesting.

Funny and character-building, in fact.

Poor Amy
Poor Amy. And I don’t mean the fact she probably thinks the Doctor is going to propose to her now. No, she’s stuck in the TARDIS and all Gareth Roberts gets her to do is scream (yes, a screaming companion. What’s going on there? Some new form of production time travel?) and wonder when the Doctor is going to find her a man. Really? Post-Rory, that’s why Amy’s joined the TARDIS – so she can join the intergalactic version of match.com? And there I was wondering if Doctor Who had become a tad sexist of late. What was I thinking?

She really could have done with being with the Doctor more this episode.

Production
Nothing too remarkable in the direction, although the time loops were well done and the stair scenes were actually quite scary. Set design of the not-TARDIS was good.

But Murray Gold. Why? Why are you doing this to us? Stop it. Stop drowning everything out. You can be good. You can be subtle. So please stop playing over all the dialogue. You’re not adding anything, it’s not any more exciting to know there’s an entire orchestra trying to urge the Doctor on. It’s not big and it’s not clever.

Conclusion
Decent enough, fun – nothing too remarkable, but it did give Matt Smith a chance to really shine.

  • Marie

    I thought it was fine but dull. And I wrote a fine but dull review of it. We chose the same photo to illustrate our reviews. I guess that’s interesting.
    http://womanwhotalkedtoomuch.blogspot.com/2010/06/doctor-who-lodger.html

  • Electric Dragon

    It worked best as a character piece for Eleven, showing up just how much more alien he is than Ten. His fondness for cooking – and fortunately his taste has improved beyond fish custard – with his idea of making an omelette being to put everything in the pan first (was he angling for a Saturday Kitchen invite?) “Where did you learn to cook like that?” “Paris. 18th Century. No, that was a long time ago. 17th Century?”
    And then the football team talk: “We’re going to slaughter them!” [Doctor strides over to wag finger] “There will be no slaughtering while I’m here. No violence at all. I am The Doctor, The Oncoming Storm.” I was laughing a lot at that.
    ‘a tad sexist of late’ – it’s that damned heterosexual agenda of Moffat’s again! No, I think (and hope) the “find me a man” is just a bit more ironic foregrounding of the Rory problem. Unnecessarily, I think, given mentions in the previous episode and the business with the ring at the end. (Although I hope they don’t do the whole “ring misinterpretation” Generic Sitcom Plot #56 too obviously.)
    Also, I thought Murray did some good work this week. The motif indicating the upstairs reminded me very much of…..something I now can’t remember. Stupid brain.

  • SK

    The thing that really disturbed me was that even after the Doctor’s arrived, people keep getting killed. The Doctor knows something bad’s going above — he’s seen the stain — and yet still he lets people die because he doesn’t want to give himself away. That doesn’t seem very Doctorish. Innocent people die in Doctor Who, of course, because the Doctor’s not arrived yet, or because he couldn’t save them, or because he doesn’t know what’s going on. But it doesn’t sit right with me that people die just a few yards away from him because he couldn’t be bothered to stick his head out of the door.
    Apart from that, it was a pretty good episode. The Doctor just about stayed the right side of Parkinian superheroism (though it was touch and go), the humour was occasionally actually funny, and the plot made sense.
    Would have liked to find out more about who built the timeship, but do you think that it might factor in to the next couple of episodes? I think it might.
    (But, who’s ‘Eleven’? I don’t remember a character of that name. There’s the eleventh Doctor, but he’s, well, the eleventh incarnation of the character called ‘the Doctor’. He’s in no way, shape or form called ‘Eleven’. I mean, that’s a number, not a name. It would be very silly to be called ‘Eleven’. What is this, The Rubbishy New Version of the Prisoner Where People Are Called Things Like ‘Six’ Instead of ‘Number Six’?)

  • I thought this was quite good fun, and I enjoyed the alieness of the Doctor and him getting things wrong. I did want to know how come a) the Doc knew where to go – how did he know Amy was going to put the message in the shop window and b) how he was able to communicate with her – he didn’t appear to be wearing an earpiece when he fell out of the Tardis. Or is that another of the strange timewimey moments? A whole day elapsed from his leaving the Tardis to turning up at James Corden’s house, why?
    I agree with SK about the people dying as well. Why not try a bit harder to find out what was going on. And ouch, Rob, you are right, why is Amy being left to scream and be a bit hopeless. We all know she’s better then that.
    That having been said, I did like the relationship between James Corden and his girlfriend, and I loved the head banging knowledge transference. I also (again) loved the Heath Robinson machine the Doctor rigged up. I really like Matt Smith’s Doctor, I think he’s weirdly interesting.

  • MediumRob

    @Electric Dragon: I understand from the point of view of the author why the line’s there: to remind the audience. But why is Amy saying in terms of her character? Is it a running joke with the Doctor? Does she really want a man or is Geoff now waiting for her back home as a friend with benefits? As it stands, we don’t know – we just get that she wants a man and she wants the Doctor to find her one. Except now she thinks he wants her to marry him (or is that what’s going to remind her of Rory?)
    @SK: “The thing that really disturbed me was that even after the Doctor’s arrived, people keep getting killed. The Doctor knows something bad’s going above — he’s seen the stain — and yet still he lets people die because he doesn’t want to give himself away. That doesn’t seem very Doctorish. Innocent people die in Doctor Who, of course, because the Doctor’s not arrived yet, or because he couldn’t save them, or because he doesn’t know what’s going on. But it doesn’t sit right with me that people die just a few yards away from him because he couldn’t be bothered to stick his head out of the door.”
    He doesn’t know they’re dying because he never sees anyone go upstairs (although why he doesn’t get Amy to write it on the postcard…): the audience knows but he doesn’t. Dry rot, even weird alien poison dry rot, doesn’t usually indicate dead people. It’s not until the cat psychically tells him that he finds out and that’s when he decides he has to man up. And he knows the people upstairs are powerful, which is why he doesn’t go investigating them straight away.
    @Jane Henry: I imagine the earpiece was in his dimensionally transcendental pockets, along with the ring, sonic screwdriver, etc. As for the day, I imagine that’s when he was robbing the bank to get the rent money.

  • I loved it, but like you I couldn’t help wondering why the Doctor procrastinated for so long when people were obviously being killed. As with last week’s episode, the “monster” was superfluous.
    But putting that to one side, it was a very witty episode that really emphasised the Doctor’s alien qualities for the first time in ages. Indeed, this Doctor is becoming the most alien of all.
    Matt Smith shone in this episode and James Corden showed that when he’s not given free reign to screw-up a comedy series or awards ceremony, he is a really good actor.
    Overall, a lovely story that probably couldn’t have been made anywhere other than Britain. And surely that is the whole point of Doctor Who.

  • I loved it – thought it was scary and thought the Doctor was brilliant; very funny. Shame Amy was a spare part to the event but she did look great in the Confidential (I wore red tights and a dark blue dress in her honour yesterday).

  • SK

    Oh, I can see a justification for it — it just doesn’t feel right. When the Doctor arrives, that should change the game. I mean, it’s okay for the Doctor to not be able to save people — or for the monster to be so stealthy it can murder people in the next room without him knowing about it — but it just seems wrong for people to be being killed in a fairly loud and obvious way (flashing lights, time-skips, etc) and the Doctor be blithely unaware.
    Even though diegetically there may be no reason for him to know, it just seems thematically wrong. To me, anyway.

  • MediumRob

    “Oh, I can see a justification for it — it just doesn’t feel right.”
    It’s unsettling isn’t it? Which is why I like it. The Doctor just isn’t aware something bad is happening and without him, we’re all doomed.

  • SK

    I guess… I think I’d just have liked him either to be unaware (so no shaking, noise, flashing lights) or to have a better reason for not investigating than ‘I don’t want it to notice me’ (ie, ‘I’m scared and I’m hiding’).
    As it is I kept thinking ‘the Doctor I know would have, as soon as that shaking started, run around the whole house looking for what was going on — how cowered in his room until it stopped.’

  • SK

    ‘Not cowered’, I meant.

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