Review: Doctor Who – 5×11 – The Lodger

Ever Decreasing Circles meets the Doctor

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.

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 story
The 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 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.

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.

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


  • Rob Buckley

    I’m Rob Buckley, a journalist who writes for UK media magazines that most people have never heard of although you might have heard me on the podcast Lockdown Land or Radio 5 Live’s Saturday Edition or Afternoon Edition. I’ve edited Dreamwatch, Sprocket and Cambridge Film Festival Daily; been technical editor for TV producers magazine Televisual; reviewed films for the short-lived newspaper Cambridge Insider; written features for the even shorter-lived newspaper Soho Independent; and was regularly sarcastic about television on the blink-and-you-missed-it “web site for urban hedonists” The Tribe. Since going freelance, I've contributed to the likes of Broadcast, Total Content + Media, Action TV, Off The Telly, Action Network, TV Scoop and The Custard TV.

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