This review may contain spoilers.
Over the last nine episodes, Steve Moffat’s “Doctor Who” has removed some of the emotional drama that permeated the Russell T. Davies era and instead turned the show into something of an intellectual horror.
Stories were scarier, darker and somewhat harsher. Case in point: the death of a companion in the middle of a Silurian uprising. And he wasn’t just killed either : he never existed in the first place. Harsh.
Amidst the dark thrillers though remains a lot of joy and light heartedness, giving the series a varied palate of storytelling. The recent “Vincent and the Doctor” is a perfect example; the episode was tragic by its very nature yet also managed to produce one of the shows most touching and moving scenes of the year.
“The Lodger,” however, dispenses with the sinister atmosphere and is made up of more mushy stuff. It is a story of unrequited love and rejection : and the Doctor lands right in the middle of it after being stranded on Earth.
It is a novel concept – what would the Doctor do if he was stuck on a planet with no Tardis and no way to travel the stars? He is defined by his infinite travelling and without it he is just a man with his eccentricities. How can such an oddball of a man really hope to fit into a human society? The episode explores these questions in a very down-to-earth and entertaining fashion (like solutions to providing references, making friends and even finding a profession).
More than anything else, “The Lodger” finally lets Smith put his stamp on the Doctor role. Moffat may be keen to keep the series dark and edgy, but Smith’s Doctor is one that excels in the light hearted comedy of the show and Moffat would do well to stick to those strengths.
The name of the episode, “The Lodger” is one with dual meaning; on the surface it seems to apply towards the Doctor himself. However, by the episodes end it is revealed that the adventure is really named after the destructive force that has taken resident along with our new-found companions.
He is aided in his escapades by none other than James Corden (yes, who recently had some on-stage shenanigans with Sir Patrick Stewart) and the duo are an absolute joy to watch. Together, the pair are something of an odd couple and maybe even a cleaned up “Men Behaving Badly.” There is a brotherly relationship between them and it is a relationship that would certainly be entertaining to explore in the future.
The one downside to the dynamic is that the Doctor’s secret is revealed to Craig (Corden) through way of a head butt, bringing with it a cool understanding of why the Doctor is so weird and why he has taken up residence in his home in the first place. It is a missed opportunity for a future meet-up between them, an event which would be sure to be comedic gold.
Like all good relationships, “The Lodger” is complex, funny and leaves with a warm fuzzy feeling inside : most likely a calculated decision for what looks to be an epic two-part finale to follow.
Without a doubt, the humor was the shows strongest attribute. Moffat is trying to establish his era as something of a fairytale, filled with a lot of the twisted darkness that the villains in such tales normally present. However, “The Lodger” shows that perhaps this new age for “Doctor Who” might be better suited to more aloof fun. This is an approach Davies followed by including a lot of errant campiness to each and every adventure.
And that was part of the fun. With the exception of “Midnight,” all of the Davies-scripted adventures have been something of a romp. Sure, they had their scary moments, but for the most part they were simply fun. The real spin-chillers were usually left for Moffat to pen.
Although he hasn’t penned them all, the overall tone of this year has been what you could call “very Moffat,” especially with the return of the angels.
“The Lodger” was a barrel of laughs and the dialogue was spot on. “Have some rent. That’s probably quite a lot, isn’t it? It looks like a lot, is it a lot?” was a cracking line to open the episode with and turns out to only be the beginning. Others worth noting are the Doctor’s references (including the Arch Bishop of Canterbury) and a lot of mis-interpretations on what life as a human is really like.
Also, the danger music montage while playing football was also a bit tongue-in-cheek. In much the same way, many science-fiction fans will certainly get a thrill out of the emergency hologram living upstairs (not to mention the clever use of the phrase “please state the nature of your emergency.”)
Corden and Daisy Haggard were terrific together and it was nice to see the Doctor’s influence in a very positive way. Given the tragedy of “Vincent and the Doctor,” a care-free romp is exactly what was needed before an epic two-part showdown to wrap up the season. Both actors were wonderful and would be more than welcome returning for a follow-up in the future.
More than anything else, “The Lodger” finally lets Smith leave his mark as the Doctor.
What Didn’t Work
Sharing his life with Craig may have been the best way to save Sophie, but comes as a bit of a missed opportunity for the Doctor to have a secret identity and a family of his own on Earth.
Giving Credit Where Credit Is Due
“Doctor Who” stars Matt Smith and Karen Gillan. “The Lodger” was written by Gareth Roberts and directed by Catherine Morshead.
“Doctor Who” airs Saturdays at 6.20 p.m. on BBC One in the United Kingdom and at 9 p.m. ET on BBC America.