Closing Time (Doctor Who series 6, episode 12)

[A revised and improved version of this essay appears in my book The Eleventh Doctor: a critical ramble through Matt Smith’s tenure in Doctor Who.]

At the end of my God Complex review, I worried about Closing Time: “I loved [The Lodger] but in part because it was so very self-contained, a sort of holiday from the main story; and because it wrapped up its whole rom-com subplot so neatly.  I don’t see how a sequel can really work, and I especially struggle to see how it can tie in to the arc.”

Well, I needn’t have worried.

Gareth Roberts wisely avoided re-treading The Lodger’s Craig-and-Sophie romantic plot, by skipping straight to the part where they’ve been happily together for a while and have a baby.  And I think it’s fair to say that the baby was the star of the show.

I don’t have a lot to say about Closing Time beyond that it was very, very funny.  Not very scary (although with one truly horrific moment), not very suspenseful, not at all emotionally complex (again apart from one moment, Amy and Rory glimpsed distantly) and not remotely timey-wimey.  Just very funny, with a near-constant stream of laugh-out-loud moments, and just enough plot to hang the set-pieces on.

Is that enough?  Well, it was enough for Friends to run for ten seasons, and Frasier for eleven — both shows that I thoroughly enjoyed, though without ever truly loving the way I do Doctor Who and Buffy and Veronica Mars.  If that was the only thing Doctor Who ever did, it would be a much lesser show than it is; but if it never had laugh-out-loud funny episodes it would also be the poorer for it.  Closing Time is dessert.  A meal without it is still a meal, but the very best meals include it.

In a move that should please those who prefer Doctor Who as an episodic smörgåsbord, the “arc” material was kept to a minimum: a brief interlude with River (which I won’t discuss in detail to avoid spoilering) and a few moments in which the Doctor prepared, both physically and emotionally, for the forthcoming events of The Impossible Astronaut.  So the last episode of this series, The Wedding of River Song, will have to carry all the weight of all the unresolved questions, including a few that go back to the end of last series.

My youngest son had misunderstood the chronology and thought that Closing Time itself was the final episode.  Actually, wouldn’t that have been great?  That final scene of the be-stetsonned Doctor stepping grim-faced into the TARDIS, off to meet his doom, with no hope (that we can see) of escape.  That would have been a tough way to end.

7 responses to “Closing Time (Doctor Who series 6, episode 12)

  1. Yeah, Closing Time was awesome. Yeah, structuring the story that way is sort of like dessert. Yeah it wouldn’t be good if every ep was like that, but it’s important for some episodes to be funny, or at least for some episodes to have humorous moments in them. If you want to see what happens when you don’t put humorous moments in your stories, go check out most of the 5th or 6th Doctor’s adventures. That was a Bad Thing. Closing Time was full of win.

    Also, now we know where the Doctor got the stationary on which he wrote the map references and meeting information with which to gather the gang consisting of Amy, Rory, River and his earlier self. We also now see that the first episode of this series has the Amy and Rory from after the Doctor dropped them off at the end of episode 11. Except that’s confusing and makes my head explode. But there it is.


    Furry cows moo and decompress.

  2. You are correct, Stormageddon stole the show (I loved the name).

    This episode was just amazing. Before this season (sorry series, I’m American) Doctor Who was the best TV show currently out there. Now I think its edging in on being one of the best shows ever. Right up there with Babylon 5 and Star Trek The Next Generation.

    They are hitting on every cylinder with this show.

  3. Stormageddon = Fallen Silence in Greek.

    Yes, I’m pretty much in agreement here. Some folks at The Escapist thought it would have made for a more satisfying conclusion if Craig had died, so we would have one more final heartbreak before next week’s epic (and I don’t often use that word, but there it is) finale. I don’t agree, because then I’d have to also agree that the end-of-the-world-plot-of-the-week was the main focus of the story. Which it wasn’t. Just how the TARDIS-flat wasn’t the main focus of The Lodger. Throughout Closing Time I always felt a drift of unease of the knowledge of the Doctors certain death next episode. And sure enough, he felt uneased by this too. This goes down to Smith’s terrific performance.

    And the last two minutes? Chilling. As. Hell. We all knew deep down it was always her, but I was more interested in HOW rather than WHO. And by God I was satisfied. Next week I’ll be concentrating not on whether the Doctor WILL die, but rather how the hell he’s going to get out of it.

    P.S. Ah, yes. I’ve seen Buffy and it is a great show. And up until 2010 I always thought it superior to Doctor Who (which I found RTD was constantly trying to Buffy-fy.). Now, I think Doctor Who is the best show on TV. Unless I find the time to watch Veronica Mars, then my thoughts might change.

  4. Leonard claimed:

    Stormageddon = Fallen Silence in Greek.

    I’ve seen this stated in a few places, but no etymology given. I think it’s very unlikely to be true. I have Brown’s Composition of Scientific Words and I can’t find any Latin or Greek stor- root that means anything like fall or silence, and the “-mageddon” part of “Armageddon” seems to be a reference to a specific hill, Mount Megiddo. So I think that Stormageddon is just a cool-sounding name.

    I’m still not 100% sold on the idea that it’s River in the spacesuit. Of course she is the strongest contender, but then wasn’t the Doctor by far the strongest contender for us to discover in the Pandorica when Amelia opened it? In the mean time, I need to re-watch (at least the first part of) The Impossible Astronaut to remind myself exactly what happens.

    And, please — don’t wait till you find time; make time, and do it now, to watch the first season of Veronica Mars. (I love seasons 2 and 3 as well, but 1 is definitely the best.) You will not regret it.

    BTW., on “series” vs. “season”. I actually prefer the American nomenclature of using “series” for the complete run of a show and “season” for a, well, individual season. But as Jason says, Doctor Who is British, and has generally referred to itself as having series rather than seasons, so I just go with that.

  5. @WyrdestGeek: I think you may be confused by timey-wimeyness. The Amy and Rory in ‘The Impossible Astronaut’ can’t be the ones from after The Doctor dropped them off at the end of ‘The God Complex’. If they were they would know that River Song was their daughter when they meet her. And Amy would be a flesh avatar, or about to be turned into one, _after_ she’d already given birth.

    Sure, we briefly saw the post ‘God Complex’ A&R in ‘Closing Time’; but at the end, The Doctor gets into the Tardis. When he says ‘tomorrow’, he’s talking about his personal next day; it could be months or years earlier by the arrow of time.

  6. I mostly agree: not much to say, very, very funny episode, but I think that very emotional too with all The Doctor preparing for what’s to come stuff and when seeing Amy and Rory (maybe it’s been 200 years if I don’t remember it wrong, the difference between the ages of the two Doctors at The Impossible Astronaut right? but, of course, who knows what he’s been doing or if he visited them…).

    I also agree with Martin’s comment. Anyway, let’s see what the finale reveals, and hope that then we can set all events and timelines sorted out. Can’t wait for it!

  7. Pingback: What do we know about the Lake Silencio incident? | The Reinvigorated Programmer

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