[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.