(MINOR SPOILERS AHEAD)
“Frankly, I’m an absolute dream!”
So, the antepenultimate episode of Series 5 includes James Corden and The Doctor as his lodger…not exactly a winning recipe on paper. Since Series 3, the antepenultimate episode has been part of the two-part finale. ‘Utopia’ revealed that The Master was still alive, and ‘Turn Left’ revealed that ‘the end of the universe’ was near. So, how did the Lodger measure up? Did it surpass my low expectations?
We start the episode in Colchester, where something strange is happening with the TARDIS. The Doctor is left stranded there, and then we see somebody lured into a flat. The guy walks upstairs, never to return. One day later, The Doctor turns up, personally replying to James Corden’s search for a lodger. Of course, The Doctor’s intentions are not to find a place to live; he’s interested about what goes on upstairs. Whatever is happening upstairs is affecting the TARDIS, you see. Now, throughout the episode, we have the usual horror movie theme of someone being lured by an innocent. It’s a man asking for help, or a child sayings she’s lost. Of course, the lure leads to an unknowable fate (until the end of the episode). It’s a decent PG version of horror, if you will. ‘Craig’ (Corden) is the average bloke, thinking about “pizza, booze, tele” for a night in. He has a boring office job, plays his local football pub team, and is intent on staying where he is (or rather, where his true love is). He’s a great contrast to The Doctor, with no ‘real’ responsibilities (apart from saving the world/galaxy/universe/reality from time to time) and no sense of ‘home.’
And it’s a chance to show how alien The Doctor really is, as we (the audience) often just accept him as a pseudo-human being. He gives Craig a paper bag with a £3000 straight away, greets people with two kisses in the air, forgets what century he’s in (then decides he’s in the 20th century!), and generally acts like a non-human. Of course, it’s funny to see The Doctor attempting to settle down. And this is truly Matt Smith’s episode; he makes every moment count. This is one of his best episodes so far. The name David Tennant has never felt so old! It’s the odd couple scenario (think Spaced etc) in Doctor Who. Like any good odd-couple scenario, there’s the coming together, falling out, then the reconciliation where they both learn something from each other.
“I’m The Doctor, The Oncoming Storm…”
Yet, essentially in this episode he is just another one of the six billion people inhabiting Planet Earth. Whilst trying to discover what’s upstairs, he also tries his best to help his flatmate Craig, as any good flatmate would. He joins Craig in his pub league team (“Football, that’s the one with sticks, isn’t it?”) and discovers he’s the next Pele, outdoing poor old Craig. Craig touches the ‘dry rot’ on his ceiling and falls ill. The Doctor replaces him at work the next day, and the boss really likes him. Then we have the final straw, the final whammy in the triple whammy. The Doctor convinces Sophie, Craig’s true love, to follow her desire and join an animal charity. This final straw is also the turning point The Doctor and Craig’s relationship.
The Doctor has to show Craig who he really is, via the male conversation of the headbutt. Think about it, it makes sense; beating each other up is a true male bonding exercise. In the past, to transfer his memories (think Girl in the Fireplace), The Doctor has merely touched the temples of the female transferee. A male needs a more brutal treatment. Of course, with this transfer of The Doctor’s true identity comes a real bond between the odd couple. And with the real bond comes the crisis. Every new friendship has a crisis, a true test of the newly-formed friendship. Sophie heads upstairs!
“Perception filter, it’s more than a disguise. It tricks the memory.”
(Minor spoilers!) But perception filters, again? A running theme of the series: Prisoner Zero, the Weeping Angels, Sisters of the Waters…and a peculiar facet of the filter is mentioned by The Doctor here: “It tricks the memory.” Is this a hint at what’s inside the Pandorica? Something that’s been following The Doctor all along, he just hasn’t noticed it’s there? Something that’s been altering his own memory? A theme of the Lodger was the repetitiveness of the ‘normal life.’ As Sophie puts it, “work then weekend, work then weekend.” This is enunciated by the ‘time loops’ throughout the episode, as The Doctor experiences the same micro-event occurring again and again (Craig opening his can of lager and it exploding, for example).
The Lodger itself was fairly enjoyable, nowhere near the awfulness of Fear Her or Boom Town, thankfully! It’s little more than a filler episode. Not poor, not brilliant, just a comfortable 45 minutes in front of the TV. It’s the perfect episode to watch before the serious, revelatory finale. Once again, for the second time this series, we see all the previous incarnations of The Doctor during the headbutt conversation. Does it mean anything, or just Moffat’s way of saying ‘I know my Doctor Who history?’ Plenty of food for thought for the two part finale!
VERDICT: 6/10: Entertaining enough, but nothing more than a filler episode!
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(Click here for my review of Doctor Who, Series 5, Episode 10: Vincent And The Doctor)