Doctor Who: The Lodger [Episodes 5.11]

The Lodger is the 11th episode of the 5th season of Doctor Who, starring Matt Smith as the Doctor and guest starring James Corden as Craig Owen, and written by Gareth Roberts, based on a Doctor Who comic story he’d previously written.

Previous Episode:   Amy’s Choice • Next Episode: Coming Soon
(I know these are not consecutive – more will be filled in as I have the opportunity.)

Story:  The Doctor is separated from Amy and the Tardis because of a mysterious force that comes from the apartment upstairs ordinary bloke Craig Owens.  He secretly investigates by becoming Craig’s roommate and trying (and mostly failing) to blend in to ordinary human life.  The mysterious tenant in the upstairs apartment draws in and kills random passers-by with calls for help.  Meanwhile, Craig becomes frustrated with the Doctor when he proves to be better at football and his  call-centre job, and especially when he encourages his would-be girlfriend Sophie to live out her dreams by traveling.  When Craig kicks the Doctor out, the Doctor is forced to reveal the truth, just as Sophie becomes the latest victim of the mysterious figure upstairs.  The Doctor and Craig discover that the upstairs is really some sort of faux-Tardis that is trapped on earth and trying to escape by finding the correct pilot.  It has been luring people in to help it, but the human minds are unable to handle the strain and are killed.  The ship latches on the to the Doctor as a more suitable pilot, not knowing that in doing so he would cause the ship to explode and destroy the solar system.  Craig and Sophie are able to save him by admitting their love to one another and their desire not to travel if they can stay together, effectively short-circuiting the ship’s systems.  With the ship shut down, the Tardis (and Amy) are able to rematerialize safely.  Amy is shocked as she accidentally stumbles upon her engagement ring from her forgotten relationship with Rory (see Hungry Earth)

I am a big fan of The Lodger.  Admittedly, it’s a light-weight episode, with a very simple plot, a threat that comes with a complete lack of explanation for its backstory, and an ultimately pretty simple solution.  Most of the story beats are what in another circumstance might be called “filler” – scenes of the Doctor biding his time, Amy in peril in the Tardis, and various hapless pedestrians being killed.  (It seems especially silly watching all these people willingly enter the spooky house and up the creepy stairs where the creepy old man / little girl / whatever awaits to send them to their doom, but maybe we’re only seeing the few people who listened to the cry for help, whilst all the others just walked on by).  Only in the last act does the Doctor (with Craig in tow) finally go upstairs and deal with things.

In spite of all that, The Lodger is a lot of fun and satisfying.  The “love story” between Craig and Sophie is both sweet and funny, and makes for a good emotional anchor for the story (justifying Amy’s limited role).  This romantic comedy plot is even tied in effectively to the climax of the adventure in a way that is convenient but makes internal sense.

Matt Smith is hilarious as the Doctor, even though he is more out of his depth trying to pass as a normal human than you’d expect him to be.  Highlights include his “culturally appropriate greetings”, his confusion and delight at playing football (where Matt Smith gets to show off his real skills), and his asking about a normal screwdriver, “Where is the on switch for this?”  He’s wildly inconsistent, of course, but it’s tremendous fun, and sort of fits with the impression you get with Smith’s Doctor, that he’s got more stuff in his head than he can possibly keep up with.

With all the humorous moments there are a number of fun bits of dialogue.  When the Doctor first meets Craig, he responds to the “young professional” part of his ad with the comment,

Doctor:  Less of a young professional.  More of an ancient amateur.  But frankly I’m an absolute dream.

And a moment later, as Craig is surprised by the way he opens up to the Doctor, the Doctor says

Doctor:  Well, I’ve got one of those faces.  People never stop blurting out their plans while I’m around.

• One of the funnest scenes is after the Doctor has proved himself a very capable football player in a pub league.  One of the other players congratulates him.

Sean:  You are so on the team.  Next we’ve got the Crown & Anchor, we’re going to annihilate them.
Doctor:  Annihilate?  No, no violence, do you understand me?  Not while I’m around.  Not today, not ever.  I’m the Doctor, the oncoming storm.  You basically meant beat them in a football match, didn’t you?
Sean:  Yeah.
Doctor:  Lovely.  What sort of time?

• And then at the climax, as the Doctor pleads with Craig for help:

Doctor:  Craig, you can shut down the engine!  Put your hand on the panel and concentrate on why you want to stay!
Sophie:  Craig, no!
Craig:  Will it work!
Doctor:  Yes!
Craig:  Are you sure?
Doctor:  yes!
Craig:  Is that a lie?
Doctor:  Of course it’s a lie!
Craig:  It’s good enough for me!  Geronimo!

And then finally, cutting through Craig and Sophie’s ramblings in the middle of a global crisis:

Doctor:  No, not now, not again, the planet’s about to burn, for God’s sake, kiss the girl

Things to watch out for (Warning: includes vague hints of things to come):
The story hints at themes that will become more important in the next season, regarding the Doctor’s ability (or inability) to maintain long-lasting meaningful relationships.  With the strength of the bond between the Doctor and Craig (and Craig even getting access to some of the Doctor’s memories), it’s not surprising that the Doctor would return to him in his time of need the following year of stories.

There is a really fun montage of past Doctor Who moments when the Doctor head-butts his knowledge into Craig.  We can see the 9th Doctor, Cybermen, the 10th Doctor, the 8th Doctor, Rose Tyler, the 4th Doctor, the Ood, the 3rd Doctor, a Weeping Angel, the 2nd Doctor, the 1st Doctor, and the current Doctor, Amy and the Tardis.

Making sense of it all (Warning:  blatant spoilers for the rest of the series):
The Time Ship on top of Craig’s apartment is the same type as used by the Silence in Season Six in The Impossible Astronaut and Day of the Moon.

Craig and Sophie will return in the Season Six episode Closing Time, where it will be revealed they have a child.

A crack appears in Craig’s apartment.  This plotline will be more or less resolved in the next two parter, The Pandorica Opens / The Big Bang.

When Amy finds Rory’s engagement ring in this episode, it begins to bring back memories of Rory and their relationship even though he has been erased from time.  This will be explained due to the fact that Amy spent a lifetime growing with a time crack next to her bed, essentially giving her the potential to remember things that had been removed from time, and thus bringing them back into existence.  This will be a major plot point of the next story.

Last Word:   Thin as it is, The Lodger is a very worthwhile standalone story that both develops and establishes the character of the 11th Doctor.  Also, it’s very funny and sweet.

Previous Episode:   Amy’s Choice • Next Episode: Coming Soon
(I know these are not consecutive – more will be filled in as I have the opportunity.)

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