Thursday, September 29, 2011

"Closing Time"

“Closing Time” is an interesting episode for this season of Doctor Who. Not because of the Cybermen—who like the Daleks are becoming a bit tired for how ineffective they are as adversaries; and certainly not for the return of the Cybermat—a laughable menace every time they appear. It is interesting for the opportunity it presents the Doctor to learn something he very much needs to remember and for the way he does not—maybe cannot—learn said lesson.

It seems that the character of the Doctor had bought into the hype and the divine imagery that the writers of the series have been playing with for some time now. This season, Moffat has taken advantage of that fact to highlight the dangers of such messianic ambitions. The Doctor has been made to realize that he is not infallible and that people tend to get hurt when he appears of the scene. In the last episode he even went so far as to leave Amy and Rory behind for their own good, and he has been traveling alone for some time now. In addition to everything else, the Doctor has the foreknowledge that the viewers share from seeing the first episode this season; that he apparently is going to die at a set point in time and he has decided not to avoid that moment any longer.

In this episode he shows up at Craig’s house (from last season’s “The Lodger”) to say goodbye, but he cannot help himself when he sees another danger lurking around the neighborhood. This is where the Doctor should be learning something. Sure, he is not perfect and bad things happen wherever he shows up. However, he usually does not cause those bad things and in nearly every case the worlds he visits would have been destroyed or at least suffered greatly but for his intervention. Not only that, but people he cares about are endangered not due to the Doctor’s actions but usually due to their own choices. In this case when the Doctor is helpless to save anyone it is other people’s actions that save the day. So why is the Doctor dead set on seeing himself as the evil that his enemies (and for now the writers of the show) want to define him as?

The lesson here and for the season thus far is: doing right is never easy and people can get hurt when we face up to evil; but doing nothing will only allow the evil to continue unchecked and that is always the less desirable alternative. It remains to be seen how (and if) the show will develop this further in the last episode. It also remains to be seen if the resolution they come up with to fix the quandary they have created will measure up. It is all good and well to have an incredibly complex set up for a story, but payoff is everything in such plots and it will be amazing if this one manages to pull it off well.

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