Knowing that "The Lodger" episode was based on the Doctor Who comic from the magzine that Gareth Roberts had written once upon a time did not spoil my enjoyment of some aspects of the story, but following on from the superb Vincent van Gogh story, this was pretty lightweight and weak in many respects.
The basic premise of this story is all right, and the real strength of the story is two-fold. First off, the emphasis on the eccentric, alien nature of this Doctor as he tries to fit in on Earth after being stranded there. Second, the fact that the nature of the menace is not really resolved right unti the very end, and then leads straight into the start of the two-part series finale. That said, we've been hit over the head with some of the same routines several times. Another reference to the Doctor's previous incarnations (not that I'm objecting, thank you!). About the fourth time this series that the Doctor's alluded to bowties being cool. Makes me wonder how relevant the Troughton Doctor is in all this stuff, given that he wore the bowtie most prominently. I think it's time for someone to start commenting on the tweed jacket for a change. The business with the cracks in time and space again, but that's all right, as this is the theme for the series. And there were *two* different cracks this episode.
One of the real highlights of this episode was that we got to see the Doctor, let alone Matt Smith's Doctor, at his most eccentric, showing just how alien and out of touch with "being human" this Time Lord really is. While desperately trying to be "normal", the Doctor fails at virtually every turn and has some genuinely funny moments. While this element of the story worked for the most part, I can't say that I was enamoured of it. Devoting a good five minutes or so to the Doctor suddenly being able to play football like a professional (which, of course, Matt Smith was before he decided to become an actor) was just self-indulgent and simply unnecessary, not really fitting a character who has often been clumsy and looks like he's going to fall over his own feet at times. And yet ironically, we must not forget other incarnations of the Doctor having skills. Patrick Troughton's Doctor and the flute, Jon Pertwee's Doctor and the karate, Peter Davison's Doctor and cricket, Christopher Eccleston's Doctor and dancing, all these come to mind. Something to remember about our favourite Time Lords. :)
The surprise of the episode for me was the fact that Karen Gillan's Amy Pond was in the episode more prominently than I expected her to be, given the story premise and set-up. Of course, this all was the lead-up to the end of the episode, when Amy finds the ring that Rory had for her and sees the crack in the TARDIS wall, and this is the set-up for the start of next week's start of the series finale. In any event, Karen Gillan did what she could with the material given her in this episode, but the real stars weren't the Doctor or Amy regardless.
The two guest actors of the week, James Cordon as Craig and Daisy Maggard as Sophie, were just brilliant. I found Craig to be quite funny at times, but he comes across as a believable, average type of bloke, who works in a call centre in a job that he doesn't really like, and fancies his friend, Sophie, but can't tell her how he feels. Sophie was a really lovable girl, almost like the girl next door, and it was obvious that she had a crush on Craig, but she could act on it either or seem to make her feelings known, and she had the desire to better herself. In many ways, "The Lodger" is a story about Craig and Sophie, not the Doctor and Amy, and about the lodger (aka the Doctor)'s influence on the two of them. While the Doctor thought he was being heroic by trying to save Craig from the upstairs neighbour, he only generated suspicions about his motives, and Craig ended up becoming a little jealous of the Doctor at different points in the episode as well; personally, it was pretty believable and pretty understandable. Interestingly enough, the Doctor ended up encouraging Sophie to try and better herself while inadvertently poking fun at Craig's inability to do the same; heck during the football game, Craig well and truly got shafted by the Doctor when Sophie started cheering for the Time Lord instead of her best mate. The bit where Sophie goes up the stairs to help out the baddie of the episode had me really annoyed, as I thought Moffat and Roberts might kill her off, thus ruining Craig (and the Doctor)'s day totally. I'm glad that this didn't happen. Having Craig and Sophie be the ones to actually save the day through their admission of mutual love was a very nice touch, though pretty typical for the series as well.
One of the weakest and poorest moments of the story was the bit when the Doctor head butts Craig (twice!) to impart information about who and what he is all about. That was just...wrong, and rather annoying in my opinion, and spoiled the moment for me. What was interesting about the sequence and made it worthwhile was that we have yet another sequence of previous Doctors being seen. Also of note is that the Doctor referred to being in his 11th incarnation in the episode, and he was wearing Number 11 for his football jersey. Steven Moffat has really hammered home in this series that the Doctor has had more incarnations than just the Eccleston and Tennant versions, and it's begun to make me wonder just how important all these constant references to previous Doctor are.
I have pretty mixed reactions about the "villain" of this piece. While I liked the notion of the time loop and something strong enough that it could keep the TARDIS from landing, the concept wasn't compelling enough to keep me glued to the tv set. The man living upstairs was sufficiently creepy enough, especially with the lights dimming and going out in the hallway up the stairs, and the fact that the figure at the top of the stairs is always seen in shadow was really a good touch. The voice on the intercom was very reminiscent of "The Empty Child"'s "Are you my mummy?" business, and added to this element. The interior of the other TARDIS (was it meant to be a TARDIS, and if so, whose? At first I thought it might have been the William Hartnell Doctor, but thank gods I was wrong about that...) was very interesting, and the structure reminded me of the Jaggaroth spaceship from the Tom Baker story "City of Death". The whole notion that the flat didn't have an upstairs level and the use of the perception filter (again!) was a good twist to the story, and I really liked that aspect of it. Some nice touches on the part of Moffat and his team here.
While I like some aspects of "The Lodger" quite a bit, I found this episode to be one of the weakest of the series to this point. The only real saving graces for this episode are the creepiness of the stranger on the second floor, the eccentric nature of the Doctor coming out to its fullest, and the relationship between Craig and Sophie. Definitely not my favourite of the series.
I give this episode 6 out of 10.
Next week sees "The Pandorica Opens" airing here in Canada, finally. Can't wait. :)