Every year I’m the same when there’s a new series of Doctor Who. When I start watching the new episodes and find myself needing to watch the old episodes like an important palaeontologist that’s just discovered Tyrannosaurus Rex was really a herbivore and the clues were there all along.
So as I wrote my blog for The Impossible Astronaut I felt the need to go back and watch The Lodger. Now I know there were many grumblings about the fifth series before it started. A new younger Doctor barely anyone had heard of? Richard (Boat that was Crap) Curtis penning and episode? Matthew Corden being cast in an episode? Was Moffat deliberately being provocative? Perhaps, but any fan of his work was easily going to give him the benefit of the doubt and expect brilliant things. And as Meatloaf sang, Two Outta Three Ain’t Bad. Matt Smith is a superb Doctor, Mathew Corden was great in The Lodger, but I shall leave my hatred of the Richard Curtis’s dull, pointless and weepy episode for another blog entry.
Matthew Corden came under a bit of flack near the time of the episode because he was simply due for a backlash. I tend not to try and go with public opinion as public opinion tends to come from of one or two people in the media saying what’s hot and what’s not. I liked Gavin and Stacey a lot. I thought it was a lovely show that was consciously lacking cynicism. And even though The Horne and Corden sketch show was hit and miss there was no deny that their performances in the sketches were excellent and that the show was obviously a success when they went on tour and should have been confined to a live DVD rather than a television show. Corden was also excellent as the drummer Clem Clattini in hugely underrated Telestar about the life and times of the pop pioneer Joe Meek, so I couldn’t see why he wouldn’t be fantastic in this.
WARNING CONTAINS SPOILERS.
I liked The Lodger loads when I first saw it and enjoyed it even more the second time round. Because the first time there was the romance, comedy between Matt and Matthew and the creepy sci-fi story to enjoy. The second time had the whole added fun of knowing this was just a prequel to a bigger story. I also wanted to watch it to see if there were clues to The Impossible Astronaut.
This episode kicks of great. Right at the start the Doctor is separated from Pond and there’s a creepy scene with the man from the street being lured upstairs into a house. As we know this is Doctor Who and not The Diary of Joe Orton so this is going to be something deadly and not a seedy fumble with a hairy bin man.
Then we’re introduced to Craig (Corden) and he is already downplaying the kind of acting the public have suddenly hated him for and simply gives a nice levelled warm character for us to enjoy. As I mentioned earlier, I didn’t really have a problem with him anyway and was under the impression he’d love to be on Doctor Who and not bugger it up by getting his belly out and shaking it. To round off the fantastic main cast we also have the character of Sophie played by Daisy Haggard who is a great actor in Life on Mars and livens up her scenes in Episodes.
The comedy in The Lodger is probably the best so far in the new series. There so much fun from the Doctor not understanding stuff. Like when to kiss on both cheeks, not knowing that a normal screwdriver doesn’t have a switch and even mistaking football as “the one with the sticks”. All through it I can’t tell if the Doctor’s going senile (he is about 900 by now) or if he’s just having fun freaking people out. Saying that, if you went from planet to planted and lived that long, you couldn’t possibly remember the rules of every sport you come across. Even though I’ve had it explained to me over and over again, I still don’t know (but more importantly don’t care) about the offside rule in tennis.
The chemistry between Corden and Smith is amazing. Their playful banter is such good fun at times you kind of forget there’s a bigger picture going on. It’s a bit like the episode Rose, the back story takes importance over the whole planet being destroyed. I like episodes like this where they keep the sets down to a minimum and just let the script and the acting do all the work. In the old days that would mean a bad episode (The Edge of Destruction or Spock’s Brain). But now it can mean one of the best of the series. Take the episode of Psychoville all done in one take, actually it was two because the battery couldn’t last the whole half hour. This was the cheap episode, yet it was clearly everyone’s favourite.
I’m not fan of football in the slightest, yet I loved the football match sequence. It was actually quite exciting as Matt Smith was clearly enjoying himself on the pitch scoring goal after goal. And then we’re brought back to the reason why the Doctor’s here. Straight after the fun of the match we see a lone woman lured into the house to meet what another vile and grisly end. In a way I don’t care about her. Let’s just watch the Doctor have a day off with his funny new friend for a whole episode. I even enjoyed the burgeoning romance between Craig and Sophie. It was quite corny but really sweet. There was even a nod to the “not liking wine moment” in The Impossible Astronaut where he spits wine out while fiddling with wires. Even when they had to move the plot forward they used the first kiss of Sophie and Craig to save the day. Call me an old romantic but this episode was absolutely lovely and not a moment was wasted dragging things out. I think I’m in that soppy frame of mind at the moment. I just finished reading One Dave by David Nicholls and almost cried on the bus.
The main wonderfully creepy thing about watching this The Lodger is knowing what happens in The Impossible Astronaut. Did they constantly have contact with The Silence but simply kept forgetting? Maybe we’ll find out that perhaps the spaceship wasn’t deserted after all. And that gives this episode even more weight than it had before. Watch it and keep that thought in your head. You’ll poo your pants.
8 out of 10