After the last two fraught, painful episodes, we really need a little light relief before the season finale and, brother, does Closing Time deliver! It’s a fun, frantic romp through the continuing lives of Craig and Sophie — last seen in The Lodger — and their newly arrived child.
Spoilers lurk herein. Read At Your Own Risk. (Perfectly reasonable episode synopsis here.)
Sophie doesn’t figure in the episode which is a shame; it would have been nice to have her and Craig and the Doctor all together — but her absence does give the episode room to explore the role of the new father as opposed to the new mother. What little we see of Sophie in this episode has her as the fairly standard new mother type: a little frazzled, slightly worn at the edges, a bit over-controlling, but basically with it. Everyone is deeply concerned that Craig will just proceed to fuck the whole thing up; his mother, his mother-in-law, all their friends seem to be nagging the poor man on a regular basis with reminders of his inadequacy to take care of his child.
Sadly, this is just how Craig feels himself — but it’s wonderful to watch him change over the course of the episode (with a little bit of help from the Doctor, of course, in one of the few human relationships he’s managed not to tank). In the beginning, his kid doesn’t even want his given name, preferring — via the Doctor’s interpretation — to be called “Stormageddon” rather than “Alfie.” (One can’t but help feeling that the kid may have a point.) However, by the time Craig’s proven his chops not only by helping the Doctor thwart a Cyber invasion and conversion project but by defeating conversion himself and taking care of Alfie quite handily at the same time, the name doesn’t seem so bad.
It seems a bit of a shame that the new dad has to go through this whole journey experience in order to prove himself as a good parent but, as it seems to do as much good for Craig as it does for Alfie and it’s mostly done in the spirit of good fun, I’m willing to go with it.
There are lots of delightful little side characters from the shrieky girl on the lingerie counter to the charming older assistant who does childcare for Craig so he can go assist the Doctor. And the Cybers are a great villain as always — though I’m not quite sure why they have to walk so damned slow in the new version. They never used to stalk along to an invisible march; they were never what you might call brisk, but, seriously, a mild trot could outdistance these guys.
And do I scent what may be a faint, veiled, distant but yet present allusion to the crashed Cybership of Earthshock? Methinks perhaps I do. But maybe that’s just wishful thinking on the part of an Adric fangirl.
Time ends with a return to the main events of the season: River, the Silence, Madame Kovarian (am I the only one more creeped out by her than by the Silence?), etc., ad lib. We solve the mystery of where the Doctor got the TARDIS-blue stationery from (a notably sad moment in an otherwise hectically cheerful episode) and move inexorably on to the end of the season.