Closing Time


A year of broken promises staggers to its end


Frustratingly I expect that Moffat's going to turn around later and make it all about timey bs where at least one of the Doctors/other characters we saw were crossing their own timeline and therefore had information the audience wasn't privy to that justifies all of this. That's a bad way to tell a story Moffat. This is a clusterfuck.

[...] Moffat's a great writer to have on your team and a terrible one to have as Captain. Because he's a dude who cannot forget that the Doctor has a time machine. Not in a 'oh shit that's a plot-breaker better shrink it/get it stolen/have the Doctor stranded on Earth for a few years' way but in a 'ISN'T THAT FRICKIN' AWESOME!?!?' way. Which is great to play with once or twice a season? But not so fun to twist your entire season up in. Twice. And most eps you've written. And your Christmas Special. And that Seven short story. And even Curse of Fatal Death. Moffat really really needs to get his priorities in order, or this is not going anywhere pretty. And it's not going there fast. Alex-E-Smith presciently discusses Day of the Moon and the long road ahead on May 6, 2011.

Cyber-conversion got nothin' on the Awesome Power of Father-Love!

If Steven Moffat's first series finale was essentially a cheat ("re-booting" the entire cosmos) that "resolved" its plot through a feat to put Lance O'Neill's mighty leap to shame, nearly half of this year's series has been a cheat of another kind.

I say cheat because, as I suggested in my review of The God Complex, we were led to expect an ongoing story, an "arc", concerning the full truth about the relationship between the Doctor and River Song, along with answers to various threads that (seem to) have been dropped over the last 25 episodes.

To put it bluntly, that is not what we've been given.

By my count, fully six of the 13 episodes this year had no significant connection to the supposed arc. You could quibble that both The God Complex and the episode under discussion do, but only via awkwardly-appended codas. In The God Complex the Doctor suddenly pensions Rory and Amy off with a house and a car; in Closing Time, we just cut to River Song, a couple of Silents and an emoting Eye-Patch Lady brandishing a space-suit and spouting dialogue that begs for her to have a moustache to twirl.

If The Big Bang's cheat was a sign that all was not well in Moffat-land, the morally appalling and idiot-plotted Christmas special should have told us things were only likely to get worse. This was not a program under control of a man who knew what he was doing, but of a little boy thrilled to bits by the "awesomeness" of having a time machine to play with.

Set up as both a partial conclusion and a cliff-hanger, A Good Man Goes to War worked poorly on the former front, and not at all on the latter. The big revelation, that River Song is Amy's daughter, made no emotional sense (someone needs to teach Steven Moffat about foreshadowing), and the Doctor's promise to Amy, that he would find her daughter, proved to be as empty dramatically as it was in-story.

Eye-Patch Lady missing one twirlable moustache.

Let's Kill Hitler then "resolved" the supposed cliff-hanger with the deus ex utero "revelation" that Rory and Amy's best (though "psychotic") childhood friend was ... actually their very own daughter — whom we had never met or even heard of before!

The idea probably sounded funky when Moffat was selling the series' outline, but it was delivered stillborn, and was then simply ignored, as if Moffat was embarrassed by the whole thing in retrospect. (Similarly ignored was the question of how a child managed to make her way — presumably with some sort of parental substitutes in tow — from the United States to Great Britain.)

Nevertheless, and despite Let's Kill Hitler's structural insistence the Melody question was closed, fans continued to expect some kind of emotional fall-out. We had been promised a long-form story, so surely at least Amy would have some kind of reaction.

But no. What we got was four stand-alone adventures in a row — some bad, a couple very good — none of which even touched on the traumatic events just passed. Even the questions about the fate of the adult River Song and the Doctor's own looming death were set aside.

Which finally brings us to Closing Time, another episode that really serves as a stand-alone adventure, but for its unrelated coda.

As before, I'l spare you the synopsis and just lunge for the jugular.

Closing Time suffers — badly — from not one, not two, but from three familiar ailments. Lousy characterization and resulting juvenile humour that might have been funny in 1963; (presumably) unthinking racism and sexism; and a monster that doesn't thrill or chill and that is defeated by a trite device that is impossible to credit in the Doctor Who universe.

Let's start with the last point, because it's of little import except insofar as it might serve as a warning to beginning screen-writers everywhere.

Doctor Tongue's 3-D House of Cats
Doctor Who's House of Cyber-Sandwiches

The Cybermen simply don't pose a credible threat in Closing Time for more than about five seconds after the first one lurches out of a shadow. (Let's not even mention the frankly giggle-inducing attack of the "Cybermat".)

And when Craig saves the day through the Awesome Power of a Father's Love for His Son, one wishes for a Cybermat of one's own to throw at the screen. Are we really supposed to believe the Cybermen have never before encountered a loving father?

The lousy characterization comes in two flavours, Doctor and Craig, the latter last seen in the pleasant but forgettable Series Five episode, The Lodger.

The Doctor spends most of the first 15 minutes poncing around like a third-rate Hamlet bemoaning his upcoming death. (To Moffat's considerable credit, there is a tangible difference between his "usual" Doctor and this, two hundred year older, model; it's a shame his performance goes completely to waste.) In what was supposed to be an amusing moment, he sends both Craig and the baby to sleep, but the humour turned to irony when I nearly joined them.

As for Craig, the big joke is that he's rubbish at taking care of his son when his wife goes out of town! Ha ha ha, men can't change diapers or deal when the baby cries.

Never-mind 1963, let's talk about 1913. Let's talk about the racism and sexism lurking in the margins of this program like refugees from a minstrel show.

Closing Time has an awfully low body-count for a Cyberman episode — the silver devils claim precisely two (count 'em, two!) victims this time around, a couple of redshirts.

Or should I be blunt and call them blackskins? (Have I mentioned how many characters there are in this episode whose skin are not white? No prize for guessing "two".)

I'm not the first to notice that being non-white is pretty close to an automatic death sentence on this year's Who, but is nobody at the BBC paying attention?

Maybe not.

Take, in a sort of distaff parallel to the antediluvian presumption that a man can't handle a squalling babe in arms, the case of Amy Pond (please!).

Yes, our erstwhile companion takes a cameo turn in Closing Time, during which we (and the Doctor) learn that Amy, having been forcibly retired from travelling through time and space, has found nothing better to do with her renewed life on earth than to rent out her pretty face to sell perfume.

Really? Really? That's the best Moffat and company could come up with? She started off as a kiss-o-gram girl, why wouldn't she go into modelling?

I guess feminism in the Whoniverse died with the passing of Elizabeth Sladen.

No feminism, please, this is a Steven Moffat production! Newly-minted celebrity Amy Pond signs autograph for young fan while 2,000 year-old husband suffers in the background.


Aw, fuck it. Not onwards.

Remember that heart-breaking look of disappointment on David Tennant's face in the final scene of Doomsday, when Rose told the Doctor she'd gone back to working in a shop? Remember his relieved joy, when she laughed at him through her tears and said, in essence, No you idiot, I was joking! I'm still defending the earth, of course!

There was no such disappointment on this Doctor's face, only Matt Smith's best try at a kind of wistful nostalgic sadness.

Now, we've been told again and again that Amy is special, but we've almost never been shown that she is even real, let alone special.

This latest insult is lazy writing that serves only to underline Moffat's fundamental lack of interest in and respect for the craft of character-building. And it is a perfect example of why, after nearly two full series, I know less about Amy Pond than I knew about Rose Tyler after a single episode.

It is also a powerful indication that those who have called out Steven Moffat as a fundamentally sexist thinker were right to do so. As with his propensity to treat people of colour as cannon-fodder, it takes an almost wilful blindness to assume a woman becoming a model is the next best thing to saving the universe.

There ain't much left but fun with a time machine, is there, folks?

But even the time machine has run out of gas. Why else a half-season of filler in place of the grand arc we were promised?

Whatever happened last night in The Wedding of River Song, Moffat dropped his story-teller's ball this year. There have been some diverting moments, indeed a couple of near-classic episodes — and a segment of fandom can take remembered pleasure in uncovering such tricks as the jacket/no jacket Doctors — but as long-form drama, Steven Moffat's second series has been a bigger failure than his first.

A cluster-fuck? Not quite, unless we find a new term to describe Torchwood: Miracle Day. But two years of broken promises and too many neglected scripts mean that the few jewels among them sit like a scattering of real teeth in a mouthful of wooden pegs.

Spread the word!

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What the fuck is wrong with

What the fuck is wrong with modeling? As far as we can tell, Amy doesn't have any job skills and didn't go to university, nor does she live in an alternate universe where Torchwood is a feasible career option. We also don't know how long she's been away from the Doctor. The fact that she did a little bit of modeling at some point in her young life to make ends meet doesn't mean she's some useless, airheaded bimbo. It's not the most progressive career, but there's nothing wrong with it. (Nor is there anything wrong with being the sort of person who works in a shop - to imply otherwise is classist bull shit.) Maybe she's trying to do that normal person thing for a little while, and this seemed like her best option. Maybe she's doing it to pay for school. Maybe she genuinely likes the work. I don't know. You don't know. Let's not judge her entire post-doctor character ont his one stupid throwaway moment.

Re: What the fuck is wrong with

What the fuck is wrong with modeling?

Better you should ask, "what is right with it?

So far as I can tell modeling has as its necessary skillsets only the following. Good looks, the ability to stay still long enough for a camera to produce a clear image and the ability to take direction.

As far as we can tell, Amy doesn't have any job skills and didn't go to university, nor does she live in an alternate universe where Torchwood is a feasible career option.

The Doctor provided for her. She owns a house. She could have gone to school, could have done all sorts of things. On the one hand we keep being shown alternate Amy Ponds who are amazing (creates her own sonic screw-driver, becomes a major military leader), while on the other, "real" hand, we get an Amy who is dull and useless.

There's nothing especially wrong with modeling, I guess, but there is absolutely nothing especially right about it, nothing heroic or worthy of admiration.

(Nor is there anything wrong with being the sort of person who works in a shop - to imply otherwise is classist bull shit.)

After you've proved yourself a capable leader, after you've saved the universe ... yes, there is something wrong with settling for a joe-job in a shop. It suggests your successes (if you are Rose) had nothing to do with you, but only with your connection to the Doctor.

The beauty of that scene was the way it allowed Rose to be both desperately in love with (and heart-broken by her separation from) the Doctor and strong enough to build a meaningful life on her own.

As with modeling, there is nothing wrong with working in a shop, but there is nothing heroic about it either.

And if Doctor Who is (or should be) about anything, it is about our potential to transcend our habits, and our fears, and become heroic in whatever circumstances in which we find ourselves.

With girls in freezers, Rivers in computer banks, and Amy reduced to an image in front of a camera, I say Moffat has a long and ugly track-record of reducing his ostensibly strong female characters to objects and I don't like it.

a little boy thrilled to bits

a little boy thrilled to bits by the "awesomeness" of having a time machine to play with.

That's all we've ever had in nu--Who, little boys playing with action figures and saying "WHEEEE" really loudly. Middle-class white boys who don't even notice how they keep replaying the same racist and sexist tropes.

While I have nothing against

While I have nothing against people who make and/or advertise perfumes, after seeing what Sarah Jane, Jo, Rose, Martha, Mickey and Jack have done with their lives this feels a bit... underwhelming I guess. I hoped it she at least wrote a children's book or something.

Other that that I agree with absolutely everything you said. Can't wait to read your thoughts on the finale. For it was ~glorious. :|

Re: While I have nothing against

Thanks for the kind words. I have some real work to attend to, but I hope to have the final review done tonight or tomorrow.

Sexist, Lying, Victim-Blaming Trash

I think the thing that drove me the maddest was the notion that love could defeat cyber conversion.

Barring Lisa (Inigo's former girlfriend in Torchwood), "conversion" means "replacing your body with a metal one and destroying the old body." You are, effectively, a brain in a metal suit. There is no going back. Everything you were has been sliced away. And there are emotional limiters built into the metal suits because if you could feel--if your emotions could register the sheer horror of this--you wouldn't be able to handle it.

We've seen this before. We saw it with a bride who was turned into a Cyberman on her wedding day. A woman who loved her country with everything in her. Their love--personal or patriotic--didn't stop the physical process of cyberizing. It COULDN'T. Love is powerful, but there is not a lot love can do against a bonesaw slicing open your skull and putting your brain in a new metallic body.

Craig being able to resist the cyberizing because of his love for Stormy was ludicrous. It does not fit the series. It is like saying that if you love someone enough, a blast from a Dalek's gun won't kill you, or that the Master will suddenly turn into a peaceful philanthropist. THE CYBERMEN DO NOT WORK THAT WAY.

Not only that, but Craig being able to overcome cyberizing based on love effectively said that all those people who got turned into Cybermen against their will? Yeah, it's all their fault. They just didn't LOVE enough. If they'd been capable of REAL love, they wouldn't have been turned.

It's victim-blaming. If you had done X, bad thing Y would not have happened. You should have done X! Why didn't you do X?

And not only is it victim-blaming, but it's sexist victim-blaming. The bride, the patriot, Alternate Jackie Tyler (who never had a daughter), and Lisa, none of whom could resist conversion--indeed, Lisa appeared to have had something happen to her mind before she was completely cyberized, as she saw her human body as "disgusting"--were all women. Craig was a man, and he fought off cyberizing with ease. The women...well, they didn't love enough. They were weak.

I was pretty meh about this episode until that point. It wasn't anything great, but it didn't make me mad. But "the power of love" thing nearly made my head explode. It was meretricious, lying garbage, and it had no place in Doctor Who.

Just want to point out that

Just want to point out that those examples of Cyberising you noted? All of them are New Who and all of them resulted from the Cybermen (sometimes known as Cybusmen) first seen in the Alternate Universe - where cyberising is seen as 'upgrading', and they just hack out the brain and discard the human 'shell'. And then they spilled over into the Standard Universe, hence all the Canary Wharf victims.

The -other- type of Cybermen -didn't do that-. Mondasian Cybermen, from Classic Who, were rather different. Some had biological parts left in them. Some were only part-converted. And don't forget, in The Pandorica Opens, the Doctor and Amy were menaced by a Cyberman's head. Which opened and a skull fell out. Before it tried to nab one of them instead. Continuity. It's there; it exists.

Old and New Cybermen

I do remember the old Cybermen from Earthshock, Attack of the Cybermen, Revenge of the Cybermen and The Five Doctors, but I don't remember any transformation sequences with the old version. There may have been; it's just that it's been years since I've seen the old episodes.

I stand by my main point, however: that love overcoming ANY process of cyberizing--whether it involved any biological parts left or not--is ludicrous. It's like saying that if you love someone enough, you can will surgery not to occur. The process will go on whether you love someone or not.

And Craig overcoming the process when all the women I mentioned hadn't was just a kick in the teeth.

So...what about Toberman? Or

So...what about Toberman? Or Lytton? Or the entire planet full of rejects in Attack of the Cybermen?

There's plenty of precedent that the emotional/mental programming can be overcome, or outright fails. Fuck, you even see it in Torchwood with Lisa. And unlike the women in ROTC/AOS, there's no physical modification involved in Craig's conversion - it's not a surgical procedure throwing away the meat, massively traumatising the body and redesigning the form. It's encasing it in a metal shell, and attempting the mental programmign which, as has been shown multiple times, can fail

You seriously went right off the sanity meter with that rant, I'm afraid.

Re: So...what about Toberman? Or

You seriously went right off the sanity meter with that rant, I'm afraid.

I came very close to just deleting your reply, teleya. I didn't, in large part so I could make the point, that this is not a place to engage in ad hominem attacks on me or on other commentators (but especially in others).

I like a vigorous debate as much (probably more) than the next guy or girl, but I don't like name-calling and I don't like straw hominids. It you type something, think about it (that's what the preview button is for. If you'd hesitate to say it to someone's face, or if it seems likely you'd resent having it said to your face, kindly consider re-wording it.

"You seriously went right off the sanity meter" is borderline, but I don't like the direction in which it's leaning.

Okay? Thank you.

Meanwhile, in terms of your major point, you make a good case in terms of canon, but literary criticism is not case-law. Citing precedent alone doesn't make a good case. In 30+years Doctor Who has produced plenty of stinkers and mucho internal contradictions. The fact that something has been done before in no way proves that it should have been done then or that it should have been done again now.

Which is quite interesting

Which is quite interesting considering the comment I replied to did very much veer into straw-hominid territory itself. It made the presumption - no, the *accusation* that having a (male) protagonist being able to break the cyber programming "showed" that the writer/show runner were therefore victim blaming and sexist - because a carefully selected recitation of female characters were unable to. An entire argument into the mindset of these two gentlemen was built up on a misrepresentation of their position - which is actually the textbook definition of a strawman.

The comment falls apart under its own weight as an argument, given that we have seen repeatedly over the years that with enough impetus, yes, the programming *can* be broken. Even Yvonne (head of Torchwood 1), one of the cited "blamed victims" accomplished this, breaking the programming on a full conversion and turning on the Cybermen themselves. And if citing precedent doesn't make a case that it should have been done then, or should be done again, then we run into the wall of "XXX can be discounted simply because I don't like it" Which, I know, is how DW canon usually runs :) but if you're going to make an argument citing precedent (as the OP did) then you need to be prepared to face the same in counter-argument, with just as much validty.

Apologies for the comment - I'm Australian, we tend to be fairly insulting on a regular basis :)

Re: Which is quite interesting

Apologies for the comment - I'm Australian, we tend to be fairly insulting on a regular basis :)

Quite all right (at least so far as I am concerned; the target may, of course, disagree).

Also, when I typed "I don't like straw hominids" my brain meant ... well, I'm not quite sure what the hell that was supposed to mean. Somehow, as i typed, I was conflating ad hominem attacks (which I think are usually fairly easy to call) with bad argumentation, which is a hell of a lot more subjective and, more, a good deal less morally objectionable (I still don't like it when it's designed to derail an argument, but I don't think that's what you were doing).

So, my turn to apologize.

We'll get it right one of these days.

Why a perfume line, though?

Why a perfume line, though? Even if she invented it. Can't she do something world-changing? When I compare it to what we saw of Jo Grant's life on Sarah Jane Adventures, it makes me so sad. Of course, Amy never seemed particularly interested in saving the world the way, say, Rose or Martha was, but couldn't they have found something cool for her to do? I don't know, counselling mentally traumatized children or some such?

I liked the interaction between the Doctor and Craig, and the stuff with the babytalk was hilarious. (See? I am not completely adverse to babies in my SF. But I would prefer if non-main characters had babies, given how much the addition of a baby hurt this season.) I was willing to forgive the Cybermat because it was silly and campy. Last I heard, though, you couldn't reverse a Cyberman transformation by sheer force of will. I guess these were supposed to be particularly crap Cybermen.

I'm going to assume that the dumping of Amy and Rory is not permanent, so I'm going to try and not be too offended that their characters were unceremoniously dumped. I don't think I'd mind having the same Doctor with new Companions for next season, since I don't think Moffat is writing this arc particularly well.

Not nearly as bad as Curse of the Black Spot, though. I've seen stories written by 13-year-olds on that were better than that.

Re: Why a perfume line, though?

Can't she do something world-changing?

Or even something simply honourable and which contributes towards the world's betterment. Like, y'know, maybe becoming a teacher?

I liked the interaction between the Doctor and Craig, and the stuff with the babytalk was hilarious.

Honestly, if I'd seen it without having suffered for the past two years, I think I would have happily given Craig and his Baby Bothers a pass. It's only within the larger pattern that it bothered me.

Re the Cybermen and loving

Re the Cybermen and loving fathers - I think Jackson Lake probably ticked that box.

The saved-by-a-father's-love trope has cropped up so often in this series that I'm starting to wonder if Moffatt is subconsciously working off his guilt feelings for seeing so little of his kids.

Re: Re the Cybermen and loving

I fear you might be right about Jackson Lake; I'll plead that that episode got pretty silly, though, after the initial 10 or 15 minutes, so I had more or less put the resoltuion out of my mind.

I'm starting to wonder if Moffatt is subconsciously working off his guilt feelings for seeing so little of his kids.

That's just vicious. Though it does have a bit of plausible ring to it, doesn't it?

Amy's perfume

You've made a lot of valid points but I did want to point out one thing I think you overlooked:

The name of the perfume Amy was modelling for: Petrichor.

The smell of dust after rain.

With the tagline "For the girl tired of waiting".

I don't think she was just advertising the perfume, I think she made it.

(Still not as epic as saving the universe/world, but it does show she's taking control of her own life.)

I've been reading your reviews for a while now, but haven't had anything to say... You've brought to light a lot of things I wouldn't have noticed on my own. While I think I've enjoyed the last couple of seasons more than you have, I've appreciated reading your reviews and discovering some of the disturbing trends that reveal underlying problems (such as this episode's body-count). Thanks for sharing!

Re: Amy's perfume

Thanks for the kind words.

Still, I don't think the possibility that Amy made the perfume and isn't just a figure-head for it makes her post-universe-saving career choice much less disappointing. And since we had no prior knowledge that she was an artist with olfactory products, I find the idea that she has a passion for the craft a bit of a post-facto stretch.


You might want to pay attention to the fact that Amy is in fact the creator of the perfume line, not just the model.

This makes it better how?

This makes it better how? Almost every trite female celebrity in the US has their own perfume line. That doesn't make them any less shallow.

I'm going to take it to mean

I'm going to take it to mean that she's actually quite good at making perfumes. Purely because it makes me happier about the episode and that's all that matters. Karen Gillan was a perfume model before she was on Who. So I think it was a nod to that too.

The fact that yet again the deaths were both black people is really annoying. I wonder if its something that people involved in the casting haven't picked up on, and no-ones pointed it out to the Grand Moff, and being a white heterosexual male he hasn't actually noticed either so hasn't managed to have a word.

The "power of love saves the day" again, for how many times this series is it now really starting to annoy me- and you're right it shouldn't work with cyber-conversion. Although admittedly these aren't your parallel-universe cybermen. These are the proper Mondas ones from the old series. (Hence why they have the Cybermats.) I'm not sure much was ever made of "cyber-conversion" in the original series. So perhaps its easier to resist? "Cyber-conversion" for this species seems to involve wrapping a cyber-suit around you rather than sawblades and the like.

Re: I'm going to take it to mean

I respect your right to willfully suspend your disbelief on the perfume thing; I didn't know that Gillan had been a perfume model.

At the same time, I stand by my contention that it's quite a come-down from saving the universe.

Moffat's on Twitter, so he must at least be aware that some people have noticed the "blackskin" issue. Could well be he dismisses it with "I"m not a rascist" so these people are idiots, of course.

As for the power of love, I think it's worse than reversing the polarity of the netronium flow. But that's just me.

I didn't either until it was

I didn't either until it was mentioned to me. I think everyone involved (possibly including Ms Gillan- I've not seen the relevant "making of" so I have no idea if they mention the why's and wherefores of putting the scene in) thought "that's a great in-joke, we'll use it" and didn't think any further than that. Especially because she gets to save the universe again in the next episode. I also think we know enough about Amy to know that she'd not be a model unless she really wanted to.

Reversing the polarity of the neutronium flow is a terrible thing to do. Never works. Reversing the polarity of the neutron flow, however works nine times out of ten. More reliable than cutting the red wire. ;)

Re: I didn't either until it was

Damn that neutronium flow anyway!

Meanwhile, I still don't feel as if I know Amy at all, just as I don't believe for a minute that she saved the universe in the episode. Couldn't have, because Amy Pond isn't real (if you take my meaning).

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