Here to Help
Cybermen + sonic screwdriver + saving the day = strong sense of satisfaction. The Doctor is back on his old stomping-ground, although clearly it’s the Cybermen that do the actual stomping. Having left Amy and Rory to indulge in some domestic bliss, we no longer have to deal with the issues created by putting those characters into episodes disconnected from their main story arc. Instead we can indulge in a fun old-school interlude, pepped up with a blast from the past.
Craig was a fun character the first time we met him and he really lived up to his promise in this episode. He was sweet, funny and, armed only with a barcode scanner, he was prepared to face down Cybermen; it was a pleasure to see him again. The moment when he reverses the cyber-conversion and short-circuits all the Cybermen because he can hear Alfie crying was a fabulous moment (although it does beg the question of how he managed to split that helmet open from the inside).
The storyline of the episode was equally entertaining, although rather contrived in places. Cybermen converting people in a bid to take over the world is an oldie, but a goodie; the crashed ship worked well and the conversation about the teleporter, taking place in the lift that was clearly going to turn out to be the teleporter, was a thing of beauty. However, the idea that the Doctor just popped in to say hi to Craig, planning to leave again immediately, is a little weird. Surely if he were going round to see people he liked he would at least have planned to go in and have a cup of tea, even before he noticed something weird (because we all know the Doctor likes tea). Moreover why would he pick Craig for his attempt at a social call on the day before he was due to die? After all, he’s a nice chap, but they only met once before. I can see that going to see River or Amy might cause issues with foreknowledge, but what about Sarah-Jane or Martha? Also, quite apart from his choice of company, I don’t understand how he knew that he would die the next day. Which brings me on to the main questions puzzling me about the episode.
Firstly, why can’t the Doctor put his death off any longer? I mean, he’s a time-traveller! Given that he states his age just before he dies, I can see that there is a cut-off date, and yet the Doctor shouldn’t know that. No one told the younger version of the Doctor how old he was at the picnic and it didn’t seem to be on the records he acquired in ‘Let’s Kill Hitler’. Therefore he should only know the date of his death, but not when in his own timeline it falls.
Secondly, if the Doctor is running around Colchester on 21 April 2011 (the day before he dies), why is Amy advertising a perfume that we must assume she made after the confrontation with the Minotaur where the Doctor sacrifices her faith in him, making her the girl that’s tired of waiting? At the start of ‘The Impossible Astronaut’, just before the Doctor’s death, she was clearly still waiting for the Doctor, had no foreknowledge of his death and didn’t know what petrichor meant. Clearly they are not one and the same Amy, but there can’t be two of them living at the same point in time, not with one of them being famous, because the other one would notice. Don’t get me wrong, I loved the coincidental appearance coinciding with the coincidence line (coincidentally!!), but it still seems a little screwy to me.
Thirdly, if the Doctor is going to die the next day, what has he been doing in the meantime?
He must have spent about two-hundred years on his farewell tour if he really is running out of time, but nothing is mentioned about that. I suppose it might be that this version of the Doctor isn’t the one who appeared at the picnic, and yet why else would he be the one taking the envelopes for the picnic invitations? Furthermore, if he did spend two-hundred years bumming around the universe on his own, how did he know how long he had left? Which brings me right back round to the first question.
Apart from those issues, I really enjoyed the episode. It was fun, fast-paced and engaging, with some great dialogue. I particularly enjoyed the Doctor’s exchanges with Stormageddon, whose outlook on the world was priceless. Also, the scene with River Song at the end was a lovely way of linking the episode back into the main thrust of the story, although the bit with the kids’ ‘eyewitness accounts’ seemed a little clunky in execution. Even so, it was a great close to the episode, particularly when combined with the creepy doll song, and it geared us all up for the denouement next week. Tick, tock, goes the clock…