A lower key entry ahead of the upcoming final two-parter of this series of Doctor Who, The Lodger is a perfectly serviceable episode of the show, and a much lighter one than we’ve been used to seeing these past couple of months. It’s not likely to make many people’s best episodes lists, but then neither are we talking something akin to Love & Monsters. It’s a comfortable 45 minutes of television, but not a great deal more.
It kicks off with the Tardis struggling to land, with the Doctor managing to get out but Amy remaining stuck inside. There’s a bit less Amy Pond in this episode as a result, but she does get a chance to consult the Tardis A-Z and ascertain that the Doctor has landed in modern day Colchester. The pair are then separated for a solid chunk of the running time.
Thus, the onus instead switches to Colchester resident Craig, played by James Corden. Craig, who we quickly learn has a bit of a torch for his friend Sophie, is in need of a flatmate to help cover the bills, and it’s not long before the Doctor comes knocking at his door.
However, it’s not what’s in the downstairs flat that’s interesting the Doctor, rather the strange goings on upstairs. People keep being called and lured up the stairs, and while lots of folk seem to ascend the staircase, nobody seems to be coming in the opposite direction. Plus, there’s the small matter of rot on the ceiling of the Doctor’s new abode. Just what could be causing it?
This gives The Lodger the chance to have a bit of fun with some horror movie conventions and shooting styles, with a dark staircase and the odd flashing light.
However, that’s not what most of The Lodger is about. Instead, it’s more about the Doctor just having a little bit of fun. For here, he has to fit into what the everyday bloke does, namely drinking, football, and seemingly air-kissing James Corden. Matt Smith plays this nicely, and while not all of the comedy comes off particularly strongly, it’s all nice and genial. Gareth Roberts’ script has a few nice lines, and the setup is interesting enough. And yet, particularly considering how late in the series this is coming, there’s never much of a feeling of peril to the episode, or anything of that ilk. Series three, if you remember, gave us Utopia at this stage in the run, a story still talked about years afterwards. The Lodger simply isn’t that kind of outing, and lacks that level of intensity.
As for its payoff? Appreciating this is the spoiler-free review, the back end of the episode feels just as low key as the first in places, although there are some key elements very worthy of discussion once the credits roll. We’ll come to those in our fuller review once the episode has screened.
For now, The Lodger isn’t an episode lacking in merit, and I did quite enjoy it. If you warm to James Corden, you’re going to get something extra out of it too, even though he’s kept on a bit of a leash here. However, given that it’s the last standalone episode of the series before we find out how the bigger narrative arcs of the past episodes are going to pan out, it’s one of the quieter adventures of the series.
We’ll be back on Saturday night with the full, spoiler-filled review…!