After watching "The Lodger," I'm convinced of two things: 1) Matt Smith really is brilliant and can carry this show all by himself; and 2) I would happily watch a sitcom about the Doctor and his roommate. Spoilers ahead!
So there isn't that much to say about "The Lodger," the last Doctor Who episode before the big two-part finale. It's a quirky, loopy slice of quirkiness. You either love its zany premise — the Doctor gets separated from the TARDIS and has to pretend to be an ordinary person while sharing a flat with a lovable loser — or you're a bit of a stick in the mud, really. As for me, I think this might be the most successful comedy outing Who has ever done.
I should warn you all, though, that I am one of those weird people who really loves — adores! — the ELO-drenched episode "Love And Monsters" — at least, until the last five minutes, which are hideous and awful. But anyway, be warned. My taste is demonstrably idiosyncratic.
And yet, I think I'm on solid ground in singing the praises of this one. The comedy chemistry between Matt Smith and guest stars James Corden and Daisy Haggard is utterly sparktastic, but the material they're working with — also solid awesome. The Doctor blundering through ordinary life among humans, simultaneously too brilliant and too innocent for his surroundings, makes for amazing comedy.
Of the many, many brilliant bits in this episode — too many to list — I'd say about half come from the Doctor being clever, causing everyone's heads to spin. And the other half comes from his bizarre misunderstandings of ordinary real-life stuff. For someone who lived on Earth as an exile for years, he's surprisingly confused by things like football matches and roommate etiquette.
Actually, my favorite bits are where the football team captain says they're going to "annihilate" the opposing team at their next match, with the Doctor's help, and the Doctor goes into super-intense "I AM THE ONCOMING STORM" mode. And then when Craig, the roommate, finds the Doctor's home-made low-tech scanning device, and the Doctor pretends it's a piece of outsider art commenting on "Ain't modern society awful." Oh, and for anybody who's ever had a crappy phone job, the sight of the Doctor working at the call center is the greatest thing ever. Oh, and the Doctor talking to the cat is also just amazing.
As all obsessive Who nerds know, writer Gareth Roberts based this on his short 2006 comic strip in Doctor Who Magazine. Here's a bit of it:
There's loads more over at Life, Doctor Who and Combom.
And part of what's great about the comic strip, and which also comes through in the episode, is the idea that the Doctor is too awesome to be around regular people for too long. He'll just mess everything up, with his tendency to inspire people to better things, and his brilliant-yet-baffling ways. He'll upset the apple cart, and society won't be able to function. We need people like him to go off and save the world from alien monsters, not infiltrate our homes and workplaces. He will make things too awesome. Our feeble human brains won't be able to cope!
If there's one thing that bugged me slightly about this episode, it was the Doctor's unwonted timidity. This is the man who usually ventures head-first into every danger, armed only with a screwdriver and a willingness to improvise — but for some reason he won't just wander upstairs to see what's going on for himself. Even after he's sure that innocent people are being killed, he still insists it's too dangerous for him to go up there. (Yes, yes, I know that anything powerful enough to keep the TARDIS from landing is too huge for him to handle without knowing what he's up against, sure. But still.) Obviously, if the Doctor ventures up there right away and either sorts out the problem or gets smoked, then there's no episode. But still, it seemed unlike the Doctor to stand aside while innocent people are being slaughtered.
All in all, though, this was a lot of fun, and if you didn't already love Matt Smith as the Doctor, this ought to seal the deal. What did you all think?