Two men and a baby, Cybermen, and time is running out. Fasten your seatbelts!
When the Doctor’s got his noticing face on, it’s already too late. ‘Cause, once he’s noticed, he can’t stop. He has to poke his rather impressive Time Lord nose in, and, once again, Craig’s nightmares of the noticing face come true. There’s electricity crackling where it shouldn’t be, and the Doctor is not only stellar at detecting a baby in his friends’ house, he’s also very good at noticing crackling electricity where it shouldn’t be.
The Doctor’s had about 200 years of fun now, jumping around in Laurel & Hardy movies, waving at Amy and Rory out of history books. He knows he is going to his death—he’s getting another reward. He leaves Amy and Rory behind, to keep them safe, and then visits the other friend he’s made on his travels, in this lifetime. Craig Owens, wonderful, happy Craig Owens; except he’s a little less happy at the moment, being the somewhat clueless Dad of Stormageddon, the Dark Lord of All, also known as Alfie. He’s done saving them, the Doctor tries to convince himself—but he didn’t truly believe for one moment he could leave Craig and Alfie somewhere very much probably not safe? You’ve noticed, Doctor, now you might as well run back in to help.
So, what does the Doctor do? Gets himself a job. In a toy shop. May I present to you: the Doctor, about 1100 years old, intergalactic nine-year-old. A toddler in space, with a bow tie, and a badge.
And to keep Craig from seeing that the lift is, in fact, dangerous—because there’s a sodding Cyberman ship hidden around it—he pretends to confess his love for him. Tries to kiss him, too, ’cause he’s had some wonderful feedback. So, while I’m laughing my head off, because: really, Doctor, no other diversion technique at your disposal?, the Doctor is fiddling with his Sonic, the fangirls—me included—are yelling, THIS IS QUITE HOMOEROTIC, at their screens, then faint, and a Cyberman comes wandering ’round to kill them. Best How to Distract Humans from Scary Cyberman Stuff Masterclass for Time Lords, EVER. Craig, tell me: judging by the breathiness of your voice, the way your eyes flitted towards the Doctor’s mouth, and the exclamation, ‘Doctor, I can’t, I’m taken,’ which then understandably descends into a cry of, ‘OH MY GOD,’ as you see the scary Cyberman stuff around you—you wouldn’t have said no if you’d been single, by any chance? Gareth Roberts: SLASH ALL THE THINGS! It’s only right that other people—namely, Val—would mistake them for a couple. They’re good together.
One thing that floored me a little: the Doctor really does seem to think he’s going to die. No way out, no back-up, no plan? Yet, at least? It’s very telling how he says, ‘I’m done saving them,’ here, and later—earlier for us, in the The Impossible Astronaut—he tells Amy, at the beach at Lake Silencio, that he thought he’d never get done saving them. (Before, in The Time of Angels, he predicted he’s never going to get done saving them.) There’s an over-arching echo there, one that means that the Doctor’s at the end of his tether. Just this one last job, and then he’s done saving us. When Craig tells him that he won’t leave, because the safest place to be is with the Doctor, because he always wins and always survives—the Doctor’s answer is:
Those were the days.
But—Rule One: The Doctor lies. Maybe this is the Doctor’s Flesh avatar? Maybe there are two possible outcomes to this? After all, there are two Rivers on that beach, and the older River doesn’t seem to remember at first. As she says at university, it’s a story. Could it become a story such as the Doctor as an imaginary friend? Can he rewrite time? Or does he really have nothing up his sleeve? If not, if this is the actual Doctor going to his death, and he’s got no plan to get himself back from the dead, then we’re in trouble. Then again, we’re not. It will just be up to the others. (Or maybe he’ll just make something up as he goes along next week.) At least he takes the blue envelopes of Sophie’s. So it is him behind the invitations, but how far does that plan go?
Because just at the Doctor mentions coincidence, Amy and Rory turn up. And the Doctor has to hide behind a clothes rack as to not to be seen by them. Only then does he notice something else that’s been right in front of him for a good long while now, probably: Amy’s beautiful face on an advertisement. An ad for Petrichor, the perfume for the girl who’s tired of waiting. Remember petrichor? The smell of dust after it rained. Amy and Rory are sending him a message. A message to come back to them. But he doesn’t think he can, doesn’t allow himself.
And that’s what gets him into trouble. Again.
It’s when he tries to do it alone that it all goes bonkers and very, very dangerous. Doctor, you idiot!
Which is why he needs Craig. Craig is a dad, and as so many fathers have saved the day in this series simply by loving their children more than anything else, Craig is doing the same. He blows the Cybermen to hell, with love. Now, if that isn’t poetic justice, I don’t know what is. This is why the Doctor has always come back to earth, why he’s always believed in us silly little humans. We love uncontrollably. It’s not just the deeply-ingrained instinct to protect our own genes. Love sounds much better.
And that’s why Alfie’s first word is, Doctor. Thanks, Alfie, for blowing the Don’t Tell Mummy that Anything Weird Happened Plan to hell.
Back to more serious matters: the imagery of that last scene with Madam Kovarian visiting River at university is truly chilling: the space suit, presented as a wedding gown. The two Silents as her best men, if you will. And then, that stupid clue: Silence will fall when the question is asked. What, d’you want the Doctor to propose, too?
Next: The Wedding of River Song.