Newsarama Note: We jumped the gun a little here, as this epidode airs on BBC America this weekend, July 10th. So Spoilers beware.

In a brilliant remake of the Hitchcock classic, funnyman James Corden takes on the role that made Laird Cregar famous as a madman who takes a room in...oh, hang on, I've just been told that this is NOT that story, it is in fact a Doctor Who episode.  Sorry.  Rising Spoilers everywhere, so watch where you step, and don't touch the walls.  


by Gareth Roberts

Directed by Catherine Morshead

The TARDIS lands in Essex (by mistake, natch) and as The Doctor looks out to get his bearings, a blast from within knocks him out of the door and onto the ground.  The TARDIS dematerializes before he can react, stranding him on Earth and trapping Amy in time and space. 

The scene shifts to one day later, where a young man walking past a block of flats hears a plea for help coming from the intercom of one of the apartment houses.  The voice says there's been an accident of some kind, and could the person come in and help.  He enters the building, where a man stands at the top of the stairs asks him to come up and assist.  He does, the door closes, and he's not heard from again.

On the first floor, a young man named Craig and his friend Sophie are discussing their plans for the evening,  Sophie gets a call from work, and she has to run off. Craig is obviously disappointed but puts a brave face on it and wishes her luck.  After she leaves, he begins berating himself, saying that he really must admit his love for her at first opportunity.  The front bell rings, and looking about, he realizes Sophie's forgotten her keys.  He takes this as his chance, and practicing the phrase as he races to the door, he opens it and declares "I love you".  Which The Doctor, who is the one who rang the bell, doesn't quite know how to take...

The Doctor has come about Craig's advert for a lodger, which is odd since Craig only placed it that morning, and hadn't put in his address.  The Doctor glosses over this, hands Craig a bag of money and flies past him to have a look at the apartment.  Rambling randomly, he seems far more interested in the person who lives upstairs than he is in the room.  Craig describes the person as "normal, quiet...usually", the standard way one describes neighbors that you never notice until the local TV station tells you they're an international terrorist and asks your opinion of them.  Barging into the shared kitchen, The Doctor notices an odd black patch on the ceiling and walls, and finds it very interesting.  He bamboozles Craig with a series of changes of subject and compliments, announces he'll take the room, and raids the refrigerator.  He fixes himself and Craig a spectacular omelet, and Craig's misgivings dissolve.  He starts to talk to The Doctor about Sophie, how they met, everything, not even sure why.  The Doctor quickly gets a feel for Craig - he's not much of an adventurer, quite happy to remain where he is, both geographically and career-wise.  He's also absent-mindedly fondling Sophie's keys.  Craig presents The Doctor with his own set of keys for the flat, slyly explaining that if he ever...needs the place to himself, he just needs to give a shout.  The Doctor, somewhat less slyly, explains that Craig should not touch that black rot seeping down from upstairs.

In his room, The Doctor contacts Amy via an earpiece he's been wearing all through the episode so far, unnoticed by Craig. The TARDIS is locked in a loop trying to land, and whatever is upstairs is stopping it.  In his room, Craig's talking to Sophie on the phone, who worries that a stranger with a bag full of money and a name like "The Doctor" might be a drug dealer.  And outside, the intercom draws another victim upstairs.  As the victim is...whatever is happening to cause everything in the flat to go into a time loop, clocks going mad; even the TARDIS is affected by it, sending it askew as well.  The Doctor must avoid using any higher technology that might get detected, so he heads out at night to collect what looks like a mad collection of junk, obviously hatching some sort of plan.

The next morning The Doctor is in the shower, and Craig, hearing a tremendous crash from upstairs, tells him he's going to go up and see what's happened.  The man upstairs assures Craig he doesn't need his help, and The Doctor, racing from the shower in only a towel (and barely at that) comes after him, electric toothbrush, which he mistook for his Sonic Screwdriver.  Sophie comes in the front door, meeting the Doctor and his towel awkwardly.  Back in the flat, Craig declares he has a problem - they're one short for a soccer match, and The Doctor agrees to play, remembering Amy's advice to try and blend in.  Apparently, he's quite good at it - he dominates the match, having himself a wonderful time.  So much so that he steals a penalty kick from Craig, and everyone, even Sophie start cheering for him.  The team crowds around him at the end, treating him like an old mate, but when everyone starts to loop the same moment over and over, The Doctor realizes that something's happening back at the house again.  He races back, contacting Amy in the TARDIS, which is misbehaving again.  The scanners are all running at nine, which The Doctor assures (a word which here means "lies through his teeth") Amy is just fine, and when they drop to five, is even better.  Whatever is coming from that upstairs flat is an amazing amount of power, and needs stopping badly.

Back at the flat, Craig tells The Doctor that Sophie is coming over, and (slyly) asks that he give them some space.  The Doctor misses the subtlety without even having to move his head, and assures them they won't even notice he's there.  He rather puts the lie to this when he pops his head up from behind the couch as Craig is preparing to profess his love to Sophie.  Sophie invites The Doctor to join them, which he accepts happily, and Craig accepts grudgingly.  Sophie begins to talk about her desires to travel and see the world, even confessing she wants to care for orangutans.  Craig talks about what a bother trying and traveling is, and The Doctor agrees.  He calmly tells Sophie that odds are the best thing for her is to stay where she is and avoid the risk of failure.  When she stands up for herself, it becomes plainly obvious that was the reaction he was aiming for.  "It's a big old world, Sophie," The Doctor advises.  "Work out what's keeping you here."  Sophie can't quite put her finger on what's keeping her around, and Craig sits pensively, wishing he could work up the gumption to tell her what he wishes it was.

Later that night, the Doctor has built an elaborate device out of junk in his room, using it to scan the upstairs flat, finding no advanced tech whatsoever, which is nearly impossible.  He asks Amy to check the TARDIS databank to find a floor plan of the building, looking for some clue. The Doctor plans to recruit a spy to get more details about what's upstairs.  In the living room, Craig is cleaning up, but noticing the patch of black on the ceiling, can't resist but to give it a touch to see what it is.  It burns his fingers, and by the next morning he's quite sick indeed.  The Doctor finds him in bed with a high fever and a scar-like mark tracing up his arm.  The Doctor concocts a mad brew of tea and something out of the trash bin to counteract the toxin.  Craig comes round, saying he has to get to work, but The Doctor forbids it.  He re-awakens hours later feeling much better, but realizing he's missed the whole day of work and the big planning meeting where he hoped to share some business ideas with the boss. 

He races to the call center where he works, only to discover he's barely been missed.  The Doctor is there as a temp; he presented Craig's ideas in the planning meeting and has generally made himself as indispensable in the office as he did on the football field.  Sophie comes to Craig and tells him she's applied to a wildlife charity as a volunteer, and asks if he thinks she should go for it.  He's too confused at how his life has gotten out of control to talk her out of it, and leaves the office and heads back home.  Determined to find out more about this crazy man who's turned his life upside down, he grabs a spare set of keys and goes into The Doctor's room, finding the mad contraption spinning about on the bed.  The Doctor comes home some time later, and checks in with his spy - the housecat that putters about the flat with impunity.  Craig hears him outside, and watches confused  as The Doctor clearly has a conversation with the cat.  Craig can't take it any longer, and tells the Doctor he has to go.  The Doctor tries to explain that it's very important he stay, but when Craig will have none of it, he resorts to to a very forceful transmission of telepathic information...he headbutts Craig, driving the knowledge into him.  Clutching his now much fuller cranium, Craig suddenly realizes what's going on, and can barely grasp it.

Outside, Sophie lets herself into the flat, and the mysterious being from upstairs, now in the form of a young girl, asks her to come up to help her.  The Doctor contacts Amy, explaining what's going on -- the being upstairs has a time engine, and has been luring people in to attempt to activate it, killing them in the process.  Craig locks into a time loop, which means there's someone up there right now being used to turn the engine over.   As they race upstairs, they notices Sophie's keys hanging in the door, and realize she's the one in peril.  Amy interrupts them as they are about to climb the stair -- they CAN'T be going upstairs, because this flat doesn't HAVE a second floor.  The entire second floor of the building is a disguised spaceship.  Sophie is being pulled towards the control console of the ship, where she will surely meet the same fate as the others.  She reaches the console, but the ship lets her go with only a mild shock to her system.  The mysterious being appears, telling the Doctor that he must assist him.  It's an automated pilot program, designed to repair the ship and get it home, but a living pilot is required.  It's tried 17 humans so far, but now a more suitable pilot has been found, namely The Doctor.  The control panel starts pulling him toward it, but there's a problem - using the Doctor to start the ship would be like using mono-hydrazine to light a barbecue grill -- it'll blow up, and take the solar system with it.

The Doctor figures out why the ship didn't want Craig to help it, and didn't want Sophie before today -- Craig doesn't want to go anywhere, and until yesterday, neither did Sophie.  The ship needs someone who wants to escape.  Craig can actually shut down the ship, by placing his hand on the control and concentrating on why he likes it here.  Hand on the console, he (finally!) admits that he's happy here because of Sophie -- he loves her, and doesn't want her to go,  Sophie happily admits she loves him, would be quite happy staying here, places her hand on the control as well, kisses Craig, and together they shut down the ship.  The ship begins to shut itself down, and the three race outside to watch the top floor turn into a spaceship, and then vanish entirely.

Craig and Sophie celebrate happily in the living room, and The Doctor tries to quietly leave.  They notice him, and Craig insists he keep the set of keys, just in case he needs them someday.  He heads back for the TARDIS, and the camera pans across Craig's refrigerator, on which is a new photo of The Doctor after the soccer match...and behind which, on the a Crack.

Back in the TARDIS, Amy is looking for a pen to write the note that the Doctor found to let him know which flat to choose from the ads.  Looking in his jacket, she comes engagement ring, in a small red case.  She doesn't know whose it is, but finds it oddly familiar...

Another brilliant comedic episode, much more about the people The Doctor meets than about The Doctor himself.  Writer Gareth Roberts breaks away from his standard style of  episodes and delivers a whimsical piece of work that wouldn't be out of place on any romantic comedy series, if it weren't for the aliens and such.  Matt Smith plays the Doctor as even more addlepated than usual, much more in the style of the type of absent-minded professor you'd usually see in comedies taking place in a boarding house.  And since Amy is barely in the episode at all, it's the first chance we get to see him work with another actor as his foil, and it's delightful.   Even Murray Gold's score takes a more whimsical bent, with lots of oboe work in the comical scenes.

James Corden plays the nebbishy guy in love perfectly, riding the line between pathetic and endearing so you spent your time thinking "Kiss her, you nit" and not "I hope she gets away from this fat little nothing as fast her Peggy Fleming legs will carry her". 


James Corden (Craig) is best known for the British RomCom Gavin and Stacey, which he created, wrote and produced. He also did a sketch show called Home and Corden which he also wrote and played a number of characters.  Coming up he'll be in the new production of The Three Musketeers and the Jack Black vehicle Gulliver's Travels, which also features Who alum Catherine Tate as the queen of Lilliput.  As Peter Kay got to in Love and Monsters, and Tate in her run on Who, this is Corden's first chance to be seen by American viewers, having already established himself as a star in England.  He's an affable bloke, and could easily step into the role of Star's Tubby Friend, which is pretty much the role he gave himself in G&S.

Daisy Haggard (Sophie) Played the featherheaded Debbie, star of the Christmas Panto production of Snow White in Psychoville, the latest work of League of Gentlemen alums Reece Shearsmith and Steve Pemberton.  The Gentlemen have quite a connection to Who, as has been discussed in past recaps. 

BACKGROUND BITS AND BOBS - Trivia and production details

HOW CAN YOU BE IN TWO PLACES AT ONCE WHEN YOU'RE NOT ANYWHERE AT ALL -- This story takes the position in the series usually reserved for what Russell T. Davies facetiously referred to as "the cheap episode".  In Tennant's first season, the BBC asked for a Christmas episode, which the Who team were happy to supply.  Only one problem -- they weren't given any extra time to produce the episode, which means they functionally had to produce 14 episodes in the same time they had to produce 13 the year before.  Russell came up with the idea of an episode that actually featured the Doctor and his companions very little, and was more about other characters.  This would give the crew the freedom to create the episode, and not add too much more work on Tennant and Co. 

The first one of these episodes was the blissfully wacky Love and Monsters starring Elton Pope and the members of LInDA (London Investigative 'n' Detection Agency).  Tennant and Piper only appear in about five minutes of the episode, but with clever editing and some brilliant stock footage work, it feels like they're all over the place.  The next year, future show-runner Steven Moffat gave us the glorious adventures of Sally Sparrow in Blink, which again only featured a couple minutes of The Doctor. They played with the formula a bit in the next year and split the shooting schedule up, giving us Midnight, which had all Doctor and almost no Donna Noble, and Turn Left, which was exactly the opposite.  Again, it allowed the stars to film 14 episodes' worth of footage in the time usually allotted for 13.

So while they didn't have that stricture on their time this year, it's nice that they kept the tradition going with this episode.  Karen Gillan appears for only moments of the time in the episode, carefully peppered through to give the impression she's there full-time.  There's the possibility that she was filming the scenes for her solo interactive game The History Hunt at this time, but odds are it was simply a way to keep the tradition going.  With a full 14-episode schedule in place for next season, eon wonders how they'll do it next year; perhaps an Amy solo adventure.

As in Love and Monsters and Blink, the new characters are the stars of the episode; Craig and his not-quite-girlfriend Sophie are a fun pair.   Who has had a long tradition of creating characters so well thought out you wouldn't mind seeing them appear again.  Two of the earlier examples of this are Henry Gordon Jago and Professor Litefoot from The Talons of Weng-Chiang. Rumors abounded that there were plans for a Jago and Litefoot spinoff series, though that never came to pass...until last month.  After over 35 years absence, Big Finish Productions produced Jago and Litefoot, Investigators of Infernal Incidents a brand new series of adventures of the fan-fave pair, featuring the original actors Christopher Benjamin and Trevor Baxter.  So perhaps the dream of a "Sparrow and Nightingale" series might not be as outlandish as one might think.

REDUCE, RE-USE RECYCLE -  As Blink was based on a short story from the Doctor Who magazine and Paul Cornell's Human Nature on one of the novels, this story is based on a comic strip from the DoctorWho magazine, also written by Gareth Roberts.  The Doctor is stranded on Earth and must find a place to stay, and picks Mickey Smith's place.  That story had a much more "Odd Couple" feeling to it, with the pair trying to keep from driving each other crazy.  Just another example of how a strong concept can be adapted into many different shapes.

YEAH, BUT THIS GOES TO ELEVEN - The Doctor refers to himself as "number eleven" to Craig after the meeting of the minds (as in his eleventh incarnation), which is the first time on-screen it's been explicitly stated which regeneration he was in.  Considering he's over 900 years old, it suggests his first (Hartnell) incarnation was rather dull indeed, considering he's been burning through the rest of regenerations in only half a century. Also, his Soccer outfit just happens to have a number 11 on them, another little in-joke.

There's been many more references to past incarnations in this season, with pictures of them appearing all over the place - in addition to this episode, we've seen the library card with Hartnell's photo, the images of Hartnell and Troughton in the scanner in last week's episode, and the montage of everyone back in Eleventh Hour (another reference to eleven).  Possibly a theme connected to the story arc, or a future one, but more likely just Moffat's love for the show's history.

"They call me The Doctor -- don't know why" - It's long been assumed that The Doctor is a title or pseudonym he took for himself, as other Time Lords did - The Master, The Monk, The Valeyard, etc. The power of names has been a theme of the new series, in reference to the mystic concept that knowing a being's true name affords you the ability to control or destroy the being. 

"I love a good soak" - The very poor rendition of "La donna Ë mobile" The Doctor sings is the same song he sings in the shower in Jon Pertwee's first episode, Spearhead from Space.

"Football, I'm good at football, I think" - Actually he is - Matt's an accomplished footballer.  He planned to go pro, but a serious back injury rendered that plan moot. 

"The time engine IS the flat" - This bears somewhat of a similarity to the events of the uncompleted Doctor Who episode Shada, in which fugitive Time Lord Professor Chronotis has disguised his TARDIS as his apartments at St. Cedds College.  While the TARDIS uses a chameleon circuit for its transformations (not to mention the very malleable and customizable structure of its interior, the ship in this episode used the curiously over-used this season perception filter to disguise itself.

The last few episodes of this season had a couple of extra foes to fight, namely England in the World Cup and some extremely nice weather, resulting in a lot of people passing on watching this episode live, choosing to DVR it later.  It's one of the first years that's happened for the show, and Moffat and the BBC spent a fair amount of time making sure people knew (and to assure people that THEY knew) that they were expecting such a drop, making it clear that with DVRs and the BBC website's on demand Iplayer, the actual viewership of the episode was actually much higher, which turned out to be true once those numbers were calculated.  Of course, this didn't stop the British tabloids from wildly fabricating stories that the BBC was terribly disappointed with the numbers, claiming that they blamed Matt Smith and planned to get rid of him quickly.  All rubbish, but tabloid journalism was never known for sticking to the facts.

BIG BAD UPDATE -- Again, at this point, the hints are all but over.  The Crack appears, but only at the end of the episode, as it seems to have done many times.  It gives the impression that they may not be the source of the troubles The Doctor is fighting, but that they are caused by his passing.  But no more time to discuss that, all will be...addressed next week.

NEXT TIME ON DOCTOR WHO -- The Pandorica Opens.  It's the name of the episode, it's what happens, it's the start of the season finale, and it's got more surprises than you can shake a Malfesian Stick-beast at.

What did you think this week? Ready for the big two part finale?

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