The Lodger (DWM comic)
The Lodger

Story No. 229 The Lodger
Production Code Series 5, Episode 11
Dates June 12 2010

With Matt Smith, Karen Gillan
Written by Gareth Roberts Directed by Catherine Morshead
Executive Producers: Steven Moffat, Piers Wenger, Beth Willis.

Synopsis: The Doctor is forced to pass for a normal human while he investigates an alien who can scan for technology.


Doctor in the House by Gavin Smith 28/6/10

Right, here we are: the low point of Series 5. Total SciFi that said something to the effect of "it's no Love & Monsters but still... 5/10", I'm inclined to agree. While The Lodger isn't as horrifically appalling as that travesty with Peter Kay, it certainly derails the consistency of an otherwise very good series.

My main problem with this episode is its focus, trying so hard to do one element that it ignores others. Essentially the story explores how the Doctor, a nomadic misfit, can (try to) fit in with regular, human society. This involves him moving in with Craig Owens (James Corden). Admittedly, I like James Corden and his performance here is definitely the highlight of the episode (as oppossed to Peter Kay's). Owens is the Doctor's opposite and foil; their chemistry is, at points, genuinely funny - though sometimes a little cringing - and it's not giving much away to say that Owens has a love interest. All this gives the episode a sense of normality which, to be fair, is what it appears to be aiming for.

However, this comes at the expense of the remaining storyline with the sci-fi element left looking like a hollow extension. Though well introduced and quite creepy, at least to begin with, the villain/threat is absent for much of the story. It is only properly explored in the last ten minutes, in which it is explained and diffused much too easily. I love episodes that keep me thinking throughout, stories where I can't predict the ending and this one gives up in the last quarter.

Amy is kept in the background throughout with Owens taking on the role of companion. This is a welcome mixing of the show's dynamics; it's only temporary but it works quite nicely. Each new season attempts an episode towards the end that is, by the show's usual standards, dysfunctional - Love & Monsters, Blink, Turn Left - and this is the same pedigree. While it isn't as scary as Blink or as thought-provoking as Turn Left, this episode certainly doesn't crash and burn like Season 2's "funny" episode.

Looking back on it, The Lodger really wasn't a bad episode at all; in fact, it was a fun, light-hearted romp. But compared to the rest of this season it does struggle.

The Best Doctor Who Episode. Ever! by Jennifer L. Picker and Francis Lloyd 23/4/13

Starring Matt Smith, the best looking and sexiest Doctor ever (get over it Sylvester McCoy fans), and written by Gareth Roberts, who will surely be up for a best screenplay Oscar when this episode is made into a feature film, The Lodger is far and away our favorite episode, combining humor, love interest, scary stuff and soccer with piquant style. We hear the Doctor's flatmate Craig - played by the incomparable James Corden - utter the funniest Doctor Who line ever when he says "I can't see the point of Paris myself." We see romance, with the Doctor playing matchmaker between Craig and his 'friend who just happens to be a girl' Sophie, played by Daisy Haggard, by taking all the platonic out of their friendship (which turns out to be crucial in saving the planet). There is also some suspense, with this episode's 'monster' posing albeit a not very apocalyptic threat to the entire population of Earth from an upstairs flat in Essex.

Best of all, we get to see the cleverest man in the Universe playing soccer, 'the beautiful game', in a way that would have left Diego Maradona looking as nimble as a one-legged Sontaran, except not as pretty. For this reason alone, The Lodger should go down in history as the greatest ever Doctor Who episode!

And what a revelation he turned out to be! The Doctor turned in an amazing solo debut performance reminiscent of the great George Best at his best, producing an unbelievable eight goals to completely demolish the team from the Rising Sun! While the Rising Sun did not provide the world's strongest opposition, with a midfield displaying all the footballing ability of a herd of Daleks, a defense about as solid as a jelly castle, and their goalkeeper Sol with the diving ability of a Cyberman (from Classic Who), this should in no way take away from the obvious raw talent of the Doctor. In fact I do not think there are enough superlatives in my 'Boys Own Bumper Book of Soccer Superlatives' to describe the dazzlingly stupendously amazing Pele like performance of this gangling Gallifreyan dynamo!

And as the game between Kings Arms and Rising Sun was featured on the BBC's Football Focus with Dan Walker (see the special features section in the DVD), the Doctor will now certainly attract the attention of some of the big clubs. Arsenal spring to mind as a team in desperate need of a striker at the moment or perhaps LA Galaxy could be an option now that Beckham has left. Not Manchester United though, since with the likes of Rooney and Van Persie, we don't need him. However our disastrous 1974 season when we were relegated under Tommy Docherty is another story… (If you are reading this, you have a TARDIS, Doctor, get my drift?) But I digress.

We admit that, as Dr Who monsters go, this spaceship is not the biggest threat the world has faced. With over six billion people, at a rate of one person a day it would take absolutely ages and ages to go through the entire population of Earth. Most people would die of old age before they had a turn. Do the math! It would take quite a while to just empty Colchester, and surely people would eventually just start avoiding the place, which most people do anyway.

Problems with this episodes' monster and the ending aside, we get to see the Doctor play soccer!!! And he is brilliant! Is there anything Matt Smith can't do?

Has anyone ever told you you're a bit weird? by Evan Weston 30/3/18

The Lodger is Gareth Roberts' fourth writing credit on Doctor Who, following two solid stories in The Shakespeare Code and The Unicorn and the Wasp and a miserable one co-written with Russell T. Davies in Planet of the Dead, which really should not be spoken of ever again. Out of his previous efforts, The Lodger most closely resembles The Unicorn and the Wasp in that its focus is not on aliens or action or even a complex plot, but on comedy. Matt Smith gets to show off his comic chops alongside Gavin & Stacey star James Corden, and the result is a mostly hilarious - if fairly uneven - Doctor Who story.

Smith and Corden are hysterical together, with Smith adapting the role of "zany new roommate" and Corden plugged into the straight guy part. Smith is clearly having the time of his life, zipping about the place spewing dialogue and red wine. Most of the humor is actually physical in nature: the episode's two best scenes are the Doctor brandishing an electric toothbrush and dominating a football match. Doctor Who, particularly Moffat era Who, is good at getting me grinning and chuckling, but these moments had me rolling with laughter (curiously, Smith was a highly touted football prospect before injuring his back and turning to acting). Smith nails the physical comedy perfectly, and his interplay with Corden is lovely.

Corden also brings his A-game to The Lodger, showing sweetness often glimpsed on Gavin & Stacey, for which he won a comedy BAFTA. Craig is a pretty sappy dude, a man with almost no confidence, in love with his best friend, forced to live under the same roof as a man (well, alien) so brimming with confidence as to be completely oblivious to it. The way the Doctor slowly takes chunks out of Craig's life without intending to is both comedic and tragic, and it's easily The Lodger's greatest success. It also throws into stark relief how inelegant the "telepathy" solution is, again played for physical comedy but coming off as a way-too-quick resolution to the brimming Doctor-Craig tension. Even throughout this, though, Corden makes Craig an utterly sympathetic and likable character, and his performance is more than worthy of standing next to Smith's.

The story itself, though, is wobbly from start to finish, and it seriously detracts from the good stuff going on here. The upstairs flat is clearly supposed to be scary, but it never comes close to being more than campy, and its prominence in the episode is frankly very annoying. Nothing of significance happens within that plot line for 35 minutes; we see people getting taken upstairs and killed, and Amy bumps around with the zigzag plotter for a little while. The villain is never clearly defined, which I guess is kinda cool, and the resolution does eventually serve to bring Craig and Daisy Haggard's Sophie together (which it had to), but the entire thing feels fluffy and pointless, which is the exact opposite of what the Craig storyline purports to do.

We also have Amy bopping around in the TARDIS for the entire episode, and, while this is supposed to be the companion-lite episode for the series, her scenes serve only to suck us out of The Lodger's little world and back into the big vastness of Doctor Who, which isn't the point at all. For decent stretches, The Lodger feels like it doesn't know what it wants to be, and that's a shame, because Roberts has the blueprint right there with his two leads. There's nothing wrong with taking this show in a different direction, as Vincent and the Doctor did successfully last week, and though The Lodger gets close it never really pulls off the quirky-but-also-scary vibe that Roberts wants. Closing Time is the superior Craig episode because it embraces its comedy completely, dispensing with the faux-mystery of the enemy.

There's not really too much to discuss on the production side with The Lodger, as it's basically a sitcom set in Colchester. There are some highlights: the football match is a fun little montage and the Doctor's gizmo is just the right touch of weird and hilarious. The best set in The Lodger is actually the villain's fake TARDIS, which looks positively evil and is surrounded by discarded burnt corpses. It, along with Craig and Sophie, helps salvage a finale that, if botched, would have given this episode a lower score.

It really comes down to this, though: for once, Roberts isn't out to prove how much smarter he is than all of us, and that's appreciated. The Shakespeare Code and The Unicorn and the Wasp, as much fun as they are, both suffered from Roberts' pretentious notions of his own writing talent, and Planet of the Dead was just idiotic. Here, at his best, he's delivering a tribute to The Odd Couple, and that's when The Lodger is magnificent. Sure, there's simultaneously way too much and not nearly enough going on in terms of actual plot, and Roberts drops the ball on that balancing act, but he's come a long way in terms of not annoying me.

That's why I find it hard to dislike The Lodger, despite how much it feels more like a missed opportunity than a bold success. If it dispensed with or shortened up its plot to make room for a more natural development between Craig and the Doctor, we could have had a really interesting success story. As it is, though, Matt Smith and James Corden keep the thing from falling apart, and what we get is a bumpy but overall wonderfully entertaining comedy showing just how alien the Eleventh Doctor can really be and how just a little blind confidence like the Doctor's can go a long way. For all the story's faults, that's a message worth celebrating.