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Friday, October 14, 2011

6x12 - Closing Time Blues

Okay, so... yeah. This episode hasn't exactly been my favourite and, for a good while now I couldn't put my finger on exactly why that was.

For the last few days I thought that maybe they'd gone and used some other sort of structure for this episode (a 4-Act structure, perhaps) but the closer I looked, the more I realized that that didn't fit.

So I started digging deeper into the episode, charting it out, trying to figure out what was bugging me. And, really, so far as I can tell, there are two things that bother me.

1) The climax of the story is incredibly compressed. The last 3 minutes of the episode have nothing at all to do with the story that's just been told and only serve to set up the season finale. I know, 3 minutes doesn't sound like a whole lot, but considering how quickly (and forced) the climax of the story plays out -- with Craig being captured and turned by the Cybermen and then defeating them all in a matter of seconds... I don't know -- the more I watch this episode (I've seen it like 5 times now) the more I get the feeling like they intentionally pushed past the climax and hung a lantern on how silly the whole thing was (Craig says 'I killed them with love'... ugh).

2) The story feels uneven. Essentially this episode is 'two men and a baby... and some Cybermen' but because the Doctor is on this dark tilt of his (believing that he's a crazy old man who gets his friends killed) it messes with all the light-hearted fun that they've put together off the top.

The very beginning of the episode is right proper dark and spooky... if not a tad silly -- flickering lights belie the creepy-looking Cybermen hiding in fitting rooms and snatching shopworkers away (to be converted, no doubt). This dark bit of an intro ends up leading into some great, comedic scenes when Craig and the Doctor play off of Craig's newfound fatherhood fears.

Yet the episode never seems to decide what it wants to be; a problem that truly comes to the surface as the episode wears on, as they get deeper into their investigation and things start to get dark -- too dark, apparently, because just as the big climax hits, it's like they stomp on the fast forward button. Not only do they gloss over the significance of Craig being turned -- or that that means for the Doctor (yet another failure, another friend lost) -- but they rush through any sense of true danger. One minute it's 'Oh no, Craig's been turned' and then, almost a minute later Cybermen heads are exploding, people are running and explosions are happening. It's like they tried very hard to keep it light-hearted and then realized there wasn't a happy-go-lucky way out of this one so they stomped on the accelerator and hoped no one would notice.

(Or they really wanted that 3 minutes for River at the end and so chopped away whatever used to be there...)

Structurally this is a weird episode as well, pretty much the whole first half of the episode is dominated by A story (setup for the Doctor and the Cybermen) and then the last half of the episode is mostly B story with the Craig realizing he's a great dad after all/defeating the Cybermen, etc.

I had a lot of trouble trying to find the structural nodes of this episode, trying to get a sense of where the natural 'outs' would be. Because this was a slower-paced episode it was significantly harder but I think I managed to figure it out.

Teaser - Out at 3:12 - Shona pulls back the curtain revealing a dirty/scary-looking Cyberman leering back at her. She screams.

Act One - Out at or around 11:46 (possibly earlier) - The Doctor and Craig have just had their first brief encounter with the Cybermen and escaped by the skin of their teeth. Outside the Doctor reveals what they're up against and that they were just on a Cyberman mothership. Craig has a moment of wonder and excitement and exclaims 'I was in outer space!'. - Now, not the strongest of outs, but a natural pause in the story when considering what happens next (they regroup and start to search in earnest for the 'silver rat'). Personally, I think it would've been a quick structural change to have the reveal of the Cyberman coming at them and then cut to an act out (and then they escape) but, hey, that's just my two cents.

Act Two - Out at 21:14 - This is a definitive Act out. The Doctor and Craig are on the trail of a Cybermat and they hear a scream in the distance. The Doctor goes running off after it, gets knocked unconscious by a Cyberman. Out on the Cyberman looking down on The Doctor as he goes out. Heck it even cuts to black.

Act Three - Out at 28:42-ish - This is a 'calm-before-the-storm' Act Out as far as I can tell. They've just managed to kill a Cybermat, the Doctor reprograms the thing into something that can help him fight the Cybermen. He starts to talk to Craig, starts to tell him about the true nature of his fate, that he is to die tomorrow, but turns to see that Craig is asleep. Caring but resigned, he tucks them in with a blanket. As I type this, I'm realizing that the stronger out from this would actually be the next scene which shows the next morning and the Doctor sneaking out on his own to fight the Cybermen by himself. Coming back from the break would show Craig waking up and realizing that the Doctor's gone, sending him into a panic and chasing after him.

Act Four - Out at 34:20 - This would also be a pretty strong Act out if it weren't so darned rushed. The Doctor watches, helplessly, as the captured Craig is forced into the Cyberman conversion unit and the helmet of the Cybermen is welded shut around his head. A fantastic image, a great emotional punch to the gut... but it never gets its chance to really hit home. A minute or two later Craig is free and on the run with the Cybermen exploding from his 'emotional overload'. *sad face*

Act Five - Out at 41:24 or 44:10 - The Doctor's story actually comes to a (unsatisfactory) close at 41:24 as he tells a bunch of dumbfounded kids that he's saved all their lives countless times... then says 'you're welcome'. The episode ends with River underwater after being drugged and forced into an astronaut's suit, moments before coming out of the water and killing the Doctor (as we saw in the first episode).

Anyways, that brings me to a close on 6x12-Closing Time. I'm not sure how much of this will actually help me going forward, but if nothing else, I think I have gotten a touch better and digging into these episodes. This one frustrated me to no end... but, I dunno... I guess I'll have to take a stab at another episode to see if this is an anomaly or something more prevalent with this Series.

Not sure which episode yet, but I am open to suggestions.

Cheers!
Brandon

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