Scanner indicate an absence of spoilers
So then, the end draws near! And as you'll probably know that this episode see the Doctor catching up with both an old friend, in the shape of Craig from last year's The Lodger and some old enemies, the Cybermen.
Now then, as we remarked last year, James Corden who plays Craig, is one of those members of the comedy fraternity that polarize opinion - people either want to cuddle him or hunt him down for his blubber. However as in The Lodger, Corden is on his best behaviour, putting in a restrained performance rather than doing that excitable shrieking that makes me want do him a severe physical discourtesy. Also back this episode is Daisy Haggard as Craig other half, Sophie, who again is charming loveliness walking on two very long legs. And completing the trilogy of returns, Gareth Roberts was back on script duties too.
And once again, he's delivered a rather lovely little story. Like The Lodger, it's an episode filled with the right kind of witty humour and bags of heart, however Mr Roberts has upped his game again. Yes, we have the delightful double act antics between Smith and Corden, and once again Roberts shows he has a natural gift for writing Eleventh Doctor patter, however also this episode is shot through much darker shadows than The Lodger.
On one hand, we have some very sinister Cyber-antics, including a plot element that will delight the old school fans. And as the tale's threat, the Cybermen are rather well deployed - for although they are second only to the Daleks as recurring villains, they've not always the menace they could be. Let's face it, in the past Cyber master-plans have been known to be a bit, well, overly complicated... Often to the point of stupidity. For example, the Cyberking in The Next Doctor might have looked cool but was it really the best use of their resources? And some forty years on, no one yet has been able to adequately explain what the hell they were playing at in The Wheel in Space.
But this time round there's no such cyber-lunacy thankfully. They lurk and menace, and although the precredits sequence makes it clear that the threat of the week is Cyber-based, the story nicely follows the Doctor working out, piece by piece, clue by clue, what they are up to.
However the real darkness doesn't come from the silver giants, but the thread of melancholy running throughout the episode. Although there is plenty of fun to be had in the Doctor bantering with Craig and mingling with humanity again, there's a sense of time running out, as the fate we know is waiting for the Doctor next week begins to cast a long sonorous shadow over this little adventure. And this is more than just plot foreshadowing touches, the fact that this may be the Doctor's last house call is woven into the emotional fabric of the story. It's beautifully written and superbly played by Smith and Corden.
Now I do have a small niggle with this episode which I'll wont mention here. Partly as it's a big spoiler and also partly I'll have to watch this one again to be sure. However I will tackle this in the forthcoming spoiler zone review. Other than that though it's gold jammy dodgers all round for this outing!
Of course this episode comes with two implicit big questions. Firstly "Is this a stealth Part One of the series finale?" and secondly "Do we learn anymore about the connection between the Silence and that mysterious pseudo-TARDIS seen in the Lodger?".
But this being a spoiler-free review I can answer neither. However, let's just say that by the time the credits roll, there are plenty of pieces on game for next week's endgame...
JIM MOON, 24rd September 2011