The Doctor is stranded in Colchester without his TARDIS and has to blend in as a normal human. What could possibly go wrong? Quite a lot, apparently. This episode is that endearing, frivolous romp near the end of the series that allows the audience to take a breather before being hit with the finale. It was founded on the brilliant idea of playing out what would happen if the Doctor tried to fit into ordinary human life, while at the same time investigating a mysterious alien threat. Try this story with the Tenth Doctor, or the Fifth Doctor, or even the Ninth Doctor, and you’d be in for a fairly unremarkable episode. But combine this idea with the gawkish, eccentric, mad Eleventh Doctor, and we get the delightfully hilarious episode that The Lodger is. It’s a story light on substance, but that’s rather the point. I think this episode successfully showcases the versatility of the Doctor Who format: it can’t always be planets and monsters, and this episode shows that this show can do romantic comedy—and just plain comedy—as well as it does hard sci-fi adventure.
That said, the plot surrounding the people disappearing into the upstairs of Craig’s flat was genuinely creepy. It oozed mystery, and, while at the same time I was amused by watching the comedy of the Doctor trying to pass himself off as a normal bloke, I was also genuinely interested in what was going on upstairs and what was making the TARDIS malfunction. The production was all pretty cheap, but the spine-tingling sequences of shadowy figures luring unsuspecting victims into the forbidding room upstairs was really effective and unsettling. I was, however, a bit unimpressed with the resolution. Although admittedly touching, Craig’s love for Sophie destroying the machine made no sense at all to me. It seemed like an unnecessarily maudlin cop-out conceived as a “feel-good” resolution rather than a satisfying one. I hate to be the cold spoilsport—I’m usually the one regretting the anti-sentimentalism of certain sections of the fandom—but I didn’t feel this one.
Some final thoughts. We see more noticeably how different Eleven is from Ten in this story. Ten would have no, or next to no, difficulties at all playing the part of a normal, albeit eccentric, bloke, but the more alien Eleven is so clearly out of his depth. “Have some rent. That’s probably quite a lot, isn’t it? Looks like a lot. Is it a lot? I can never tell. Don’t spend it all on sweets, unless you like sweets. I like sweets.” Matt Smith absolutely shone, giving a delightfully goofy performance, playing up his Doctor’s more comically alien qualities without reducing the character to a demeaning comedic caricature. This made this episode such a rollicking joy to watch that it succeeded brilliantly. James Corden played a sweet and charming Craig Owens, one of the better guest stars to have featured in Doctor Who, and whose character remains beloved, as testified by Craig’s reappearance in Series 6. Overall it was an enjoyable, engaging effort that delivered wonderfully on its premise.