“Now, football’s the one with the sticks, isn’t it?”
Moffat’s scheming and Davies’ heartbreaking aside, the tone of Doctor Who is very whimsical. Its sense of humor is naturally quite British, alternating between withering deadpan and overt wackiness. That’s frequently a good thing, as in this standout episode showcasing the Doctor’s compassionate bond with humankind, juxtaposed with his relative obliviousness toward it. Whether he’s interacting with Earthlings or aliens who act pretty much like us, he is simultaneously a baffled cultural outsider and a savvy behavioral expert. The Lodger foregrounds that important character detail, and is notably off-format because of it. Sure, there’s an invasive threat and his companions are around, but a large chunk of it is just Eleven grappling with the tediousness of modern civilization, something that this impulsive nomad never has to deal with. The silly jokes keep the Doctor’s ennui from being too gloomy, and there’s even a now-famous guest star in it – James Corden as his likable flatmate!
In addition to its unusually earthbound plot concerns, this is an excellent example of the show abandoning seasonal plot or character arcs and focusing on a standalone story (in this case, the goofy monster of the week). The Lodger is also laudable for its even hand with a humorous story, since Doctor Who often whiffs with pure comedy, going too broad or soft (though the Doctor’s wit typically lands). Enjoy the levity while it lasts, because with each year, the stakes for this narrative-based show necessarily get higher. DW would be wise to deflate those pretensions with an entertaining lark like this every so often.