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Warning: Contains Mild Spoilers

“Closing Time,” is a comedic romp masquerading as the Doctor’s existential crisis as his death draws near, or it’s an existential crisis masquerading as a comedic romp. Either way, it works.

Oh, and there are Cybermen.

Writer Gareth Roberts picks up the awkwardly charming friendship between Craig Owens (James Corden) and the Doctor (Matt Smith) where he left off in last season’s “The Lodger.”

Craig and Sophie (Daisy Haggard, appearing all too briefly) have indeed added to the human population with baby Alfie, aka: “Stormageddon, dark lord of all,” (the Doctor still speaks baby).  While Sophie’s off on a holiday weekend, Craig is surprised by the Doctor’s return. Moping about on his, “Farewell tour,” and determinedly, “Not noticing that… I’m done saving them,” the Doctor’s curiosity gets the better of him. Shenanigans ensue.

Directed by Steve Hughes, there are plenty of laughs and more than a few chills in this episode. “Closing Time” also presents the audience with further clues that the timeline we think we’ve been on might not be quite as linear as we’ve been led to believe.

And Cybermats, which I’m told haven’t been seen in a very, very long time.

The last few episodes have been about everyone except the Doctor. Seeing the focus brought back around to him, in the company of Craig and Stormageddon, is a relief. There’s a brilliant playfulness between Corden and Smith that not only provides a nice counterpoint to the direct threat of the Cybermen, but lightens the sense of impending doom. This opens up an entirely new shading of Matt Smith’s performance as the Eleventh Doctor similar to the way Suranne Jones’ did as Idris in “The Doctor’s Wife.” Here, Smith carries the weight of the Doctor’s appointment with death in a way that’s visible in the set of his shoulders and the tilt of his head while also being incredibly gentle with the people around him. It’s a double-act, though: Craig’s haplessness should be pathetic, but Corden makes him the heroic heart of the Everyman that represents humanity’s pull on the Doctor.

Stand-alone episodes in this series have suffered somewhat with the weight of the series and character arcs. Fortunately, “Closing Time” is bubbly without ignoring the big picture, just scary enough, and gives us a companion whose relationship with the Doctor isn’t yet fraught with the vagaries of time and enemies that spring up out of nowhere. “The Lodger” took a while to grow on me; here, the respite and gentle hilarity are exactly what were needed in the penultimate episode of the sixth series.