The Lodger was the eleventh episode of the fifth series of the revived series of Doctor Who. Based on a comic strip of the same name, it was the third instance, after Human Nature and Dalek, of a story from another medium being directly adapted for television. It was also a companion-lite story, somewhat like Midnight. This adventure provided the first hints of the Silent’s presence on Earth, though they were not seen until the following season.
The Lodger introduced recurring character Craig Owens and his girlfriend Sophie. Craig especially would play an integral part in the following series. The actor portraying his character, James Corden, was also a close friend of Matt Smith. They engaged in several humorous shenanigans on set, as seen in Doctor Who Confidential and in the extras for the Series 5 releases.
The TARDIS materializes in a park in Colchester. The Eleventh Doctor pops his head out and realizes they have not arrived at the Fifth Moon of Sinda Callista, apologizing to Amy for the mistake. Before he can pull his head back in to set the proper course, a jolt pushes the Doctor outside as the door closes and the TARDIS de-materializes, with a screaming Amy still inside.
Later, a young man enters a house to help an elderly gentleman calling to him for assistance, so he goes up to the top floor flat. In the flat below, Craig Owens and his friend, Sophie, discuss their plans for the evening. She points out that a rot on the ceiling is growing. Sophie receives a call from her friend Melina, who is upset over a recent break-up. She packs up her things, ready to go comfort her friend. However, Sophie subtly tries to have Craig ask her to stay, but Craig points out that they’re only having pizza. Once she has gone, Craig tells himself to confess his love for Sophie the next time he sees her. The doorbell rings; believing it Sophie who has forgotten her keys (as usual), he opens the door, saying, “I love you.” However, he then realizes it’s not Sophie at the door, it’s the Doctor — “Oh, that’s good to know, cause I’m your new lodger”.
The Doctor takes Sophie’s keys, thinking they are for him, but Craig takes them back and explains that he is not sure if he wants the Doctor here. Believing the problem may be about rent, the Doctor hands him a paper bag with some rent money in it — three thousand pounds. The Doctor introduces himself and begins to ramble, greeting Craig with a euro kiss, thinking it’s how humans greet each other. The Doctor wonders who lives in the secondary flat, only to get little information from Craig as he doesn’t know much except for the occasional loud crashes from above, which occurs then. The Doctor then notices the rot stain on the ceiling of the kitchen and warns Craig to keep away from it.
The Doctor says he’ll take the room, but Craig points out he hasn’t even seen it yet. Taken to the empty bedroom, the Doctor is told by Craig that he shared it with the owner until a few months ago, when an uncle he never heard of left a ton of money in his will to him. The Doctor finds this oddly convenient for him, thinking to himself that he may have had a hand in it.
To ease Craig’s uncertainty, the Doctor prepares omelettes for the two of them, using a strange array of ingredients. He notices a picture of Sophie and Craig taped to the refrigerator and wonders who she is. Craig explains that they work together at a call center. He quickly segues into a narrative about his job and how he could make their work more efficient, though his bosses won’t listen to him because he is merely a phone drone. He absently wonders why he’s telling the Doctor all about his life when they’ve only just met. The Doctor half-jokes that he has a face people never stop blurting their plans out to.
When Craig wonders where the Doctor’s luggage is, the Doctor assures him that it will materialize if all goes according to plan, confusing Craig even further. Meanwhile, the TARDIS has attempted another landing, but fails. Inside the console room, Amy screams and grips the console as the equipment backfires and sends up sparks; she yells at the the time machine, demanding to know why won’t it land. The TARDIS vanishes again.
After enjoying the omelettes, Craig wonders where the Doctor learned how to cook. The Doctor says Paris, in the 18th century, then corrects himself until he says the recent 20th century. Craig wonders if the Doctor is told he’s weird and the Doctor responds by telling him people never stop. Craig explains that he doesn’t like traveling, prompting the Doctor explain that it’s obvious by the state of Craig’s sofa; he’s starting to look like it. Amused, Craig decides that even through the Doctor is weird, he can cook, which is all he needs to know; he gives the Doctor a set of keys.
That night, the Doctor contacts Amy through an earpiece. The Doctor gravely informs her that whatever is preventing it from materializing properly is big — scary big. He goes on to explain that he can’t use higher technology like the sonic, or else he will risk alerting whoever lives in the second story flat to his presence and he can only use the earpiece because anyone else hearing their conversation will think he’s saying complete gibberish. Meanwhile, a young woman is lured into the flat by a man who calls for her help. Craig overhears the Doctor through the wall, and just as the Doctor had told Amy, all that can be heard are silly sentences formed of random words.
Craig speaks to Sophie over the phone, she warns him to be careful of the Doctor, suspecting that he might be a dealer because he happened to have three grand in a paper bag. Suddenly, the young woman in the upstairs flat screams, and everyone apart from the Doctor and Amy — time travelers — become stuck in a time loop, where their actions are repeated over and over again. The TARDIS shakes more violently and the Doctor orders Amy to use the zigzag plotter on the console to stabilize it. After getting off the phone with her, he goes out and collects parts for a scanner, returning late at night with a cart full of junk.
The next day, the Doctor showers (singing opera) while Craig impatiently waits in the hallway for his turn. Hearing a loud bang from the floor above, Craig goes upstairs to check on the lodger. When the Doctor realizes this, he panics. Fearing that Craig’s life might be in danger, he hurries to help, mistakenly grabbing Craig’s toothbrush instead of the sonic screwdriver. However, there is no danger: when the elderly man answers the door, he tells Craig that he is not needed and sends him back downstairs. Sophie stops by to meet the Doctor, commenting to Craig that he didn’t tell her he was hot. As the Doctor is returning to his bedroom to get dressed, Craig invites him to fill an open spot on his pub league football team , the King’s Arms, which the Doctor agrees to after, at first, mistaking a pub league for a drinking competition. The Doctor picks up on Craig and Sophie’s feelings for each other and wonders how there got to be so many humans if they’re always like this — unable to express their feelings to each other. While the Doctor dresses in a spare football outfit he tells Amy over the earpiece that if he stayed in the flat all the time, the “man” upstairs would get suspicious of him. Amy congratulates the Doctor on playing football, something normal. However, the Doctor is confused what it actually is, asking, “Is it the one with the sticks?”
Walking to the match, the Doctor is questioned again by Craig what his name is, but no avail. Sophie is okay with not knowing the Doctor’s name, unlike Craig. The Doctor meets Craig’s fellow football teammate, Sean, and becomes confused when asked where he is strongest on the field. Not knowing, the Doctor decides to find out by trying. As the match starts, the Doctor makes several kicks straight into the goal, showing incredible skill and talent (growing to love the game), and earning cheers from the bystanders, who chant his name. By the end of the game, the Doctor has earned the admiration of the entire team, much to Craig’s frustration.
While the team celebrates its win, Sean says that with the Doctor, they’ll annihilate the other teams. The Doctor mistakes this for actual killing and begins to give a speech, but then realizes his mistake and offers his assistance in football whenever they need it. Just then, everyone apart from the Doctor becomes stuck in another time loop as an older woman is lured into the second story flat. The TARDIS simultaneously begins to shake violently, but the zigzag plotter does not work this time. The Doctor informs that unless he discovers what is causing the persistent time loops, she and the TARDIS could be thrown off into the time vortex with no hope for return.
Later at the flat, Craig knocks on the Doctor’s room, surprised to see him open it holding a traffic cone. Craig tells the Doctor that Sophie is coming over and asks the Doctor to keep out of the way for the evening (he is planning to profess his love for Sophie). The Doctor insists that Craig will hardly know he’s there, but is quickly distracted by a bang from upstairs — “That’s the idea”. The Doctor slams the door in Craig’s face before he can respond, returning to the scanner that he is constructing. Craig overhears the Doctor’s exclamations, thinking he is even odder than he thought, but quickly dismisses the idea, deciding to return to his plans.
That night, when Craig is about to confess his love to Sophie, she observes the rot has gotten bigger since she last mentioned it. They are then interrupted by the Doctor, who asks Craig where the “on switch” is on a regular screwdriver. Furthering Craig’s frustration, Sophie invites the Doctor to join them for a glass of wine. While the Doctor continues inspecting a variety of electrical wires for the scanner, Sophie tells him of her dreams to go to Africa and work with animals. The Doctor utilizes reverse psychology to make Sophie admit that she doesn’t want to keep working in the call center, thereby inspiring her to look at care programs that will send her abroad. As Craig walks Sophie out, they talk about her dream and what could be keeping her here. With both unable to express their love, Sophie leaves. Unbeknownst to them, the “person” upstairs has overheard them and light crackles from behind the door.
Elsewhere, the Doctor has returned to his room and finishes the scanner, but the readings for the second story appear normal, a fact which disturbs him. Over the earpiece, Amy complains that something being too normal is odd to him. Taking the snide remark in stride, the Doctor orders Amy to look up the building schematics while he recruits a spy. As Craig cleans up, he decides to investigate the rot. Ignoring the Doctor’s warning, he touches the rot, only to pull his hand back in pain.
The next morning, the Doctor has prepared breakfast for Craig, but finds him in a near-death state in his bedroom. The Doctor examines Craig’s hand to find that he’s been poisoned by the rot; frustrated by Craig’s stupidity, the Doctor says he gave far warning not to touch the obviously poisonous rot. He hits Craig’s chest to make him breathe, mixes a remedy to reverse the enzyme decay, and encourages him to get some rest. Craig protests, as he has a business meeting to attend, but soon falls asleep.
Waking mid-afternoon, Craig is horrified he missed the business meeting and rushes off to work. There, he finds the Doctor is rudely dealing with his clients with his boss’s approval, and took his place at the meeting. Sophie brings the Doctor some tea and tells Craig that she is going to start working with animals as a volunteer, but Craig — who is blinded by anger — insists he is fine, disappointing her. Craig is told to return home by the Doctor as he looks pale; Craig storms off in response. Upon returning home, Craig has had enough of the Doctor’s mysteries and takes a spare key to the Doctor’s room, unlocking it and discovering the scanner the Doctor has constructed.
The Doctor returns home at the end of the day and happens upon a cat that he sent upstairs. The Doctor interprets from the cat that there are many people up there who have never come back down. Craig, who is playing darts, overhears the Doctor and looks out the peephole to see the Doctor speaking to the cat. Craig asks the Doctor to leave, even showing he knows about the odd device; the Doctor tries passing it off as art. However, seeing that there is no other way to convince Craig, the Doctor head-butts Craig to telepathically reveal his history and his true intentions. He shows Craig a note that was left to him by Amy, though he admits that “his” Amy hasn’t written it… yet.
Sophie comes to the flat to speak to Craig, but is drawn upstairs by a little girl asking for help. A time loop ensues, but now that Craig possesses the Doctor’s knowledge, he is immune to it and realizes what it means: someone is dying upstairs. They rush out, finding Sophie’s keys in the lock to the flat and realizing she was lured upstairs. About to enter, they are contacted by Amy, who explains the building schematics haven’t an upstairs. Opening door, Craig and the Doctor discover the flat is actually a spaceship.
Sophie comes out of the shadows, screaming as an invisible force pulls her towards the control console. The Doctor manages to deactivate it. A hologram materializes inside the room, explaining that it is functioning as an auto-pilot. the spaceship crashed and the captain is dead, so the hologram is now testing humans in search of a suitable replacement. However, the humans are unable to handle the stress of the controls and have burnt up, thereby causing the rot stain on Craig’s ceiling. The Doctor calls it a stupid auto-pilot because it is unable to learn from its mistakes. Realizing that the Doctor is an alien, the hologram begins pulling him to the console, thinking he is the correct pilot. Amy suggests that perhaps the Doctor could fly the ship safely, but the Doctor explains that he is too much for the ship and if he were to touch the console, it would not only blow up the ship, but the entire solar system.
The Doctor remembers Craig’s previous encounter with the “lodger”, and deduces that Craig was told he wasn’t needed because Craig possesses no desire to leave, Sophie, on the other hand, was pinpointed by the hologram as suitable as soon as she expressed some desire to travel to Africa. The Doctor encourages Craig to touch the console and focus on the reason he doesn’t want to leave — Sophie. Craig confesses his love to Sophie and begs her to stay. She calls him an idiot and tells him that she loves him, too, before slamming her hand on top of his. This shuts the ship down, but also causes it to implode. The trio narrowly escapes into the street, where they see the spaceship appear in place of the false second floor before vanishing into oblivion. Craig is confused as to why the passers-by did not notice the top of the flat vanish. The Doctor explains a perception filter tricked their memories.
Later, the Doctor tries to sneak away from Craig and Sophie while they kiss, but is caught. He promises the couple that he will come back, but Craig dismisses this, knowing it’s not true because he’s seen the Doctor’s thoughts. Nevertheless, Craig still gives the Doctor a set of keys to the flat as a gift. Reunited with Amy back in the TARDIS, the Doctor orders her to write the note to his past self, which will eventually direct him to the flat. While searching the Doctor’s jacket pocket for a pen, she discovers the jewelry box containing her engagement ring. Stunned, she opens the case and examines it. Meanwhile, a crack develops in the apartment wall behind Craig’s fridge. The crack widens with brilliant light spilling out. In the TARDIS, Amy stares ahead with a very confused and scared look on her face.