"You're weird and you can cook...that's good enough for me, mate"...says Craig Owens to the Eleventh Doctor in The Lodger. The next year, he was back, fighting the Cybermen alongside Matt Smith in Closing Time. Yes, there were only two episodes featuring him, and he never did go on board the TARDIS (he could've been a full time companion if he chose to, and the Doctor knew it) but actor James Corden created a very memorable quasi-companion in Craig Owens. Partly because he is so normal in the face of such an eccentric Doctor, and partly because he's hilarious in his own right.
Most people know Corden's pedigree... writer/producer/actor and BAFTA winner. He's been a prominent face on British TV over the last 15 years with starring roles in Gavin & Stacey, Fat Friends, The Wrong Mans and Teachers. He even performed live on the 2012 Broadway Tony Awards, then won the coveted statue for Best Actor in a Play for One Man, Two Gov'ners. Cordon portrayed Paul Potts, the shy, bullied shop assistant by day and amateur opera singer by night who became a phenomenon after being chosen for, and ultimately winning, Britain's Got Talent in the movie One Chance. Next up for him is a leading part in the new Disney movie Into The Woods.
But enough of James...things are going really well for him. Let's talk of Craig.
A fragile comic foil, his insecurity is all of ours... he is "beginning to look like his sofa" and isn't the best footballer, but just sweet. There is a pure, loyal, hopeful innocence in Corden's Craig. Even Sophie, his love interest, has an other wordly energy about her that is grounded by Craig.
Hysterically reacting, in both episodes "The Lodger" and "Closing Time," Gareth Roberts (the screenwriter) perfectly showcases Craig as a blustering human. Over all the companions he had, Craig's rhythm and tone best matches Smith's Doctor. These two characters would be mates and stay in touch, easily accepting each others foibles and fantasies. Craig grows to trust and even love the Doctor. A particularly funny moment is when "he's taken" in Closing Time as Eleven is trying to distract Craig from seeing the approaching Cybermen. The whole sequence foreshadows the love plot, and the kissing is just funny.
Like Laurel and Hardy, the basic chemistry just works between the actors and their characters. Physical, verbal interplay...and a tragic undertone best realized in Closing Time, these men are hilariously awkward. Two more awkward people playing football couldn't be more delightful for the average viewer. Craig almost makes the Doctor look coordinated!
Personally, it was the discovery of the Doctor's purpose that cemented Craig's worthiness to be a companion in their first adventure: "You have a TARDIS... That's Amy Pond...". The rolling images show on Corden's face. He entrances the viewer with his amazement, and we are him. His dedication "I know where to be and its right beside you" is us.
Ultimately, its Craig's capacity to love... the Doctor, Sophie, Stormageddon/Alfie and humanity that gives him strength to take down a Cyber group. And, it's James Corden's subtle and aggressive performance that makes him stick out. Instead of plot, it's Craig's heart that makes the viewer remember him--even sending the Doctor to see him the night before his death at Lake Silencio, Utah. Craig Owens is his mate and it feels right that the Doctor checks in on him and gains the strength to seal his fate.
The history of the Eleventh Doctor would not be the same without Craig Owens. It would be a lot less fun for one thing. How Doctor Who attracted such a talented and known actor is a testament to its enduring potential at showcasing brilliance -- even if only for two episodes....
...so far. I want more CRAIG.
Risk adverse, Stacy would never even enter the TARDIS, but admires those who do. Happily watching and writing from the distance of Indiana, USA. She enjoys writing and discussing her observations and critiques.