Doctor Who: The Caretaker

Doctor: 'How can you think that I'm her dad when we both look exactly the same age?'

This was an episode in which introductions took precedent over monsters. Danny meeting the Doctor has been on the cards for a while now, but I never thought it would be so much fun. After last week's plot-heavy caper, I enjoyed tonight's more character-centric focus. Plus, the funny dialogue was back—and sing Hosanna!—did it make a difference to the quality.

Despite Clara appearing to struggle in the cold open with the individual demands of being a full-time teacher, time-traveller, and girlfriend, things got exponentially more stressful when she was forced into being all three at once. She was reduced to lying to protect the Doctor, and Danny picked up on it almost immediately. Hardly surprising, what with Clara being such a terrible liar. But Danny's question about who Clara is when she's with the Doctor was perhaps more insightful. Is she the same person Danny thinks he's falling in love with?

Danny using the Doctor's invisibility watch sort of answered that question. Now that her secret's out, she appears to be as honest as they come, although I'm not sure Danny and the Doctor have hit it off yet. It's going to be a while before Danny trusts the Doctor. It's obvious that the Doctor has a hold over Clara—she trusts him implicitly, and does exactly what she's told without question—but that's surely a product of experience? Danny doesn't know the Doctor yet, so he has no basis for putting faith in him. He sees him as a belligerent officer, ready to risk the lives of others if the situation warrants. Is that what's about to happen to Clara? Knowing as we do that Christmas may well be Clara's last hurrah, did they just sow the seeds of her doom? I had hoped for a happy ending for Clara. Now, I'm not so sure.

Unlike last week, this was an episode heavy with great dialogue. Virtually every exchange was quotable. I'm not sure how much work Moffat does on these co-written episodes, but if his influence is restricted to the main arc, then hats off to Gareth Roberts: we haven't had this sort of affectionate bickering since season four. I loved the scene where the Doctor thought Clara was going out with Mr Bow-tie, and Clara thought he knew about Danny. It was pure farce. The Doctor seemed so wounded that she'd choose a soldier over Eleven lookalike, Adrian. Ditto, the Doctor going 'deep undercover'. His disguise consisted of a coat! He couldn't even bring himself to be called 'Caretaker', preferring instead to be called The Doctor. I even found the Doctor feeding Clara lines from his well honed TARDIS speech impossibly touching. He may not approve of Danny, but I loved that he allowed Clara to introduce his beloved ship.

Moffat made the comment in Doctor Who Extra that the Doctor likes to show off to women, and insult men, and that pretty much described the atmosphere tonight; there was a real alpha male vibe going on. The Doctor made it clear earlier in the season that romance with Clara was off the table, and tonight we saw proof of that. He seemed pleased that Clara had found herself a new beau. Obviously, he would have preferred Adrian, but even the Pink reveal failed to elicit jealousy; instead it provoked anger. Admittedly, that anger was somewhat mitigated by Danny buying them time at the end, but the Doctor still hates soldiers. Will fatherly concern be enough to keep Clara out of harm's way? It didn't stop him from using her as a lure, but is that because he's reckless, or because he trusts Clara's ability to handle herself in a dangerous situation?

I didn't have much to say about the cast last week, not because they were bad, but because they were given so little to sink their teeth into. Tonight was a banquet for all. Watching the show's three main characters riffing off each other so effectively was a testament to both the quality of the writing and the actors themselves. Not that it was perfect. The Skovox Blitzer was a bit shitty, not to mention an appalling shot and defeated far too easily. And the less said about Danny's occasional soap opera dialogue, his gratuitous 'yes sah!' explosions, and that preposterous flip over the head of the Blitzer the better. But this really wasn't an episode about monsters, it was about the characters, and I think it mostly succeeded in pulling everyone together. At least everyone's on the same page now—even if the Doctor is reading from a different book.

Other Thoughts:

—Was the Doctor whistling 'Another Brick in the Wall (Part Two)' by Pink Floyd?

—Despite the Doctor's 'humans are boring' shtick, he does seem to have an affection for them. Why else would he take Courtney Woods on an impromptu trip through time and space?

—Another robot enemy and another glimpse of a pissed off Missy in the Nethersphere. What on earth is going on?


Doctor: 'I hate soldiers. Don't you hate soldiers?'
Clara: 'Yeah!'

Doctor: 'Clara, you look lovely today. Have you had a wash?'
Clara: 'Why are you being nice?'
Doctor: 'Because it works on you.'

Doctor: 'Of course I can do deep cover.'
Clara: 'Where? The Magic Circle?'

Doctor: 'So you recognised me then?'
Clara: 'You're wearing a different coat!'
Doctor: 'You saw right through that?'

Clara: 'I hate you!'
Doctor: 'That's fine, that's a perfectly normal reaction.'

Courtney: 'You're weird.'
Doctor: 'Yes I am. What about you?'
Courtney: 'I'm a disruptive influence.'

Doctor: 'Good to meet you.'
Courtney: 'And you.'
Doctor: 'Now get lost!'

Doctor: 'I used to have a teacher exactly like you.'
Clara: 'You still do, pay attention.'

Doctor: 'Why would you go out with a soldier? Why not get a dog or a big plant?'
Clara: 'Because I love him!'
Doctor: 'Why would you say that? Is this part of the surprise play?'
Clara: 'There is no surprise play.'
Doctor: 'Oh, it's a roller-coaster ride with you tonight, isn't it? What about the handsome one, the one with the bow tie?'

Doctor: 'Humans! I never learn.'


Gavrielle said...

Was the Doctor whistling 'Another Brick in the Wall (Part Two)' by Pink Floyd?

He certainly was! Very appropriate too.

Plain Simple said...

I am enjoying your reviews, but I do have one request to make. You seem to be rather fond of mentioning in about every review that Clara might be leaving the show soon. If and when this ever gets confirmed, could you please not spoil it in your reviews (unless of course it is the review of the actual episode in which it happens). Or, alternatively, could you put spoiler warnings for future episodes at the top of your reviews, so people who don't want to know what's about to come in the show's future, will not encounter spoilers? That would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!

Paul Kelly said...

I'm a bit torn on this, Plain Simple. When an actor's about to leave the series, they always make sure we know well in advance. Personally, I hate this practise. I understand that actors have to work, and that they do it to both drum up work for themselves and inflate viewing figures for the show – but it totally ruins the surprise.

Annoyingly, nobody seems to care what I think. We knew Tennant was leaving over a year before his final episode, and Matt Smith some 9 months. Same with Amy, Rory, Rose, Martha and Donna – and I commented on every publicised departure. Why? Firstly, because it was common knowledge, and secondly, because it had a massive impact on the show. Certain avenues of story-telling became impossible. Now I hate that – but I can't do anything about it. Once I know something, I can't unknow it at will.

If Jenna does officially announce she's leaving, I suspect you won't hear it from me first. It'll be all over the news. So unless you never look at the internet and never talk to humans, you'll likely be spoiled along with the rest of us. So I'd be surprised if my reviews spoiled anyone. And if I'm honest, I'm not sure any of this is even an issue. If Jenna was going to make an announcement prior to the Christmas episode, I suspect she'd have done so by now. Thankfully, both her and Moffat have been delightfully vague.

The problem for me is this: if I know someone's leaving, it has an huge effect on how I view the show. Suddenly, the most random piece of dialogue becomes potentially important, and part of the fun of watching the show is pondering what everything means. But if I already know that something's going to happen, or even that it might happen, then it completely changes how I see things. My knowledge going into an episode dictates how I interpret what happens. So even if Jenna did announce that she was leaving, and I chose not to mention it in my reviews, it'd still come through, because I'd be interpreting everything through that lens and pushing towards that inevitable conclusion.

So although I sympathise greatly with what you're saying, I don't see how I can avoid incorporating relevant casting news into my reviews. For the sake of consistency, I'd have to partially re-write my previous season reviews, removing all casting spoilers, and I'm not altogether convinced that's necessary. I'm only repeating what's common knowledge. In that respect, it's not a spoiler at all. I'm not revealing leaked plot-lines, I'm simply repeating what's already in the public domain.

mazephoenix said...

I liked this episode a lot. Sparky dialogue and fun plot. I hope Clara stays. She and the new doctor have a good chemistry. Plus Danny is a nice character.

Plain Simple said...

Fair enough, Paul. Thanks for addressing my comment!

You might be overestimating though how hard it would be to avoid that kind of news. I suppose it depends the people you interact with in daily life, and how eager they are to talk about such news (if they are interested at all).

I believe I might have heard a vague rumour about Jenna Coleman leaving the show, before reading it in your reviews, but by repeatedly reading references to it in your reviews, it now has become much more firmly entrenched in my mind as something that has a very real chance of happening.

Anyway, thanks for the detailed response!