Doctor Who: 806 “The Caretaker” Review
Reviewed by John Hussey.
As far as I’m aware ‘The Caretaker’ is the first episode that has actually made me hate the Doctor’s character. His personal grudge against Danny Pink throughout the story was rather upsetting to watch, to the point of observing pointless cheap shots for no apparent reasoning apart from disagreeing with Danny’s previous profession. The idea behind the Doctor not understanding Danny’s choice in teaching was a bad stereotype towards soldiers for uncalled reasons. It echoed back to the Tenth Doctor and his nasty attitude towards the members of UNIT during ‘The Sontaran Stratagem/The Poison Sky’ which again I didn’t like at all. This behaviour brings in a lot of hypocorism and because of this vital expression of emotion it makes you look deep within the Doctor and question his motives and choices in words.
Whenever the Doctor has resorted to such extreme behaviours and becomes a hypocrite I like to believe he’s doing it because deep down he knows that he is the same. The anger is a way to purge himself of the idea and release his own bitterness against himself at another person who is the same. Some people probably think he just hates the profession of soldiers in general and that’s why he has a go at them, which is a valid excuse that I believe at least explains some of his reasoning but fundamentally I think it’s down to personal reasons. The events of ‘The Day of the Doctor’ proved all the information required about the Doctor’s views against himself when it came to him being a soldier and fighting an unwinnable war that resulted in him doing the unthinkable. This made him disgusted in himself in one case and in another just made him want to forget and move on.
From what we’ve gathered the Twelfth Doctor is extremely alien and is a very frontal fellow who isn’t afraid to speak what’s on his mind, ultimately resorting to insulting. His lack of human notions leads to him being very laps in how he communicates and often than not comes across as a very non-caring person with narrow view points. ‘The Caretaker’ took the opportunity to really spell this out in a very emotional circumstance that really caught Clara off guard. The attacks on Danny were completely out of order and really seemed to portray the Doctor in a very unlikable light which I have to give credit to Moffat for because this idea is just brilliant. The way he is handling this new era is continuously mesmerising and keeps you on your toes. The new pacing and character developments is just but one example of how things are changing from what it was in the Matt Smith era. It’s not so fast now; it’s not so nice and friendly. It’s far more adult in tone and how it’s delivered and the Doctor’s drastic change in character is but the other brilliant side of the card. Not being able to like your own hero just makes for a more engaging and questioning show.
It was nice to see Gareth Roberts back on board after a long break off-screen but I will admit I was a little bit disappointed to hear we was getting another ‘The Lodger’ scenario. It was great for a one-off idea, especially when we had Matt who portrayed a more silly Doctor, but after that it just became a cheap joke and didn’t make sense. The idea took the silliness to a level that just made it not funny and cringe worthy not to mention destroyed any seriousness within the episode. That’s why I think ‘Closing Time’ flopped but with this third attempt however we finally got something. The original premise was put back into play with a better idea that I found really paid off.
I will admit the whole caretaker thing did seem like an Eleventh Doctor thing to do, i.e. ‘The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe’, but it was nice to see Capaldi give his own spin on the premise of attempting to be human. With his take on the role being more ignorant and bad tempered it seemed even funnier to slap a caretaker badge on him and let him loose around a school. It was a complete contrast to Smith’s alien nature of just being awkward and daft which was the thrill of it all. The episode really showed off his inability to interact with humans and to some extents it got to a point where he really was from another planet as his words spouted out such inhuman meaning that it left you wondering how you could want to call him your hero. He really did display a distaste in humans throughout the episode and really began to brand the foundations of how his persona will fully roll. So far we’ve had a bit of a demo but now the real version is at hand.
What I loved a lot about this episode was Clara. The full extent of her chaotic life was shown through the amazing montage at the beginning of the story with her constantly coming up with more and more stupid reasoning behind her strange entrances. It made you wonder how you can stage two completely different lifestyles whilst keeping the middleman out of the loop. And that was the fun aspect about this particular episode, it was all about bringing Clara’s little world crashing down with her the control freak no longer in control. That in itself is an interesting idea because for people who are a bit controlling or suffer with OCD (I myself will raise my hand to this) it is hard not to be controlling and neat and tidy and if something does fall out of place then it becomes frustrating. This is what Clara went through and had to try and keep the meddling Doctor from disrupting her perfect order. It’s also interesting to point out that the dynamic between her and the Doctor hasn’t changed much within the right circumstance. He still comes to her for her daily trips and she acts like the boss to her space friend whilst trying to keep him in order and have a laugh. But at the same time his attitude and sly comments towards her makes it seem all the more different. It’s actually got to a point where I can now honestly understand her choice in reactions during ‘Deep Breath’ because her kind, loving and childish friend was gone in replacement of a mad, angry Scotsmen who has no concept of humanity and enjoys insulting people.
The attacks against Danny and Clara’s choice in boyfriend by the Doctor made her challenge against him a lot. Clara had to stand up for herself and speak up against the Doctor’s inhuman behaviour which as the audience made us also question his motives for his words and behaviour. What right does the Doctor have to speak to Danny like that, especially since he himself is a massive hypocrite? It really did put Clara in the middle and resembled the whole Rose/Mickey scenario only with better results as Danny handled the whole unveiling of the Doctor’s true identity with more ease and acceptance. Danny remained confident throughout the episode, which showed that although he can be an awkward character he could be strong when he needed to be. I really do like Danny’s character and have done since the get go because he’s multi-dimensional in characteristics and his back-story proves to be useful to help develop conflict and storytelling. Above all I find he is an interesting person to go against the Doctor because I believe he can not only challenge the Doctor but above all understand him.
The moment that had the most tension was where Danny hid himself onto the TARDIS to observe the Doctor and Clara together. It was great how he challenged the Doctor with his salutes and soldier quirks which I felt really got under the Doctor’s skin. Danny tried calling the Doctor out for being a high up officer who sent in the grunts, like Danny, into battle like some sort of manipulative general who sat back and watched the brutality unfold due to his high and mighty title as a Time Lord. I find this would’ve been a brilliant opportunity for the Doctor to display in anger by proving Danny wrong through the simple mentioning of the Time War and the actions he nearly did with the Moment. Sadly that didn’t happen but him telling Danny to leave was sort of satisfying. I feel though him and Danny will come closer and closer and that both of them will admit dark secrets to one another in either a good way or a bad way.
Like ‘The Lodger’ and ‘Closing Time’ the threat was minimal and more concentrated on the wacky shenanigans of the Doctor as he incorporated himself into human life. Also for the first time in this scenario the companion was fully present and had a huge part in the drama which is worth pointing out. The story was more based around the characters and the drama created by the Doctor than the threat itself as done before which I feel made the episode a true classic for its brilliant dialogue and character scenes. Nether-the-less the monster of the story, Skovox Blitzer, was still a good foe for the Doctor to face. Not much character due to it being a robot but it did get a sense of threat and needed to be dealt with.
Of course it was obvious that in the end Danny would have to have his moment of shining glory in order to prove himself to the Doctor. This was displayed with a glorious leap over Skovox, allowing time for the Doctor’s gadget to work and prevent the creature from self- destructing. Also this scene showcased the Time Lord actually displaying a sense of command, echoing back to Danny’s interpretation of his character and the status of his race, and placed the Doctor in an unusual place. The Doctor doesn’t normally like to command so it was strange to see this occur as a resolution to a story.
The interesting plot-twist was the revealing of the Doctor’s motives behind his foul behaviour over Danny; it was because he was looking out for Clara. The entire time he was being a true friend and doing his best to look out for her best interests. Due to his previous dealings with relationships he’d come to understand what true bonding was all about and worried that Clara may or may not have made the right decision and didn’t want to see her get hurt. It was about Danny proving to him that he was right for Clara and the end result was an absolute positive and Danny gained the Doctor’s respect at long last. What made this whole situation all the more sweeter is remembering that the Doctor and Clara have been through a lot together since their first meeting in ‘The Bells of Saint John’. The Doctor was in fact within a different persona of himself back then but despite his change in mind and appearance he is still that same man who cares for his Impossible Girl despite his now more rude attire.
We had yet another addition to the regular characters through the full-on introduction of Courtney Woods. From what we’d seen of her character in ‘Deep Breath’ and ‘Into the Dalek’ I got the impression she was a little brat, plain and simple. I thought we was going to get another Angie but luckily it would seem Moffat learnt from his mistakes and created a character similar but less annoying and bratty. Her curiosity stood out for me the most along with a sense of a vulnerable side. Though she was a problem child I felt comfortable with her character when she interacted with the Doctor and saw a different side to her from what was first assumed. With her due for a ride in the TARDIS next week it’ll be interesting to see how her character can be progressed and how she handles a full-on trip with the Doctor.
The fundamental design of ‘The Caretaker’ was to place Clara in the middle of a battle of control between her two mad lives and men. This resulted in a lot of fun and also a lot of heartache that brought the two worlds together and ultimately brought Danny up to speed within Clara’s dirty little secrets of time travel. I for one really enjoyed this episode and most of all enjoyed the outcome of it all and can’t wait to see where the whole Clara triangle will end up next, especially since Danny has made her promise to not allow the Doctor to push her too far. This little plot point is made more interesting by the fact that next week we’ll see the Doctor do something that Clara is most shocked by and I’m curious to see where this will take their relationship.