What’s that? There is fan buzz? People are starting to talk? Are we finally excited about “Doctor Who” again? Has Peter Capaldi finally hit his groove as The Doctor? It seems as though the last two episodes “Listen” and “Time Heist” may have turned some heads finally in regards to Mr. Capaldi. Let’s see if the trend is indeed turning, join me after the jump for my thoughts on “The Caretaker.”
The Doctor and Danny Pink
“The Caretaker” is written by Gareth Roberts and Steven Moffat. Roberts is a fan favorite who knows his Who. He’s written several novelizations, including “Shada,” the unfinished Douglas Adams episode, as well as the novels “Only Human” and “I Am a Dalek.” Roberts also wrote or co-wrote the new series episodes “Planet of the Dead,” “The Shakespeare Code,” and “The Lodger.” Here he and Moffat give Clara a character-based episode to play with.
Clara has been living a double life, that of teacher and Danny Pink’s erstwhile dating partner, and that of The Doctor’s companion. Clara is it being honest with Danny, playing him like Superman played Lois Lane in “Lois and Clark,” but he’s not as monumentally stupid as the girl reporter. It looks as if Clara’s life is just going to get more complicated as The Doctor finally meets Danny Pink. Remember that bit in Ghostbusters about not crossing the streams? Clara is about to have her streams cross and they’re not going to like each other one bit.
When Clara shows up for her usual adventure in time and space with her Time Lord friend, he turns her away. The Doctor says he’s going undercover, deep cover. Apparently there are aliens or some such at the Coal Hill Secondary School, as if that’s something new. For newcomers, Coal Hill is the same school attended by The Doctor’s granddaughter in “Unearthly Child,” the very first episode of “Doctor Who.” And ironically enough it was two of her teachers who were The Doctor’s first companions.
The Doctor shows up at the school as the janitor. John Smith the caretaker but you can call him the doctor. Yeah, that’s his deep cover. John Smith is a callback to the civilian Earth name he’s used as the Jon Pertwee and David Tennant Doctors to name two. The Skovox Blitzer, what appears to be either a robot in a wheelchair or a short stubby Racnoss, is one of the most dangerous killing machines ever created. The Doctor contends that the Skovax may have come to the Coal Hill School by tracking artron emissions, a callback to classic “Who” episodes, but still roughly unexplained. That said though, if anyplace should be hopping with artron energy, it would be that school.
Ozzie Loves the Squaddie
Even the students know Clara and Danny are sweet on each other as the “Ozzie Loves the Squaddie” garfitti shows. The Doctor is dead set against Danny because he’s a soldier, constantly disbelieving he teaches maths and not P.E. I’m just curious, with all of The Doctor’s recent anti-soldier-ism, I wonder how he feels about UNIT? I also wonder if the Peter Capaldi Doctor is not just a backlash against the flirting the previous three Doctors partook in, but also against his War Doctor persona as well?
The best part is where Clara asked what the others were like, inferring the companions before her. Remember how Rose went ballistic when she met Sarah Jane? This is Clara getting defensive. She’s cheating on them both, talk about bad feels. This is a great episode for actress Jenna Coleman, she’s the star here. Clara is conflicted but has to come clean.
The Doctor and Clara give Danny one of the longest explanations of The Doctor and the TARDIS ever. Most folks accept it pretty easily, Danny not so much. At least now the couple are telling each other the truth. And as long as we’re telling everyone, we also finally meet the notorious Courtney, the ‘disruptive influence,’ who The Doctor also tells all about the TARDIS and who he is, like that’s not going to cause trouble.
Danny calls The Doctor Clara’s ‘space dad,’ and really, that’s what he is. He is looking out for her like a father, trying to counteract his previous flirting personas. He was okay when he thought she was with nerdy Adrian, but the P.E. soldier, not. Danny just needs to be good enough for Clara, nothing else. The Doctor is her space dad.
This invisibility watch is one gadget that feels a bit too easy and convenient. The TARDIS is temperamental and jealous. Psychic paper is clever. The sonic screwdriver is singular in that it is not a gun. The watch just doesn’t fit in The Doctor’s Utility Belt. I also disliked the Skovox, I mean really, just another generic robot threat on a show that features the baddest of the bad robots in its rogues gallery? Someone’s not trying hard enough.
There is stuff that I loved however, like a River Song name drop, and the intriguing city called Crocodilopolis (I smell Silurians, when do we get to go?), as well as ‘fish people,’ maybe a shout out to Kate Bush fans as the performer finishes her residency at Hammersmith in London. And so so many acknowledgements to the classic years, this was a good episode, and yes, I’m definitely warming to Peter Capaldi.
Yes, Missy is back, but she’s a bit busy. Ah yes, but busy doing what? In the equivalent of a Marvel Comics movie after-the-credits sequence, we rejoin the policeman who earlier was dispatched by Skovox Blitzer. He’s, guess where? The afterlife, also known as The Promised Land. Okay, I’m about ready to find out what this is all about. Enough foreplay, get on with it.
Next: Kill the Moon!