On the D/L – Doctor Who
Season 8 Episode 6 – “The Caretaker”
the Doctor Who episode that focuses on Clara’s relationship was always coming and now it’s here. The Caretaker has The Doctor dust off the old John Smith disguise to pose as the caretaker for the high school where Clara and Danny Pink teach so that he can quietly investigate an alien threat.
The opening of the episode was actually really good, we get something of a montage showing excerpts from the various adventures that The Doctor and Clara are having while she tries to juggle this part of her life as well as her relationship with Danny and her job as a teacher. It does this really effectively showing Clara becoming more and more strung out as this balancing act continues. There’s even some amusement as Danny notices that she shows up tanned from a desert planet or wearing wet clothes after an adventure involving fish people causing Clara to break out the ridiculous excuses that nobody would believe. My only real issue with this sequence is that some of the adventures glimpsed or mentioned seemed interesting enough to potentially carry their own episodes; certainly more interesting than Robot of Sherwood or Listen.
For better or for worse the majority of this episode is focused on Clara’s character meaning that The Doctor again becomes a supporting character in his own show. There’s nothing wrong with this now and again but this season hasn’t had many episodes where The Doctor gets to lead and it’s really tiresome at this point. This might have worked in a season where we have a Doctor that’s more familiar to a returning audience but there still hasn’t been any clear indication of who Capaldi’s Doctor really is beyond eccentric and rude.
Clara is portrayed as something of a lunatic in this episode as she runs around after The Doctor concerned he’s going to do something crazy and fobbing people off with ridiculous excuses as her priorities are clearly elsewhere. There’s a scene where she appears to have something of a breakdown in front of a class full of children, behaviour that would surely have her competency challenged by her employers.
Danny Pink gets much more to do in this episode and gives him some welcome character development. The most interesting moments in the episode were when he likens The Doctor to an officer where he is a soldier who follows orders. Naturally this strikes a nerve with The Doctor who really hates the idea of anyone thinking of him as any kind of warrior. Danny recognises the attitude that comes with authority and goes out of his way to wind him up about it. I though he took to the existence of the TARDIS and time travel a little to easily, not to mention the deadly alien invading his workplace. It’s somewhat unclear that if people are generally aware of the existence of aliens or not, sometimes they are and sometimes they aren’t which is strange given the volume of large scale invasions over the years.
Following the development Danny got in this episode and his innate understanding of an important aspect of The Doctor’s personality I find myself more interested in seeing more of him as well as how he might react to going on an adventure with The Doctor and Clara. In terms of Clara and Danny’s relationship it does seem to be progressing pretty quickly but that’s due to lack of focus in earlier episode coupled with something of a fast forward through in this one making it seem less than organic. I just don’t get the impression that they know very much about each other and I don’t see much in the way of chemistry between the two actors.
It wouldn’t be Doctor Who without some kind of threat thrown into the mix. The particular obstacle this week is the Skovox Blitzer and I have to say it looks great. Whenever it’s onscreen it seems to be a credible threat and it’s used quite sparingly which makes it seem all the more menacing. It helps that The Doctor is scared of it which really shows that it means business. I felt that it was dealt with a little too easily but it was good for what it was, maybe something like that could come around again.
Something feels really uneven about this episode. The character development and relationship furthering happens so quickly that it just feels awkward and the threat level is so downplayed that it feels like an afterthought. There’s no real focus on what the episode is supposed to be as it jumps around between the various themes clumsily. Much of it seems like an excuse for Capaldi’s -admittedly spot on- eccentric warbling and I felt like the script was talking down to the audience much of the time making this episode clearly one for the kids but with assumptions made on the levels of maturity on those watching. As always the episode was full of juvenile humour that drags on endlessly and at the halfway point of the season, still no sighting of this darker tone or Doctor that was promised.
An uneven episode of Doctor Who that tries to further the relationship dynamic between Clara and Danny Pink. Some of it does work like a genuinely effective opening scene or the development of Danny’s character and how he relates to The Doctor but Clara’s character feels all over the place here. The threat of the week is downplayed and the episode jumps around awkwardly between the various plots. A cool looking alien threat manages to win the episode some points but there just wasn’t enough interesting things to carry the episode.