Doctor Who episode 822: The Caretaker (27/9/2014)

‘He’s not the caretaker, he’s your dad. Your space dad.’ The third in Gareth Roberts’ Deep Cover Doctor trilogy. Mostly, I think it’s as funny as The Lodger and Closing Time and gifts Capaldi some much-needed chances to be whimsical and childish (sometimes). Much as The Lodger helped to define Matt Smith’s future approach, this points the way towards the kind of 12th Doctor we get more of in the next two series (the sushi-eating sequence in The Return of Doctor Mysterio springs to mind), as he grins that massive, Tom Bakerish smile when he thinks Clara has fallen for a bow-tie wearer; flits about attaching electronic gizmos everywhere; is delighted to meet a fellow ‘disruptive influence’, and gets confused about whether there really is a play.

It’s also a good episode for Clara. This version, trying to spin too many plates at once, panicking as they start to drop, and lying terribly is much more fun and engaging than the unfeasibly confident Impossible Girl of Nightmare in Silver, or the ‘egomaniac, needy game-player’ in Deep Breath. Even if it’s all rooted in the same control freakery, it’s better drama to see a control freak losing control than just bossing it, particularly in the face of a threat like the Skovox Blitzer – an enemy that belongs more in the world of The Sarah Jane Adventures than modern Doctor Who. Despite the grisly fate of CSO Matthew (no relation) and a nice design, the Blitzer is faintly rubbish – which, I think, is the intention.

The problem with this is Danny Pink. Throwing three control freaks into a story and watching what happens sounds amusing, but this plays out uncomfortably. Ever since his warrior incarnation turned out to be the noblest Doctor of them all, this version has unaccountably taken against soldiers (something to do with Trenzalore, presumably). Having the Doctor immediately dislike Danny, and bang on about him being a P.E. teacher functions as part of that plot, but (and I accept it’s not the intention) it still isn’t a good look for the Doctor to suggest a black man can’t do maths. Equally, Danny comes across as emotionally manipulative and controlling, giving Clara ultimatums and telling her she isn’t allowed secrets. This all feels quite toxic and creates a grim undercurrent to an otherwise lovely story. The ‘sinister puddle’ the Doctor has spotted could be the same one in The Pilot.

Next Time: Kill the Moon


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