[alert-announce]Verdict: 3 out of 5 stars. Some good, some bad. The Doctor becomes Clara’s overprotective dad. Bonus half star for the Eleventh’s theme music during the preview for next week’s episode.[/alert-announce]
Last week’s Time Heist may have been predictable, but at least it was fun while it lasted. The same can’t really be said about this week’s episode, The Caretaker, as it attempts to redefine the relationship between Clara (Jenna Coleman) and the Doctor (Peter Capaldi), and unfortunately, Danny Pink (Samuel Anderson). I suppose it’s a bit too much to hope for him to get erased by a crack in space and time?
The plot of The Caretaker is simple enough to summarise in a single par – the Doctor goes undercover as “John Smith” again – this time as a caretaker in Clara’s school – to investigate an alien threat, something does not go according to plan, the Doctor fixes it with a bit of help and saves the planet.
It should come as no surprise that something both goes wrong and is fixed thanks to Mr Pink, who in the process earns the Doctor’s ire and then approval, albeit grudgingly.
This, it seems, is the whole point of the episode. The Doctor initially mistakes one of Clara’s co-workers as her boyfriend (the bow tie-wearing, not Matt Smith Edward Harrison) and heartily approves, thinking that she chose him because of his resemblance to the Eleventh.
At the same time, he develops a distinct dislike for Pink, calling him a PE teacher because he doesn’t believe a former soldier can teach Math. This culminates in a showdown in the TARDIS after Clara sneaks Pink inside via an invisibility device so that he may observe the version of her who spends time with the Doctor.
Pink provokes the Doctor into ordering him out of the TARDIS, but later helps distract the Skovox Blitzer (this episode’s terribly unterrifying supposedly terribly deadly foe) long enough for the Doctor to order it to shut itself down without self-destructing (the irony).
The episode ends with Clara making a promise to Pink to confide in him if the Doctor ever pushes her too far. I hope the Doctor pushes him into a dying star.
The Caretaker was a mixed bag for me. In the final scene, we’re clearly meant to see how the relationship between Clara and the Doctor has changed. No longer is she the Impossible Girl next to his Mad Man with a box. The Twelfth Doctor is pretty much Clara’s “space dad”, demanding of anyone who would even attempt to date his precious “daughter”.
I understand the need to show us how the dynamics have changed, with Capaldi’s age and all, but to go from adventure buddy to “daddy who doesn’t want to see his little girl grow up” seems a little awkward. It’s not like we’ve not seen non-romantic Doctor/companion partnerships before (bless you, Donna Noble), and we’ve seen how far the Doctor will go to protect his companions, but, really, space dad?
The Caretaker also mentions River Song, and I can only hope that it means Alex Kingston may appear again. And we got another glimpse at Heaven/Paradise/The Promised Land, though from the looks of things, it seems like not everyone is thrilled to be there.
At the same time, Steven Moffat and the other writers have been building up the Twelfth’s dislike for soldiers for a while, despite his previous incarnations getting along with them just fine. To force Capaldi’s Doctor to recognise his own demands for authority mirror the authority he hates was a nice touch, but they’ll have to do a lot more than that to explain this change from the “Danny boy to the Doctor” Doctor.
Overall, I applaud the attempt to change the relationship between the Doctor and Clara, but can’t help but feel it’s a very bland attempt at this stage, considering Clara is the Impossible Girl who has saved the Doctor so many, many times, and may even do so again in his future.
There’s indication that Pink may have been pushed too far by a superior officer, which may echo the Doctor’s reason for disliking soldiers, but I think the writers could’ve waited and let the Doctor/Pink relationship play out over a few more episodes before Pink earned his acceptance.
What did you think of The Caretaker? Let us know in the comments below!