8.6 – “The Caretaker”
The Doctor takes the job of the school caretaker at Coal Hill, where Clara and Danny work, in order to lure out a rejected monster from Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers. Things occur.
There were some Whovians that accused “Listen” (the absolute highlight of this series so far) of being an episode with little to no story. To those people I say nice try, but here’s “The Caretaker” to show you exactly how an episode with little to no story is truly done. Oh, and look at that; one of the writers was Gareth Roberts, who wrote “Planet Of The Dead”, the most boring episode ever made of New Who, and “The Lodger” and “Closing Time”, where comedy went to die.
If I’m not making this obvious enough, I didn’t like “The Caretaker”.
One thing that New Who arguably does a damn sight better than Classic Who is character development and that’s something to be applauded. The problem is that an entire episode devoted to character development is never going to work if it doesn’t have an interesting story as the framework on which to hang said character development. And if you want to know the story of “The Caretaker”, just look at the top of this article because that’s it, people. That’s all there is. The rest of the episode revolves around the blossoming relationship between Clara and Danny, with The Doctor in the slightly more parental role of being the person whose endorsement Clara is seeking. And again I say – THAT’S FINE! I like seeing Clara being developed as an actual, real person. I like seeing new sides to Danny’s character and having the chance to witness Samuel Anderson grow in the role. I like seeing The Doctor being slightly conflicted about Clara having a love interest but ultimately approving of Danny when he sees that he’ll go to somewhat acrobatic lengths to protect her.
But none of that makes up for the fact that our alien menace this week was utterly pointless. At the opening of the episode, we get a fun little montage of The Doctor and Clara on various adventures where things don’t go according to plan, leaving her dishevelled and knackered when she meets up with Danny literally seconds after each of these encounters. That helps build up Clara’s incentive for wanting a solid block of time with Danny where she’s not secretly running about and almost getting killed on alien worlds. It also provides the impetus for Danny to want to know more about what’s really going on because he can sense that something ain’t right with this broad.
So what’s the solution? Well, ideally you’d want to see Danny suddenly thrust into the adventure of the week without a frame of reference, with no idea what’s going on and having to put the pieces together himself as he’s dragged along with The Doctor and Clara on some terrifying but intoxicating thrill ride of an experience. Remember how Rory’s Dad got pulled into the events of “Dinosaurs On A Spaceship”? That’s how you pull that off. Whereas Brian quickly adjusts to the situation and proves himself to be quite useful, with Danny you could have him seemingly out of his element, all the while trying to figure out how he feels about this sudden revelation (with The Doctor criticising and poking fun at him all the way) before finally proving himself capable of dealing with events in the story’s climax.
That’s not what happens in “The Caretaker”. The Doctor lures out the evil robot baddie in an effort to send it away through a time vortex and Danny fucks the whole thing up. Then he mopes about Clara lying to him before finally proving himself worthy to The Doctor by doing a ridiculous somersault over said robotic nasty to lure it away from hurting Clara, allowing The Doctor to convince it to shut down whilst dressed like a bad Ghostbusters cosplayer. The end.
Oh, and The Doctor once spent a week living amongst otters because he and River had a lover’s tiff. So he’s got that going for him, I guess.
All the leads turn in solid performances but, at this stage in the series, I’d be disappointed if they didn’t. Character development alone, as wonderful and as important as it is, does not make a great episode of Doctor Who. There has to be something more going on and in “The Caretaker” there just isn’t much of anything really happening. See me after school, episode. A disappointing 5/10.
Written and edited by Richey Hackett