Doctor Who: The Caretaker

Doctor Who (Photo: BBC / BBC America)
Doctor Who (Photo: BBC / BBC America)

Clara’s carefully constructed life comes crashing down as Doctor Who gets darkly introspective in “The Caretaker”.  Just who’s taking care of who?

Ever since Danny Pink got introduced this season on Doctor Who, I’ve been waiting for the inevitable episode where The Doctor finally met him and (more importantly) didn’t approve.  As we approach the middle of the series, it appears that time has finally come.  This series of Doctor Who is going down some darker, still unexpected roads, and I’m loving every second of it.

First, let’s talk about Clara, who’s lying to herself about being able to keep up both her “real” life and her life in the TARDIS with the Doctor.  The adventures are fun, but she’s clearly running herself ragged (and completely shirking her duties as a teacher) in the pursuit of keeping both of these lives up.  I’m not surprised everything fell like a house of cards – I’m only surprised this didn’t happen sooner.  There’s a real dysfunction growing between Clara and the Doctor – he’s already told her he’s not her boyfriend, but he’s certainly acting like a co-dependent ex – disapproving of her new boyfriend 1, not being entirely honest with her, endangering seemingly everyone who gets close to him.  She’s not exactly blameless, either, what with stealing from the Doctor and lying to both him AND Danny.  It’s clear that what’s best for these two is likely to permanently break up, but I don’t think that’s in the cards at present.  This is getting dark fast, and it’s exciting to see Steven Moffat take what has to be a deliberate look at the darker side of being a companion with the Doctor 2.

And then there’s Danny.  He got what’s potentially the least wonder-filled introduction to how the TARDIS works I think I’ve seen in the new series (though in fairness, it is in the middle of sorting out the alien menace roaming the grounds of Coal Hill School), reacts way too shockingly to Clara’s declaration of love3.  He’s still a little too focused on his past as a soldier and can’t really get over his emotional wounds from that to bond more with Clara.

There’s a lot going on emotionally this episode, which is why the monster-of-the-week takes a backseat.  Coal Hill has seen a lot of activity 4, so it’s understandable that it’d attract alien attention, but the little we saw of the deadly robot was enough.  This wasn’t the strongest episode on the plot front, but it gave us some huge character development that I bet will have repercussions later in the season.

Stray thoughts:

  • I’m still not sure what to make of young Courtney at the end of the episode((although I only realized that Courtney was a girl in this episode after her previous brief appearances this season).  The fact that she’s been popping up all season (including in the promo for next week’s episode) makes me think something important (read: bad) may be coming.
  • Speaking of popping up, it was nice to see our friend Missy (and her associate in what’s apparently the “Nethersphere”) pop up again to remind us that someone is saving people who die either for or close to the Doctor there for some reason that I bet we’ll eventually learn more about.
  • The editing this season for the Clara/Danny parts of things remains superb.  Loved the rushing between lives before the credits.
  1. and disappointed she’s not dating someone who looks just like he used to look  
  2. I had sort of tossed the “Clara’s leaving at Christmas” rumors aside as just the usual talk every time there’s a switch-up behind the scenes, but now I wouldn’t be surprised, especially if it wraps up whatever storyline’s going on  
  3. seriously, you guys.  These guys are baaaaaarely hiding their relationship.  It’s no wonder all their students know  
  4. this is where it all began, after all, with Susan and Ian and Barbara and the first Doctor  

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About Ben Smith 228 Articles
Ben has been writing about TV, music, and pop culture in some form or another since 2009, including stints at Mental Floss and Temporary Obsession. When not solving puzzles of some sort or consuming pop culture at a frightening pace, he can be found collecting shiny pieces of the internet at GoodAtInter.net. E-mail: ben@whatelseison.tv