Doctor Who 'The Caretaker' [TV-EPISODE REVIEW]

Gareth Roberts has proven himself to be quite a great comedy writer for 'Doctor Who' with scripts like 'The Lodger' and 'Closing Time' so I was looking forward to seeing what he could do with this new Doctor so when I also found out that the episode would take place on Coal Hill I got even more excited for the laughs that were to come. Now is 'The Caretaker' actually a good and enjoyable episode though? Time to find out.

Series 8 has done quite an excellent job at developing the character of Clara into a three dimensional person. When you look back at her first appearance in 'The Bells of Saint John' (our Clara, not one of the echoes) you can clearly see that she has come a long way and actually matured quite a lot and 'The Caretaker' continues doing this by actually taking place pretty much entirely where she works which is the Coal Hill school. Now the idea of a companion having to juggle two lives like this is nothing new as it was done in 'The Power of Three' only last season and the idea of the Doctor getting a job at a school has also been done back in Series 2 with the episode 'School Reunion' so it is not a very original episode but nevertheless, it is a very entertaining watch and has some very pivotal moments between the characters of The Doctor, Clara and Danny that will change their relation for the rest of the Season.

Just like 'Robot of Sherwood', 'The Caretaker' is not necessarily an episode meant to be a masterpiece. Just a fun lighthearted story to lighten up the mood a bit before we dive into the darker stuff next time with 'Kill The Moon'. This is yet another example of why Gareth Roberts is such a good fit for these kinds of episodes. He never really writes big masterpieces but there is a reason his episodes for the Matt Smith era were both positioned right before the finale - to lighten up the mood just a bit with a smaller and more contained story. In fact really the only dark scene in both 'The Lodger' and 'Closing Time' were at the very end of the latter which only teases what was to come in the finale. Surprisingly though 'The Caretaker' had some dramatic scenes in there that I did not expect to see at all. The good thing though is that it all mostly works. It cannot have been easy from a writing and a directing standpoint to transition from these characters getting into goofy situations at the school to Clara and Danna having a quiet and emotional conversation in her apartment. The monster of the episode was also wisely pushed to the side in favor of the drama because I feel like if the episode had focused more time on developing some motivations or even just spending more scenes with the monster would have taken away from the interaction between the characters - which at its core is what the episode is about.

In terms of screenplays - this is actually one of the weaker outputs I have seen from Gareth Roberts on the show. It is like a rollercoaster of quality because as to be expected, he excells on the comedic aspects of it and there are a lot of fun scenes here and he also surprisingly pulled off the darker moments too - but then you have the gaps in logic that come and go throughout. The basic crux of the episode is that the Doctor needs to get rid of an alien that just happened to reside somewhere around the Coal Hill school and after some shenanigans he finds out he has got three days before the alien (named Skovox Blitzer) returns to wreak havoc in the world. The problem though is that this is 'Doctor Who' starring a time traveling alien - a TIME traveler. He does not really have to solve the problem in three days - he could easily do it in three years if he wanted. There is even a scene were the Doctor tells Clara that they can just go have an adventure because they have a time machine so the option should be there. Of course this could easily be solved if they had brought up that the Doctor cannot risk arriving too late when they come back but they do not even bother trying to handwave it away. Instead you hear the Doctor say he has got three days - then he says he has got a time machine - and then we go back to him saying he has got like two days left. It is true though that the twelfth Doctor in particular has not been the most accurate TARDIS pilot we have seen. He accidentally landed in Glasgow and Bristol in 'Deep Breath' and 'Flatline' respectively. He also technically arrived too late to meet Clara in 'Into the Dalek' and 'Death in Heaven' so yes you could argue that is why he never took the risk - but there should still have been a line in there to truly justify it. I was also not a fan of the invisibilty watch as it will now make us ask why the hell he does not use it more often in the show.

Paul Murphy returned as the director here after showing his comedic skills earlier this season in 'Robot of Sherwood' and he does a great job here again, out of all the directors this season he does not standout as one of the best but even the weaker half of the lot are really, really good here. He clearly knows what is needed for this episode to work and he does a damn good job of it. I liked the opening that was basically just a montage showing Clara trying to deal with her double life and while it was definitely a lot like 'The Power of Three' - Amy and Rory's double life were not this extreme because Clara essentially goes back to her normal life after every adventure which of course becomes very stressful. 

One of the main standouts this episode is the scene were The Doctor and Danny argue in the TARDIS because it showed the real character of the Doctor. Not the act he puts on for most of the new series - the real dark and egotistical Doctor. It is just like Danny says;
Well, the accent is good but you can always spot the aristocracy and the attitude.

That line right there. That is the Doctor. He is incredibly full of himself and the only reason why people even listen to him in the first place is because of his incredible confidence that what he is saying is right. It is pretty much like his superpower (we even heard a line like that in the last episode) that clearly comes from the aristocracy in the most powerful planet in the universe; Gallifrey. You can change a lot of things with the Doctor but being born an aristocrat (and with a british accent) is something you can never change. Peter Capaldi as a whole though - excellent as usual. Jenna Coleman - is also excellent.

Overall, 'The Caretaker' has its ups and downs but for the most part the positive outshines the negative. The monster of the week will not be remembered because that is not that the episode decided to focus on and what the episode DID decide to focus on is where the positive shines the most. This is definitely not one of the best episodes of the season but it does its job very well and if you had to pick an episode this season to skip - it would not be this one.


- Lucas


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