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“I’m the one who carries you out of the fire, he’s the one who lights it.” :: a response to Doctor Who, The Caretaker

Once a week, we have an unapologetic Doctor Who geek-out here to discuss the latest episode. I’ve just finished watching the 6th episode of the 8th season of the rebooted Doctor Who called The Caretaker (<—that’s a recap from BBC America’s Anglophenia.)

Fair warning now: this is not a summary, just an off-the-top-of-my-head response, and it does contain spoilers. Of course it does – we have to talk about this stuff! So let’s begin, Whovians…

DWCaretaker

 

(Warning: I’ve had a terribly busy weekend and this week isn’t looking much better so my brain isn’t firing properly. I didn’t even get a chance to watch The Caretaker until late on Sunday night and so I’m afraid this response might be lacking. I’ll be relying on you to make it good in the comments.)

Once again, the threat of this episode is back-seat to the story. In this case, the centrality is for the love story between Clara and Danny – and even the Doctor.  We called it back at the beginning of the series – we were going to be studying character a lot more in this series, particularly the character of the Doctor.

The segment at the beginning showing how difficult it is for Clara to maintain “regular life” and “companion life” was brilliant. The direction was wonderful, the pacing perfect. It was funny but it also gave us the glimpse into Clara’s two-part life and how very surreal it is. We also see how much she’s grown to love it. I still don’t fully understand her motivation for travelling with the Doctor – and her inability to articulate it herself is telling. She knows she was born to “save the Doctor” perhaps but what’s in it for her? Seeing amazing things doesn’t seem enough. But perhaps she just loves it and that is enough of a reason to do anything (witness us all watching this damned show).

TEAM DANNY here, folks. LOVE. He is one of the most perfectly written, perfectly formed male companions we’ve ever had on the updated Who. I know we had a compelling character arc of development for both Mickey and Rory but Danny is coming into our lives with a fully formed character and back story and – hallelujah! – a backbone. He’s kind but he’s strong. He’s got expectations that are completely reasonable. One of my biggest beefs with Rory for instance was how he allowed Amy to treat him – calling someone “stupid face” even with affection, I don’t dig it. I cannot even fathom Danny taking that kind of crap. He’s intelligent, strategic, brave, and has a compulsion to protect. Again: LOVING.

The scene where he quickly identifies the Doctor as “Officer” is brilliant. I don’t mind saying that I was holding my breath during their argument. I can’t remember the last time someone walked into the Doctor’s TARDIS and flat-out challenged him. He met him as an equal. He was defiant and challenging, even broken-hearted. I am reminded that what the Doctor often hates in other people is what he hates in himself. So his prejudice against Danny as a soldier seems odd perhaps until you realise that it’s really his own behaviour as a soldier that he loathes. And the way that Danny sized that up and called it out was nothing short of ballsy. 

I am still wondering how Danny fits into the overall story. After our discussion about Listen, there were some commenters who believed that Orson Pink was actually Danny-in-the-future OR that Danny is somehow related to the Doctor (because he had the “family heirloom” of the gunless soldier). Either way, I find the mystery surrounding Danny fascinating. Any other theories?

Coming into this episode, I was thinking he might know a helluva lot more about Clara than he was letting on. But the take-away from this episode was that this was a shock to him and his introduction to the concept of time-travel at all. His conversation with Clara at her house after he finds out was beautifully done. He had every right to be hurt and I appreciated that the writers didn’t shy away from the lies that were told to keep him in the dark.

And how he dealt with both the revelation and the “new normal” was perfectly in line with the character as we’ve come to know him. He knows that the Doctor is pushing her too hard and one day he might push her just a bit too far – he wants to know about it and needs to know she won’t lie about it. I think this is a deal-breaker I can get behind. I think that he identifies that Clara has been living a double life and by exacting that promise, he’s wanting her to create a more seamless life.

(I’d still love to know more about Clara’s family whom we haven’t seen since The Time of the Doctor for a few brief and awkward moments at a Christmas dinner.)

Now to the Doctor: Capaldi is wonderful, of course. But when the episode was over, I turned to my husband and rather wistfully said, “I miss liking the Doctor.” I do. I miss the warm and compassionate Doctor, I miss his more “human” side. Capaldi’s Doctor is clever and hilarious, alien and weird, intense and wonderful, kooky and owns every single scene. (Only exception: the confrontation with Danny. That was all Mr. Pink.) But he’s not likeable. And yet I see the real him “underneath” there…somewhere. I still love the Doctor but I do miss “liking” the Doctor, if that makes sense. His thing with Danny and insisting on him being the PE Teacher was just horrible. So wrong.

Although, we did have a VERY good laugh over the fact that he thought Adrien was the boyfriend because of the floppy hair and bowtie. Nicely played, indeed. Actually now that I think about it, this was an incredibly comedic episode – up there with the Lodger for showing how unable the Doctor is to be human. We were laughing for a good bit of the show – lots of great one-liners and material for the custodian. Watching Capaldi’s Doctor try to be human and “blend in” was very entertaining.

The dynamic between Clara and the Doctor has become almost father-daughter and we really see that in this episode. Even when Danny identifies the Doctor’s main question – is he good enough for Clara? – that’s the question of a father, not of a past “boyfriend.” I like Clara and the Doctor’s dynamic so far this season for the most part (notable exception: his never ending comments about her looks being hardly passable).

One item of note: Clara has agency here. And I love that. Neither the Doctor nor Danny ask her to make a choice. They understand that she wants to carry both men and the lives they represent – and they have to be okay with that.

I’m not quite sure what the deal is with Courtney “Disruptive Influence” Woods. The last time they tried to bring a couple of snotty teenagers in the TARDIS was back when Clara was still a governess and I think we all know how fun THAT was… (answer: not very). I’m disinclined to be happy about Courtney Woods joining the TARDIS crew even for just an episode.

The Blitzer thing is hardly worth mentioning.

Now the policeman though…he died at the hands of the Blitzer and apparently wound up in Heaven’s waiting room with a rather pert assistant. Missy came through but didn’t personally welcome the newbie. Since the policeman didn’t “give his life” for the Doctor or his plans, I think this might be blowing a hole in our theory that heaven is a place for the Doctor’s “mistakes.” But who knows now? Brian and I have both remarked that the overall series arc idea hasn’t been as heavy and intense as it was during the Matt Smith years. Which in some way is nice but in other ways, every week feels rather stand-alone somehow. So I’ve almost lost interest in Missy….

 

Now what do you think? Did you like the episode? Any theories or ideas or highlights? Have at it – I love your comments and can’t wait to get the conversation going. 

Read More:

Episode 1: Deep Breath 

Episode 2: Into the Dalek

Episode 3: Robots of Sherwood

Episode 4: Listen

Episode 5: Time Heist

Episode 6: The Caretaker

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