I had the misfortune, to read a less-than-flattering Independent review of The Caretaker. Which did influence my mood prior to watching it. The review stated that it was a; “bland Earth-based adventure [which] fails to excite!”.
However, I thought this a bit harsh on balance, especially when comparing it against another bland Earth-based adventure, The Robot Of Sherwood; The Caretaker had much more going for it.
The Caretaker was about the Doctor taking some time out on Earth to solve an alien mystery. We had a similar turn by Smith in The Power Of Three and The Lodger; (same writer) as he attempted to fit in with human routine and not arouse too much suspicion – with his eccentric ways.
The Doctor was looking for a killer alien robot, which was hanging around somewhere near (almost mythical Who establishment) Coalhill School – the Doctor took on the role of John Smith school-janitor – as he searched for it.
Foremost, The Caretaker had a much stronger sub-text of moving the 3 principal characters; the Doctor, Clara and Danny Pink (Or “plank” as he is a bit wooden!) forward which was required. Robot Of Sherwood had none of that present.
Admittedly, there was little excitement on offer here – the robot angle was mis-judged and frankly not required. However, there was alot more character-based going’s-on in The Caretaker to hold the interest (of the adults anyway!). But I fully understand that the kids expect monsters and the show attempts to deliver this hook, every week.
Capaldi can do the comedy thing in his sleep and really gives the irreverant stuff; a conviction and edge. Unlike Robot Of Sherwood, the comedy stuff underpinned a dark soul-searching tale about Clara’s manoveuring between Danny Plank and the Doctor; it worked to lighten what was – a deeply dark episode.
There was another interesting sub-plot of Clara and Danny’s relationship, played out against Clara’s hectic escapades with the Doc and how just managed to fit in her Danny dates, even with the aid of time-travel.
Danny Plank’s eventual meeting (and sparring) with the Doctor was fascinating viewing. The Doctor kept unkindly and disparagingly referring to Danny as “P.E. Teacher” (actually a Maths Teacher) and “stupid”.
However, his bringing the mighty Doc down a peg or two – by likening him to to an overbearing Army Officer-type, by his manner and in reference to Plank’s discovery – that the Doctor was an alien Time-“lord”; was riveting stuff and probably the most cutting remark the new Doctor has yet faced.
Plank was busy in this episode, as his completely uncharacteristic double – salko somersault – over the killer robot. Could have won; ‘most unnecessary scene’ award – for season 8.
Also, the Doctor’s initial misunderstanding of which teacher Clara was actually dating, aside from being funny – was more interesting due to the Matt Smith angle.
And the minute, (just-good-friend) and fellow teacher; Adrian popped on screen – he had Smith stamped all over him with his long side parted hair and geek-chique look. The Doctor was clearly influenced by this, as much as Clara was – no doubt.
Now that Plank is firmly in the picture, about who the Doctor is and what his relationship with Clara is. It will be interesting to see where this dynamic goes. But for my end; the introduction of Danny Plank is likely the beginning of the end for the Clara character and I see her leaving at the end of the season or Xmas special.
Actress Jenna-Louise Coleman has already signalled her (downplayed by the Beeb) desire to move on, that is no secret. Shame, as Clara was just beginning to come into her own as a character.
The Caretaker wasn’t perfect but faults, killer robots and lack of excitement aside, did some much needed fleshing out of the main characters by tying up some loose stoy threads and sets up perfectly the second half of season 8 – and the race to the “promised land” conclusion.
BBC1 – 8:35pm- Saturdays