“I’m the one who carries you out of the fire. He’s the one who lights it.”
This episode could really have gone either way. Episodes in the past which show The Doctor trying to ‘blend in’ with humans (The Lodger or Closing Time for example) have been somewhat of a hodgepodge. Also there’s always a worry when a show like Doctor Who has a quiet, almost special effects free episode to focus on the characters instead, but this really worked.
The episode begins with a montage of Clara and The Doctor running around space and time, with Clara trying to get back for a date with Danny. Things get easier for Clara when The Doctor has something to do alone. He’s going into ‘deep cover’. To Clara’s chagrin, he was in deep cover as the caretaker at her school; Coal Hill. Now at this point you’d probably be thinking this on it’s own is a fun set-up for what should be a harmless episode. I think it went so much further than this however. Firstly, Peter Capaldi is great. It feels silly saying this every week, but he just keeps proving himself as an amazing Doctor. He’s become a curmudgeonly old time traveller and he can pretty horrible with Dave the P.E. teacher (also known as Danny the maths teacher). Speaking of which, there’s an interesting dynamic between The Doctor and Clara’s boyfriend. The Doctor hates soldiers and that means there’s a tension between him and Danny. This dynamic means he’s a lot more interesting than the male companions that proceeded him (I’m looking at you Rory!)
Clara also carries on showing that she is no longer a plot device. She’s had a real reinvention this series and she’s great in this episode, showing an element of the companions life that doesn’t get enough focus; how they balance their personal life with their life with The Doctor. Clara and Danny also make a likeable couple, especially now they’re past the awkward first dates stage. The scene of them sat watching TV at the ends reminds you, they are just normal people.
The threat in this episode comes from a creature known as the Skovoz Blitzer. On one hand I love that Doctor Who is using more practical effects and despite a few shaky moments, it looks pretty cool. On the other hand, it’s more of a sub plot than anything else. The real plot is between the characters and that is done exceptionally well. However this does mean the Blitzer feels a little underdeveloped. Especially for something that is meant to be one of the most terrifying things in the entire galaxy. It is however taken out in a cool, albeit absurd, way (thanks to a kickass flip).
I also really liked the misunderstanding with the Matt Smith looking fellow. The Doctor thought Clara’s boyfriend was a guy who looked suspiciously like the eleventh Doctor. This led to almost a sitcom-ish level of misunderstanding but also an emotional moment for the Doctor, who seems like he may not want to let Clara go. The confrontation between the three of them in the TARDIS was superbly written and I hope the show carries on at that level.
This episode is one of the best so far. In fact it may just be my favourite. It was a joy to watch and it entertained me throughout. It balanced laughs and character development and had enough action to please all types of fans. It may have seemed like a risky episode but for me, ‘The Caretaker’ was a definite hit.
Reviewed by Jack 😛