The Caretaker was a bit of a throwback to the RTD era of New Who. The monster doesn’t matter much. Our attention is focused solely on the people of the story. Here we have The Doctor, his companion, her boyfriend, and a school full of students and faculty all involved in a bit of a farce. Timey-Wimey doesn’t factor much into anything so we’re able to just enjoy a light adventure, something I very much appreciated.
Basing it at the school was a nice touch. Doctor Who usually works best when we can identify with the world it’s taking place in. That’s a big reason why the RTD era worked so well. Much of the excitement comes from the idea that at any moment you could turn a corner and get swept up in an adventure across time and space. Although I didn’t attend an English school I could still relate to the thrill of something so fantastic happening in my school.
Gareth Roberts has done some great work in the Whoniverse. Most of it happening on The Sarah Jane Adventures. In season 5 he wrote The Lodger which has become the episode I rewatched the most. He’s great at getting The Doctor out of his comfort zone, to often hilarious results. The Caretaker wasn’t nearly as funny as The Lodger, but it has a lot of its charm. When Moffat eventually steps down, the smart move would be to hand the reins over to Roberts.
Peter Capaldi is in fine form. He strikes the perfect balance between alien and awkward human. His inability to register Danny Pink as a math teacher was both very funny and a bit irritating. That’s not Capaldi’s fault, he played it masterfully. I’m just not sure how I feel about this sudden intolerance The Doctor has for soldiers. Previously his relationship with them could be described as leery, with a severe dislike for their tactics, but he’s never been so blindly prejudiced before. My theory is that the only reason it exists is as a plot convenience. Cynical, I know, but Moffat’s lazy writing has made me very cynical lately. Make The Doctor hate soldiers just as Clara is falling in love with one. This will naturally lead to conflict. Story is about conflict so it works.
With this theory comes two arguments I can already hear people coming up with to rationalize such poor character development. The first has to do with the regeneration. This is a new Doctor with a new perspective on things. So it is entirely possible that Doctor 12 is a soldier bigot. The second argument pertains to The War Doctor. After the events of The Day of the Doctor you could possibly say that this Doctor is still trying to get passed his participation in the Time War. This would again be lazy writing because that has been The Doctor’s story arc since Eccleston. Tennant was meant to be the loveable regeneration who was able to forgive himself. Then he diverted to The Lonely God mourning the loss of his people at his hands. Smith started out the same way, and again felt remorse for what he did. Both of them teamed up with The War Doctor and realized Gallifrey was actually saved. Meaning Doctor 12 no longer needs to carry around that emotional baggage. I’ll wait and see what their explanation is for forcing this grating character trait onto The Doctor, and will be very surprised it doesn’t just sound like an excuse.
Clara comes off as fussy and stupid in this episode. Why is she constantly freaking out over The Doctor’s every appearance? If she wanted to avoid the suspicion that something weird is going on with the new caretaker wouldn’t it make more sense to leave him the hell alone? All she does is draw even more attention to him. Her desperate act of explaining the bizarre situation away by telling Dannybthey were rehearsing a play was totally weak. Even if it was meant to be it makes her look pretty pathetic.
With the exception of his mocking The Doctor’s dislike of soldiers, Danny was pretty good. He handled the TARDIS fairly well. He was brave. The end conversation he had with Clara felt genuine. I’m looking forward to seeing more of him.
Overall I liked the episode quite a bit. Most of its flaws were inherent in the show already, and we’re mostly forgivable. So far it’s my favorite story of the season. It wasn’t cartoony like Sherwood, or as lazy as Listen. Just an entertaining little adventure that I’m likely to visit again.