REVIEW: Doctor Who – ‘The Caretaker’

Twelve looking on with pride as he wrongly assumes Clara is dating an Eleven lookalike.
Twelve looking on with pride as he wrongly assumes Clara is dating an Eleven lookalike.

So What Happened?

This week, under the guise of Coal Hill’s new caretaker, the Doctor comes to save the day after detecting one of the deadliest aliens in the Universe, a Skovok Blitzer, has already been responsible for the death of a Policeman near the school. Now trapped between her ‘lives’ as a teacher and as companion, predictably Clara defies Twelve’s wishes and tries to involve herself in the mission, but her strange behaviour piques the interest of her boyfriend, Danny, who in turn, accidentally scuppers the Doctor’s plan to lure the alien into the deserted school at night and push it into a portal that would permanently throw it a billion years into the future.

With only three days to find another solution before the Blitzer finds it’s way back, as Danny struggles to come to terms with Clara’s other life, he and the Doctor butt heads over his military past and Twelve’s perceived links to the aristocratic, officer class as a Time Lord. In the meantime the time-traveller turned school caretaker encounters Courtney Woods (Ellis George), the perceptive class clown, who’s figured out that her two teacher’s are seeing each other and within seconds comes to the conclusion the newest member of staff isn’t all that he seems. It’s that same savviness that leads him to later tell her the truth and take her on a trip into Space, which ultimately results in an unfortunate ‘spillage’.

Meanwhile, back at Coal Hill, it’s parents’ evening and disastrously the Blitzer has managed to find it’s way back early just as the school fills up with people. Coaxing Danny and his sidekick away from their parent-teacher appointments, the Doctor encourages Clara to take the sonic screwdriver and act as bait to draw the alien back to the Caretaker’s cupboard so he can utilise ‘Plan B’, a contraption that mimics the alien’s superior officer so he can order it to stand down. However, having less time than he expected, the Doctor’s machine isn’t quite ready and instead of shutting the Blitzer down, it starts up a self-destruct protocol, leaving Danny to distract it with an Olympic grade front flip, which gives Twelve just enough time to perfect his gadget and stop the planet being blown up.

Danny and Twelve butt heads.
Danny and Twelve butt heads.

With the imminent danger out of the way, Danny’s left to ponder Clara’s unquestioning trust in the Doctor in light of his own military career and he urges her to tell him if he pushes her too far. The episode draws to a close with another visit to the ‘Nethersphere’, this time through the eyes of the Policeman who was killed at the start of ‘The Caretaker’. After recounting the moments before his death to the white-clad gatekeeper-esque character (Chris Addison) and being informed that he’s newly deceased, we see a glimpse of Missy (Michelle Gomez) walking out of a door and down the long white corridor. The plot thickens!

The ridiculous, rather than terrifying Skovox Blitzer.
The ridiculous, rather than terrifying Skovox Blitzer.

Monster of the Week

Marieke: What. The. Seriously, what was this? The Skovox Blitzer… The MOST dangerous thing in the universe? I think the Daleks and Cybermen are offended now. I mean, it wasn’t even slightly menacing at all! When it chased Clara it might as well had been a granny in an electric wheelchair, because it certainly looked like that! The green lasers looked more like a laser show than a real weapon.
Also, the whole idea of the Skovox destroying Earth… The school would’ve been enough really. Plenty of innocent people around. It would have been made the Skovox Blitzer as a threat more believable. I didn’t buy into it destroying Earth once. And then the way the Doctor had to stop it. Oh my God. DESTROY. STOP-CODE ACCEPTED-STOP. It was nice that it didn’t need violence to be destroyed, I’ll give you that. But it looked so incredibly ridiculous I couldn’t take it seriously at all. STOP-END-OF-THE –MONSTER-NOT-REALLY-MONSTER-STOP. Let it float in space forever never to be seen again!

Danielle: The silly stakes really were cranked up to eleven this week. On the plus side, I’ve never seen an alien beaten by gymnastics before, so there is that. Perhaps Mr Pink should think about giving P.E. a go alongside the maths teaching after all.

Creep Factor

Marieke: Well the Skovox Bli… Oh who am I kidding?! There was more a cheek factor to the Doctor being a caretaker. But most of all it was a romance factor, to establish the relationship between Danny and Clara and to see how the Doctor would react to Clara dating a ‘P.E. teacher’. I think more interesting was the smart and sassy girl Courtney, who even convinced the Doctor to get a ride on the TARDIS. I do hope she didn’t throw up in one of his pools though. I certainly hope to see her again. Her presence really felt like a welcome change within the Doctor’s ‘social’ circle.

Danielle: Not gonna lie, the huge spider that kept on zig-zagging across my living room last night was a lot more terrifying than this particular fictional threat to humanity. I tried and I tried to get it to stand down, but… Anyhow, thankfully, the alien really was secondary to the ‘Danny discovers Clara’s secret life’ storyline, and the humour and intrigue that brought with it.

Mystery

Danielle: So Missy isn’t alone in the ‘Promised Land’ then? In fact it would seem that she’s merely one of this new character’s numerous minions judging by the number of doors down that seemingly endless corridor. At this point I’d pretty much wager my life savings that this heavenly welcoming committee isn’t all that it seems to be. I just can’t for the life of me imagine Moffat exploring a straight-up Heaven/Earth dichotomy without there being smoke, mirrors and perhaps a parallel Universe involved. I’m also intrigued by what it is that Danny’s  superior officers made him do that has facilitated his wariness towards the Doctor, and therefore makes him so protective of his girlfriend.

Marieke: It better be something good, cause I’ll be going all Ashes to Ashes if it’s a boring heaven/hell kind of thing! But my interest is triggered again, although the silent presence of Missy annoyed me a little. Fresh face Chris Addison helped a whole lot more to keep me intrigued.

Chris Addison as a mysterious character in the 'Nethersphere'.
Chris Addison as a mysterious character in the ‘Nethersphere’.

Familiar Face of the Week

There was a ‘The Thick of It’ reunion this week with Chris Addison joining the cast, potentially, as the end of level baddie. We can’t wait to see them square up in a scene where Capaldi isn’t calling him a ‘f**king idiot’. We’re also partial to ‘Nethersphere’ too, Chris. It has a certain ring to it.

Twelve and Courtney moments before the 'spillage'.
Twelve and Courtney moments before the ‘spillage’.

The Verdict?

In spite of the rather pathetic Skovox Blitzer, we’re delighted ‘The Caretaker’ wasn’t a complete washout. Seeing Twelve in Clara’s environment offered up a refreshing change from her being swept along with him in all of Time and Space,  as well as dishing up plenty of opportunities for the jokes that kept the episode zipping along nicely. Courtney’s emergence into the fray, after being mentioned in numerous other episodes this series, was also especially welcome. However with this new addition to the cast, coupled with Danny’s concern that the Doctor will one day push his girlfriend too far, we can’t help but feel that this was yet another indicator that Clara’s days as companion are numbered. Only time will tell…

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