A quick glimpse at my previous Doctor Who reviews for Season 8 alerted myself just how critical I’ve been of the light-hearted episodes; knowing that this season has taken a darker toll, episodes such as ‘The Robots of Sherwood‘ or ‘Time Heist‘ just felt completely out-of-place and alienated from the rest of the season. This isn’t due to me not enjoying campy Doctor Who storylines (practically the whole series consists of campy storylines!), but instead it’s the fact that the episodes end results weren’t produced engaging enough.
‘The Caretaker‘ breaks the chain of poor light-hearted episodes, as it brings upon the right levels of comedy (which ‘The Robots of Sherwood‘ should have done) and the ecstatic drama to these characters (which ‘Time Heist‘ should have done) and proves that episodes evading from the serious tone of season 8 still work just as great!
Originally, my expectations for this episode weren’t too high. The last time we had an episode set predominately in a high-school, ‘School Reunion’ happened. This time I knew that there wouldn’t be a guest star of Elizabeth Sladen or such to redeem an episode set in high-school, so if the plot was as cheesy as ‘School Reunion’, I would have practically turned off my television.
Thankfully, this episode took me by surprise and ended up being a huge personal success, causing me to grin practically through the whole episode! Continuing from the Doctor attempting to compete with Clara’s date, we see the evident battle between Danny Pink and the Doctor as he becomes ‘The Caretaker’ of the high-school as an incognito disguise whilst attempting to save the earth from a potential alien threat. Admittedly, the Skovoz Blitzer didn’t make much of an appearance in the episode, but just like ‘Listen‘, there wasn’t an actual depression from the absence of an actual alien threat; instead the audience are able to acknowledge the fantastic character work as we witness how Clara balances her life with the Doctor and Danny Pink.
The conflict constructed between the two characters attempting to appeal to Clara caused me to be even more hopeful for the rest of the season! The Doctor has had conflict with previous boyfriends of his companions (such as Mickey Smith or Rory Williams), however they were never on the scale of the Doctor literally disapproving and creating awkward dynamics between the trio. It’s interesting how Clara reacted when Danny assumed the Doctor was her ‘space dad’, yet it seems apparently true as she seeks approval from what appears to be her fatherly figure. Unfortunately, instead of approving of Danny, he assumed Clara was in love with the near carbon copy of Matt Smiths Doctor – and yes that scene followed up with unbearable laughter!
The whole season has been essentially building up to this episode; initially the season aimed to portray the growing relationship between Clara and the Doctor, eventually the season progressed to the relationship between Clara and Danny, then there’s also the foreshadowed conflict between the two lives as we grow to understand the cause of the Doctor disliking soldiers, Danny’s guilty past and such; hence we all knew that a dispute between the three characters was coming, and we’ve finally witnessed that.
The episode wasn’t perfect though; the riveting characterisation and hysterical scenes aside, there were a few disappointments. I felt it being very off-putting that both Danny and the “disruptive student” immediately accepted the existence of extra-terrestrial life. Perhaps, it’s become a common thing considering how many alien affairs happened in Earth, yet ever since the “Big Bang 2.0” happened, it’s slightly difficult to understand which alien invasions happened and which didn’t. Another negative is based on the ending scene which felt awfully forced, I know there’s meant to be a build up to the finale, but all the scenes of ‘Missy’ and the ‘promised land’ contrast the actual tone set in all the episodes they were featured in.
As a whole, the episode was an exciting romp and has lead me to be really excited for the next few episodes – especially considering that there’s even more conflict to be expected in what has been foretold to be a terrifying episode in ‘Kill the Moon’.
+ I wonder how many auditions the Doctor Who staff had to go through until they found the perfect lookalike to wear a bow-tie and impress Capaldi’s Doctor.
+ “If he ever pushes me too far, I want you to tell me” – am I the only one who fears something dreadful is going to happen next episode?
+ Probably the better half of child guest stars in Doctor Who since the introduction of Amelia Pond; at least she hasn’t mimicked the personalities of the children from Season 7 yet.
– The CGI was notably less detailed than usual, most likely due to this being one of the main budgeted episodes for the season.