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New Who 8.6 The Caretaker

Oof! I am hideously behind with reviews of all kinds. Term has started, and a fatal combination of front-loaded teaching commitments this semester and getting behind on things due to being in Vienna has meant I've had all of about one hour of usable free time to myself each evening this week. That's just about enough time to browse through a few social media sites, answer emails from friends and family, and maybe watch an episode of Plebs before collapsing into bed. Not sit there doing yet more writing. So I'm now two weeks behind with Doctor Who write-ups, never mind anything else. Let's see how far I can get on clearing the backlog before another very similar week begins.

The Caretaker, then. Another good, solid episode, I thought. Basically all about characterisation, this time focused on the stand-off between the Doctor and Danny, and with the robot-of-the-week plot only really serving as a catalyst to their drama rather than a story in its own right. But that's absolutely fine by me, as long as the characterisation is done well. Which it was! All very emotionally plausible, and nicely structured too - as for example when Clara explained Danny to the Doctor, and I was sitting there thinking, "Ah, but this works two ways, doesn't it? What about the other side of that?" and just at that very moment the Doctor voiced exactly the same point: "You haven't explained him to me."

I liked the montage at the beginning, sketching out Clara's adventures with the Doctor and dates with Danny. Apart from anything else, it creates lots of lovely gaps for fan-fiction - and I thought it not uncoincidental that some spin-off novels were advertised in a little spot at the end of the programme. I couldn't quite tell from their titles, but I am guessing some of those will link in with the exact adventures referenced in the programme. More importantly, though, it created the right backdrop against which the characters could be moved quite far forward emotionally, without us needing to go through the details of lots of corridor-running adventures in order to get there. Just enough for us to have got to the point where the crisis and confrontation in this story could unfold and be resolved, without it seeming premature.

It was nice to finally see Clara doing some actual teaching. which I don't think has really happened before now. And to see her generally continuing to be sharp, self-assured and well able to handle the Doctor. I thought the scene in which she made him tell her what was going on by pointing out that the fact he hadn't so far must mean he knew she would disapprove, and thus that his plans must be endangering the school, was a particularly good example of that. But Danny's comments at the end about how people like the Doctor can push those who work with them to be better and stronger, and yet present a constant danger that they will try to push too far, are an important signpost for where all this could go. It seems a lot like the Doctor will ask too much of Clara in the final two-parter, and that she will finally decide to prioritise Danny, the man who tries his hardest to be good enough for her, over him.

Meanwhile, for the moment, Clara's situation reminds me a great deal of Gwen's in Torchwood, which went through a similar evolution from her hiding the true nature of her work from Rhys, him finding out and being angry about the lies, to him finally accepting it and becoming involved himself. Indeed, the scenes between Clara and Danny in his-or-her flat at the end of the story reminded me visually of the same sorts of scenes between Gwen and Rhys in Torchwood as well - both the talking-on-the-sofa scenes and the looking-out-over-a-night-time-city scenes. It's a good story-line, and one which gets to the heart of the disjunction between real life and fantasy-adventure life which is a very big part of what I love so much about all these stories.

Smaller things:
  • The invisibility watch - this had an in-story pay-off, when Danny used it to follow Clara at the end of the story and take the Skovox by surprise, so it may already have served out its purpose. But it also struck me as rather like the fob-watch from season 3 - an actually pretty game-changing piece of technology which turned out to have far greater implications than it first appeared. Certainly, it means the Doctor can be anywhere now, even when we think he's not, and we should be looking out for that in the season finale.
  • The Doctor was genuinely scared for his life when he realised that his plan to transport the Skovox to another time-zone had gone wrong, and he was face to face with a killing-machine. It's not something we often see, but it's important to have it sometimes if he is not to seem too much like a super-hero, and Capaldi did it well.
  • I liked the chess-set as a motif in a story all about the one-on-one confrontation between the Doctor and Danny, and indeed one concerned with the relationship between commanders (chess-players) and their troops (the pieces).
  • And it was lovely to see Courtney Woods being developed as a character (in preparation for her role in the next story, of course).
As per my previous reviews, I also kept a careful eye out this time for references to both water and breathing. Actually, there wasn't much happening on the breathing front this week (apart from all characters doing it in all scenes, obvs), but not to worry - there was plenty to make up for it in Kill The Moon. As for water, though, we had:
  • Clara arriving all wet and covered in sea-weed after her montage-adventure with the Doctor to see the fish-people.
  • The Doctor commenting that Clara looks good and asking whether it is because she's had a wash when he is trying to distract her from finding out that he is about to embark on trying to save the world from an alien danger in the Coal Hill area.
  • Clara grabbing a watering-can in the school garden so that she could get near enough to the Doctor, Danny and Adrian to hear their conversation. This was probably the most overt water-reference in the story, and rather like Clara with the wash-bowl in Deep Breath it draws a pretty clear link between her and pure, clean, life-giving water.
  • Courtney Woods finds out about the Doctor and the TARDIS because she has come to get paper towels to deal with a 'spillage' in the Geography class-room.
Enough to be going on with, then, I think.

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Comments

( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
qatsi
Oct. 5th, 2014 07:50 pm (UTC)
What struck me about this one was that, by the end of it, one might say the Doctor's companions were two teachers and a pupil from Coal Hill School.
strange_complex
Oct. 5th, 2014 08:12 pm (UTC)
Absolutely! And I'm still waiting for William Russell to show up in a cameo role as Ian. It has to happen, or the whole thing will have been wasted!
danieldwilliam
Oct. 6th, 2014 12:49 pm (UTC)
I found this episode really funny. I was laughing all the way through.

Bit behind on watching these with the Captain. The shift to 8.30 to follow Strictly means that the programme is on too late for him to watch on Saturday.

He likes the dancing programme through.
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )

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