Sunday, 28 September 2014

Review: Doctor Who - The Caretaker

After taking care of the universe for centuries, the Doctor becomes the caretaker of Coal Hill School when an alien menace arrives. This really is the end of the world for Clara...

'I'm the one who carries you out of the fire. He's the one who lights it.'

Last week we had Doctor Who as a classy crime caper but this week was a very different kind of class as the show turned into a high-school drama - demonstrating the perils of Parent's Evening and examining the home lives of teachers. Waterwho Road, if you like. However, if this all sounds a little domestic (you wannabe Ninth Doctor, you), the Doctor and his impact on the everyday is very much at the heart of this school day in the life. 

Contrasting with other episodes this year, 'The Caretaker' had a simple plot, merely used as a tool to hang lots of heart and humour on to. Much more than most Doctor Whos this episode was led by its characters with the three leads all giving wonderful turns. Clara and Danny's relationship continues to impress and Samuel Anderson displays a nonchalant charm as his character treats the Doctor with irreverence rather than the usual awe, quite rightly pointing out the Doctor's hypocrisy when it comes to soldiers. There will surely be sparks to come in the TARDIS soon, and it won't just be because of some faulty switch...

The highlight of the episode though is, as it should be, the Doctor. Cast hilariously as Clara's disapproving dad, he's eager to meet his ward's suitor and sports a proud glint in his eye when he thinks she has chosen a boyfriend like himself (or one of his selves). This was surely Capaldi's most endearing performance in the role yet with the dour tones of his first few episodes thankfully toned down to be replaced by a twinkly-eyed irascibility in the vein of the First and Third Doctors.

On the other hand, after the magnificence of the Teller from last week, the twitchy, ungainly Skovox Blitzer must be one of the least threatening Doctor Who monsters ever, despite it apparently being 'one of the most deadly killing machines ever created.' Personally, I assume the Doctor was embellishing the danger somewhat to impress Clara - rather than having the potential to blow up the planet, the Skovox Blitzer seemed to merely be the scourge of school chairs.

Overall, as with any episode by Doctor Who's king of comedy, co-writer Gareth Roberts, 'The Caretaker' gave us lots to smile at, even if it was not his best work (that's a tie between 'The Shakespeare Code' and 'The Lodger' for this reviewer). By virtue of it being the episode that took care of the series' ongoing plot threads (Danny meeting the Doctor and, going by the 'next time' trailers, providing us with a new companion in schoolgirl Courtney) it was not a standalone great. However, with an abundance of warmth and wit, plus a welcome appearance by Peter Capaldi's The Thick of It co-star Chris Addison as Missy' prissy secretary. this caretaker episode of the show went about its job with flair. Top marks!

The Caretaker throws a spanner in the works of Clara and Danny's relationship

Next Week: The TARDIS takes the Time Lord, Clara and Courtney on a grand day out to the Moon. However, the Doctor must take a giant leap and face a grave decision - can he really 'Kill the Moon?' 

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