I’ve seen more than a few Who fans accusing this latest series of being one guilty of rehashing old ideas but I feel like a better word would be ‘remixing’. Capaldi’s early run has been one that isn’t afraid to experiment and find new ways of exploring and presenting classic tropes of the series. I feel like Clara and Capaldi’s partnership is remixing the series into one that’s equal parts sci-fi adventure and emotional journey for its characters, and The Caretaker is another strong step in this direction.
Doctor Who Series 8 Episode 6 “The Caretaker” Review
The key inspiration this time around is Series 2’s School Reunion. This week’s episode saw The Doctor infiltrate Clara’s school (under the name John Smith, of course) in order to dismantle a dormant alien war machine – a task that brought him into hilarious conflict with the more-normal side of Clara’s double-life. Previous Doctor’s companions have dragged their friends and families on their adventures and it was fun to see this dynamic reversed.
The Skovoz Blitzer was a fun monster with a refreshingly deadly design to it and despite its somewhat anticlimactic demise, I hope we see it return in the future. While the Caretaker made the Blitzer’s lethality very clear early on, it was very upfront about the creature playing second-fiddle to the episode’s real complication between The Doctor and Danny Pink.
The conflict was another good example of the show switching to more grounded stories and did a great job building on the foundations laid in Into The Dalek and Listen. It was compelling to see the show move on from the nervous and bumbling Danny we were first introduced to – though his triumphant flip at the end was maybe a bit much. This helped the episode convey the passage of time between each of Clara’s adventures. It also opened the gateway to a realm of humor that Doctor Who rarely touches – teacher workplace hijinks.
This was best illustrated by the outright-hilarious moment where The Doctor mistakes Clara’s co-worker (and Matt Smith lookalike) Adrian as her boyfriend. On the other side of things, The Doctor’s infiltration of Coal Hill was outright hilarious to watch as he underwent ‘deep cover’ and crossed paths with the infamous ‘disruptive influence’, Courtney Woods.
Speaking of ‘deep cover’, I thought The Caretaker repeated use of The Doctor’s invisibility watch was a fun touch. The devices use throughout the episode made sense and I liked how it ended up appearing multiple times throughout the episode. It made it feel less like a one-off gadget and more like something we might see again.
The Caretaker also included a slightly longer look at this season’s recurring plot-thread of The Promised Land. It’s hard to tell where this enigmatic plotline and its charismatic Missy are leading us, but I fully expect more and more of this growing plotline to emerge now that we’re on the second half of the series.
The Caretaker was far from the best episode Doctor Who but it was definitely another strong episode to add to add to Capaldi’s run of the show. It was a refreshingly fun and comedic adventure that made a nice break from last week’s poorly handled Time Heist.