Dear Steven Moffat: The Caretaker

DW The Caretaker

Dear Steven,

Last week, with some prescience, we discussed Clara’s apparent difficulty in balancing her TARDIS life with her moribund career as a secondary school English teacher and her relationship with Danny “Mr” Pink (played in Reservoir Dogs by Steve Buscemi). Though you hijacked his credit, as is now your wont, we discerned from “The Caretaker” that this also preoccupied veteran Doctor Who writer Gareth Roberts. His episode didn’t settle the issue; the Doctor’s still happy to travel with his companion on a piecemeal basis, as he manifestly wasn’t for the duration of the classic series (making it unlikely he’d change his mind in his autumn years); but we gained some understanding as to why the choleric grey head might be prepared to indulge his latest friend. The Doctor wants Clara to be happy, that is snuggled and sexed, and he knows he can’t provide that kind of universal experience, so like a single Dad who’s afraid of an empty nest he’s prepared to give Clara her space, while being suspicious of her boyfriends.

Much of “The Caretaker” was concerned with Clara and Danny’s relationship and whether the Doctor would approve of the union. On paper this was not a story to inspire confidence, as it read like the programme debasing itself with maudlin family drama, but the execution was a great deal more intricate, with Roberts using a variant on the fish out of water setup employed in his old episode, “The Lodger”, to chip away at the dynamic governing the Doctor and Clara’s bond.

The Time Lord’s initial assumption, that Clara was riding the floppy haired, bow tied Adrian, simply because he looked like his former incarnation, was a neat little aside that spoke to the Doctor’s self-regard, while his dismissal of former solider Pink as a cleft-brained grunt, and the assumption that he could only be a physical education teacher, underlined his contempt for violence and those associated with prosecuting it. For her part, Clara craved the Doctor’s approval, a scene in which she thought she had it being gently touching, and it was this shift to a firm Father-Daughter dynamic that leant the episode a little psychological punch.

If you ask me, Steven, the Doctor was right to give Pink a hard time for being allegedly second rate, just for the wrong reason. He concentrated on his apparent lack of brains when in truth he should have rounded on Clara for dating someone with so little personality. Honestly, does he have to be so beige? What does a vivacious and energetic woman like Clara see in this walking yawn? I’ll bet he shaves his pubic hair, doesn’t he? And don’t tell me opposites attract, or that she needs a safe counterpoint to the manic other man in her life, she’d still want to laugh from time to time, wouldn’t she? She’d still want to feel alive? So interesting though the episode’s final flip was, with Danny transmogrified from boyfriend under scrutiny to scrutinising boyfriend, warning Clara that he wouldn’t let the Doctor push her too far (such was his distrust of rousing authority figures), one felt like saying, ‘you should be more interested in keeping Clara interested, mate.’

What did I want to happen, Steven? Did I want Danny to be incinerated by the mechanoid hunter-killer thing, or for Clara to realise at the end that there just wasn’t room for a middle of the road relationship when you had all of time and space to explore? Perhaps both, but if we must have this fucking coupling and attendant issues, then I suppose “The Caretaker” did a good job of fleshing out the problems. Now we know that Clara’s place in the TARDIS is under threat from a protective no mark and the doubt he’s placed in his girlfriend’s mind. It’s just a niggle of course, but it’s reasonable to assume that seed will grow, perhaps paving the way for the character’s exit sometime later. I’m happy to go down this road if it means exploring the new Doctor’s manipulative tendency and his attitude to his companion’s emotional entanglements, but if you want Danny to be something other than Clara’s doubts personified, you’ll need to imbue him with charisma and vitality, fast! Sure, he can somersault, but can he make us care? I’m glad we survived the mechanical threat but I’m less enamoured at the world being saved by the planet’s dullest man. I owe my life to a guy who probably subscribes to the Times Literary Supplement.

So other than the framing story, which wasn’t much of anything, what else is there to say about this episode? Six in and it’s clear that Capaldi’s still getting a handle on his version of the character. This was an important story in that respect, as it allowed the new man to indulge himself a little, underlying his alien credentials and allowing some flashes of temper. I’m all for this Doctor being brash, brutal and rude as it distances him from his student entertainment officer predecessors. I realise he’ll never swear, but couldn’t you let him have just one venomous rant, perhaps drowned out by the sound of the TARDIS’s engines?

Yours in time and cyberspace,

Ed

P.S: Why let that pupil Courtney aboard the TARDIS? Are we showing it to everyone now? I hope the fact she coated the console room in vomit will ensure this kind of casual day tripping ceases.

P.P.S: I enjoyed the fried severed hand. More of this casual violence please.

P.P.P.S: No warning was given that Chris Addison would be in this episode, ahead of transmission.

P.P.P.P.S: Does the policeman’s presence in Missy’s afterlife break the link with other victims, as he wasn’t killed as a direct consequence of the Doctor’s actions, or was the killer robot drawn there because of the TARDIS’s frequent trips to the area? The Doctor alluded to local activity, or some shit. Is that what he meant? I’m sorry if I missed the vital detail, I had to break off as the cat got tangled in my hammock.

The Adventures of Clara and her Geriatric Pal:

Doctor Who: The Youthful Years

The Distant Past:

Deep Time:

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Published in: on September 27, 2014 at 20:00  Leave a Comment  
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