Dr.Who Episode 6 - "The Caretaker"
Well, Doctor Who has been skirting round the edges of the romance between Clara and Danny for a while now. It was only a matter of a time, I guess, before the Doctor became nothing more than a secondary character in his own show; the writers even brought back the John Smith persona to help him disappear into the background.
The sci-fi element is rather perfunctory in this weeks story. A single robot with enough firepower to destroy the planet has turned up somewhere, and the Doctor must go undercover at Coal Hill in order to set an elaborate trap that he well then lure said robot into.
The rest of the story revolves around the relationship between Clara and Danny; Danny’s introduction to the Doctor, and his subsequent efforts to prove himself worthy of Clara in the Doctor’s eyes. A task made harder by the fact that he disrupts the Doctor’s original plans to despatch the robot.
There is a subtext throughout of the Doctor’s distrust and dislike of soldiers, but this is never explored fully; which is a shame. The Doctor also can’t seem to accept that Danny, a former soldier, is now teaching mathematics; constantly insisting that surely he must be a PE teacher. Perhaps the Doctor believes there is only room for one former soldier-turned math teacher in his world view (RIP Brigadier).
Ultimately, Danny helps save the day by providing a key distraction during the Doctor’s “Plan B”. A much less elaborate plan, which simply has the Doctor create a device that allows himself to pretend to be the robot’s superior, and he orders him to deactivate... That, to be honest, would have made a much better Plan A.
Looking at the positives, the acting was once again great and the cast played what they were given well; and Capaldi is definitely coming into his own as the Doctor. This isn't enough though to prevent this being the worst episode of this season.
Hopefully we can return to the science fiction element of Doctor Who from now until the series end, and do away with the soap opera. Too much of the runtime of recent episodes has been diverted to the Clara & Danny relationship, and this is frustrating on a couple of levels. Firstly, it has been causing obvious timing and pacing issues over the last couple of weeks, as time that could be spent on plot development and exposition is being lost to building this story. Secondly, the belief that Clara can only have relevancy as a character if she is either:
- A plot Maguffin (see: Last season and her being split through time), or
- A love interest for another character; is a particularly galling and mistaken belief.
It is possible to write a companion-centric episode, which is what I suppose “The Caretaker” ultimately is, that can build the female companion up and give her agency as an individual in her own right; without making her a prize for someone else. A case in point would be “Turn Left” from Season 4, an episode almost wholly carried by the wonderful Donna.
Anyway, let’s see what next week brings.