Monday, 29 September 2014

Doctor Who: The Caretaker ( review )

"The walls need sponging and there's a sinister puddle..."
This week, the Doctor follows in the footsteps of Freddy Krueger, Hong Kong Phooey and Willie from the Simpsons as he adopts the identity of a ( not so ) mild-mannered janitor to investigate sinister goings-on at Coal Hill School. The Time Lord and Clara have to face the rampaging Skovox Blitzer and also a certain ex-soldier-turned-maths-teacher...
Even though this could be seen as writer Gareth Roberts getting yet more mileage out of the "Doctor passing himself off as human" theme ( see The Lodger, Closing Time ) it feels fresh this time with Capaldi's short-tempered, impatient Doctor failing to blend in with his surroundings, but in a different way to his predecessor. The Doctor just wants to be left alone to save the world but the complications of Clara's love life and the interruptions of a curious teenager conspire to irritate him. The humour in this episode works much better than in the recent Robin Hood story  -  the Doctor is just as snappy and unreasonable as before ( especially when berating Samuel Anderson's Danny Pink ) but there's more of a twinkle here, more warmth showing through. As ever with Roberts' scripts there are some hugely funny lines, with Jenna Coleman really rising to the occasion here  -  her exasperated exclamation of "Human beings are not otters!" has to be one of the highlights of the series so far. Seriously.
The story's nominal antagonist, the Skovox Blitzer, is relatively underused, being purely functional in terms of plot mechanics, but is still a bizarrely interesting visual. It has no personality to speak of, being just a robotic soldier, but its half-glimpsed, part-tank, part-spider look is quintessential, oddball Doctor Who.
The Doctor / Clara / Danny triangle is coming to the fore now that Mr. Pink ( not Steve Buscemi ) has discovered the truth about his girlfriend. It's good to see Clara's character becoming more three-dimensional now that the "Impossible Girl" storyline has been tied up. And I quite like the fact that former squaddie Danny instantly recognises the Doctor as part of the officer class  -  it seems you can take the Time Lord out of Gallifrey but not Gallifrey out of the Time Lord...
The last scene reminds us of the arc-plot with another deceased character finding himself in the so-called "Promised Land", complete with cameos from Michelle Gomez and Chris Addison. It will be interesting to see how this plot resolves in the finale and how it ties up with the Cybermen. Anyway, I'll give this episode:
Four Out Of Five Sonic Screwdrivers ( or janitor's brushes )

Soundtrack: Clouds Taste Metallic by the Flaming Lips

4 comments:

Kid said...

Strange, because I felt the complete opposite to you about almost every aspect. There was absolutely no sense of danger because of the constant humorous banter that flies between characters. Clara seems to be just marking time until she disappears over the horizon with Danny; it's almost like the writers have lost interest in her, knowing that she's not going to be sticking around. The 'jolly hockey-sticks, isn't this fun' attitude which pervades the show is tiresome and erodes any sense of genuine menace - and the Doctor still acts like a buffoon. I just feel like I've seen it all before. Sure, I had a few chuckles, but that's not really what Doctor Who should be about, is it?

cerebus660 said...

Of course, we all have different opinions of what the show should be about...

When I was a kid all I wanted from Doctor Who was monsters and scares. After Mary Whitehouse's campaigns to tone down the show's perceived fright factor it often veered towards comedy in the Graham Williams / Douglas Adams era of the late '70s. I didn't really appreciate that at the time but now I love stories such as The Androids Of Tara and ( my all-time fave ) City Of Death. Maybe the modern show has become too comedic at times but I think it's all a part of moving it towards the telly mainstream which was an important factor in its resurrection and success.

However,I've got a feeling this week's story will be far more serious and, hopefully, may help to restore your faith in the show...

Steve Does Comics said...

I enjoyed it. I wouldn't want the show to be like it every week but once a season is fine for me.

cerebus660 said...

That's the beauty of the Doctor Who format - it can be a low key drama one week, a comedy the next, and some mad outer-space thing the week after...

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