Sunday, 28 September 2014
Doctor Who: The Caretaker (Episode Review)
This one is very simple. Sometimes in trailers, teasers and promos the audience is mislead, lied to or outright manipulated. Not so here. If you saw last week's teaser for The Caretaker, you're going to get exactly what you'd expect. If you're not a fan of the usual Clara/Danny stuff, if you're after a big focus upon science fiction, you're going to hate this episode.
Taking place some time after last week's events, The Caretaker sees Clara juggling between her life on-board the TARDIS and her love life with Danny Pink. Despite being worn ragged by keeping up both, with more than a few close calls, she is managing to maintain both. However, when the Doctor departs alone only to show up posing as John Smith, the new school caretaker, her two separate lives risk colliding in the worst way possible.
You'll notice from that little description that there was no mention of any threat, no mention of the monster of the week nor even any spacey elements beyond the usual show conventions. That's really the problem here. This is one of those episodes where Doctor Who suddenly tries to distance itself from what it does best and tries to do pure drama, and things immediately fall to pieces. This is not a science fiction script so much as a very weak soap opera with a few background sci-fi elements to try and justify it as a Doctor Who script, none of which works at all. The human drama here is fairly forced, and it immediately falls back on comedy to try and keep the story's momentum going, which simply isn't substantial enough to carry a tale.
When people bring up great moments from Doctor Who's past which were fantastic for the classic series, or even the modern series, it's never the bits which were drowning in comedy. The famous conversation between the Doctor and Victoria about family in Tomb of the Cybermen, the drama of The Girl Who Waited, and the Third Doctor's death didn't need wacky comedy to help pad them out. If anything it would have greatly detracted from them and that's really the case here. While there are a few potentially solid moments which could have been used for serious drama, they're either breezed by thanks to the usual frantic pacing of the tale or drowned out entirely by wacky slapstick.
This isn't helped by some seriously inconsistent writing on the part of the protagonists, problematic side characters and a Doctor who is being written for this specific plot rather than sticking to his normal self. When going undercover every Doctor before now has gone by the pseudonym of John Smith, but when Capaldi's one opts to infiltrate the building under the guise of a caretaker, he insists people call him the Doctor.
This is only a minor quibble in comparison to the bigger issues however, such as his attitude towards Danny. Following on from Into The Dalek, the Doctor has a sudden irrational hatred of soldiers, and because Danny was a soldier he now hates him/treats him with often condescending sneers. This isn't some sudden turn as there isn't enough motivation for this, and while the Doctor has opposed authoritative and militaristic figures in the past, anyone with a vague awareness of the show will know of his time in UNIT. You know, United Nations Intelligence Taskforce, that military group with Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart leading it, something which was a staple for the entire classic series.
Danny meanwhile is little more than a jealous boyfriend now, and what we get of him is far from positive. He spends most of the story clueless, the rest of it aggravated, and it's clear that there's no real personality to him, just a bundle of possible tropes and ideas. His entire role seems to have built up to pointless comedy from other stories and new to give the Doctor a ten minute long arc which ultimately amounts to nothing overall. Clara meanwhile seems to have just slid back into the problems other writers have had, with elements of Amy Pond being tacked onto her rather than allowing her to truly be fleshed out as a character. Oh, and someone thought it was a good idea to make an irritating arrogant child aware of the TARDIS, Courtney in this case, despite the near universal backlash to this element from Nightmare in Silver.
Well, we're almost at the end of the review and the villain has yet to be mentioned, the monster of the week known as the skovox blitzer. Despite a very threatening outwards appearance, it's effectively a low grade dalek. Along with being in the episode for perhaps five minutes tops, it's ultimately a superfluous element and more of an excuse to cause problems for character relationships than actually serve as a threat. Every visual element there was ripe for a great villain but what we get is ultimately a joke at best, barely able to hit anything at close range and with the plot claiming it can destroy the entire planet in one go. All it ends in is a ridiculous computer enhanced effect of a man forward flipping over it.
Between its sloppy structuring and inability to offer anything of real interest, this is definitely one you should skip. Re-watch last week's episode, do not waste your time with this one.