Monday, September 29, 2014

Review: Doctor Who Season 8 Episode 6: The Caretaker

I was extremely excited to to see Garath Roberts sharing a writing credit on this episode. He completed Douglas Adams' Shada, and, it is, no lie, almost my platonic ideal of what a Doctor Who story should be. He also co-wrote The One Doctor, which is just about the funniest thing associated with Doctor Who. I'm very specific about the humor I like in Doctor Who. I don't like Moffat's sitcom misunderstandings, but Doctor Who is often unintentionally absurd, and I do like works that lampshade those elements.

Unfortunately, it's Moffat's voice that dominates the conversation. We open with the Doctor and Clara chained up on Tattooine.

He asks her for the vibro-cutters, but she tells him that they're in her other jacket. "Why have you got two jackets?! Is one of them faulty?!" Herp derp, herp derp. Women and their clothes, amirite? 

Also, as I recall, the TARDIS does have a rather expansive wardrobe.

Then we have a montage of Clara's adventures interspersed with her dates with Mr. Pink, culminating with Clara sitting in front of the mirror, declaring to herself that she can't do this any more. I kind of liked the mirror as metaphor for her double life.

And that's the last substantive positive thing I've got to say about this episode. It's a parade of everything I hate about this season. Clara had a "thing", but the "thing" is gone. In the montage, the Doctor said, "I hate soldiers! Don't you hate soldiers?!" The only thing missing is the Doctor wondering if he's a good man.

"Jazz hands!"
The Doctor shows up as a staff meeting in Coal Hill is just concluding, introducing himself as John Smith, the new caretaker, but most people just call him the Doctor, he says, with a wink at Clara. Capaldi hams it up here, and I liked this a bit.

We cut away to a scene where a cop is killed by the monster of the week. Specifically, he dies of embarrassment when he's killed by a special effect left over from Classic Who. 

The Doctor climbs up a ladder and sticks his head through a window into Clara's classroom. There is some wacky relationship comedy, but the thing I remember is how Clara pronouces Buddy Holly. It's like "Boooddy" Holly, and it reminds me of nothing so much as the kind of corny jokes you find on Popsicle sticks. "Who's a ghost's favorite singer?" "Boooddy Holly!"

She spies the Doctor working on something and rushes out to talk to him, and holy shit is that a short skirt!
I don't think I'd get much learning done if I were an adolescent boy at Coal Hill school. Anyway, Mister Pink meets up with the Doctor before Clara can, and the Doctor is confrontational, insinuating that since Pink was a soldier, he's not smart enough to be a math teacher. Ugh. I can't believe Moffat is going to drag this thread around for the entire season. I seem to recall a UNIT adventure not that long ago. The Brig was a career military man, and one the Doctor's closest friends. He should be asking himself, WWtBD?

And here is the answer, of course.

We get some Three's Company misunderstanding, where the Doctor thinks Clara is dating a nebbishy teacher, and tells her that he approves. He's been secreting devices around the school ground in order to shunt the Monster of the Week, the Skovox Blitzer, a billion years into the future, but since Mister Pink interfered with his devices, it only pushes the monster 72 hours into the future.  Pink sees the whole thing and Clara tries to offer an excuse, but he's having none of it. Clara makes it clear to the Doctor that Danny is her boyfriend, and we're not as far away from the romantic subplots of last season, because I can't the distinct impression that the Doctor doesn't want Clara to have any other man in her life at all. He wants to be the only one, and it's so small and petty a desire.

A little later, Clara sneaks Mister Pink on board the TARDIS with the invisibility watch that the Doctor had put together for use against the Blitzer, so he can observe what their relationship is really like, but the Doctor sees through it. They bicker like hormonal teenagers, with Mr. Pink assuming that Time Lords are like an officer class. Ugh, it's a horrible, shitty scene that diminishes everyone involved.

Later on, it's parent-teacher night, but the Blitzer arrives in the auditorium, returning a day early. Mr. Pink is talking to a child's parents, admitting that she is a disruptive influence. They say last year that he called her a VERY disruptive influence, so this counts as an improvement. Mr. Pink is a new arrival to the school, so he didn't say anything about her last year, though they may have been referring to his predecessor. They see the Doctor, and when they run off to join him, he tells them the Blitzer has returned early.

It's worth noting that the Blitzer has such a shitty design, displacing the Raston Warrior Robot and its disturbing bulge as the worst looking Who monster.

Clara distracts it, it chases Clara. The scene is filmed at a bunch of entirely bizarre angles, and I? can only assume that the cameraman was drunk.

She lures it to the Doctor, and he commands it to stand down. It does, but the Doctor forgot about the self-destruct sequence it would initiate when doing so. Fortunately, Mr. Pink shows up and distracts the robot by flipping over it.

"Go, go, Power Rangers!"

The Doctor concludes the shutdown sequence, and he and Mr. Pink find a kind of peace.

The episode ends with the cop killed by the Blitzer being interviewed in a sterile white office. The interviewer informs him that he's in the Promised Land, but that Missy is too busy to talk to him.

I thought this was a pretty bad episode. The whole soldiers arc is so completely boring that I can't wait for it to be over.


  1. I lost interest in Dr. Who ca. 1976 (when I was 15), but I enjoy your destructions of the latest re-re-re-re-re-re-(etc.)-reiteration, Josh. Funny stuff.

    1. Thanks. I grew up with the show, and never grew out of it, which is true of a great many other things I like.