Doctor Who: The Caretaker

“Fiction is a lie that tells us true things, over and over.”

Neil Gaiman

Yes, Constant Reader, I am still horribly behind on my reviews. But I am bravely Catching Up! With any luck, I’ll be completely up-to-date by the time the series ends.

The Caretaker is the sixth episode into the Capaldi Administration, and for reasons best known to Stephen Moffat (seriously, he’s co-written this one as well) the Doctor becomes a temporary caretaker at the school where Clara works. To be fair, there is a monster trying to eat people or whatever (its motivations are rather fuzzy), but we all know this is just an excuse. Really, the Doctor’s here to meet Clara’s new boyfriend Danny.

So. I actually quite liked this episode when I first finished watching it. For a start, there wasn’t enough of a plot for Moffat to mess up, since the episode mainly consists of the Doctor and Danny exchanging glares. More importantly, though, Capaldi is excellent again: Twelve is really starting to evolve as a character, cranky, blackly amusing and delightfully Scottish. I’m beginning to think that Doctor Who can pretty much get away with anything so long as the Doctor is a strong one.

But then Twitter happened. Twitter told me that Moffat is terrible at developing relationships, and you know what? Twitter is right. It certainly comes as a bit of a surprise when Clara declares her undying love for Danny after dating him for all of three episodes. And I will give a prize to anyone who can name an actual character trait of Danny’s that is not “soldier” (and even that one isn’t accurate, as he keeps protesting). Seriously. Major romantic interest here and we literally know nothing about him. What is his favourite film? Why did he stop being a soldier? Is he a good teacher? WHO KNOWS?

Another fairly interesting Twitter theory is that The Caretaker represents a handover of Clara from one patriarchal figure (the Doctor) to another (Danny). Now, Moffat does has misogynistic form. (A Scandal in Belgravia, anyone?) And it’s certainly true that Clara doesn’t actually do anything in this episode, except get rescued impressively by ninja-Danny. But it’s also true that Clara as a character has been going from strength to strength this series, and it would be a shame to see that stop…oh. Too late.

Damn you, Twitter. You ruined everything.

One more thing. I’ve been thinking about this, and the more I think of it the more compelling this theory gets: The Caretaker is a sort of modern-day updating of An Unearthly Child. No, listen. We know Clara works at the Foreman School, because we all fangirled at the sign that appears at the beginning of The Day of the Doctor. When Danny meets the Doctor, he assumes he is Clara’s father and that Clara is a “space girl”. What do Ian and Barbara discover in that old shed in An Unearthly Child? A space girl and her dad in a big blue box. Both episodes take place in a school. Both episodes feature an extremely cranky Doctor who refuses to explain anything, and a girl trying to change his mind. In both episodes the Doctor holes up in an industrial cupboard-type thing and scares largely innocent bystanders.

I’m not entirely sure what the significance of all this is, but I feel it is significant. For one thing, An Unearthly Child explicitly doesn’t involve a handover – the Doctor is unwilling to let his daughter go. Personal development? Possibly. I’ll think about it further when it isn’t 2am any more. Or, more likely, I’ll find something else to fangirl about in the next episode. Happy Friday, everyone.

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