Doctor Who – The Caretaker Review (or “Oh The Humanity Of It All”)

Apologies for not getting to this review sooner folks, but I was knackered last night by the time Doctor Who had finished and knew that if I’d started writing in that state my review would be crap.

So after a reasonable night’s sleep and a second viewing on iPlayer, I’m in the right frame of mind to review the sixth episode of the latest season, The Caretaker.

Doctor Who – The Caretaker Review: What’s This One About?

Relationships, human drama, a regenerating school and a killer robot that is very much an afterthought.

Thoughts – Oh The Humanity Of It All

Sorry to keep returning to my thoughts on fandom, but something occurred to me last night as I checked out viewers opinions on Twitter and Facebook.

He's obviously enquiring about a Dead Aunt

He’s obviously enquiring about a Dead Aunt

As you would expect, the very first reactions were negative. I say “expect” because it’s the most negative people who generally feel they have to get their opinions across within 47 seconds of the show finishing. Anyway, in amongst the usual “Moffat must go!” and “This is the worse (sic) episode ever” type tweets, I noticed some people suggesting that the main problem with The Caretaker was that it focused too much on human relationships instead of the Doctor’s battle against the monster of the week.

Now that’s fair enough; if people watch the show for that reason then they will most likely have been disappointed, because like I say above, this week’s alien threat was an afterthought. Beyond killing a policeman, and in spite of being trumpeted as a threat so powerful it could destroy the entire world, The Blitzer (and I actually had to look up its name, despite watching the episode twice in the last 12 hours, such was its insignificance) was easily defeated twice and without any fuss. It certainly won’t be remembered by the masses 40 years from now.

But to me, that’s not a problem. Long term readers of my reviews (*hint* and if you’re not a long-term reader, you can rectify that by buying my e-book *hint*) will know that I’ve always been of the belief that the show does not have to be about the monsters and should focus on other areas from time to time.

So I was happy with it, and to be fair, from looking again at fan reaction it appears that the majority agree with me.

This is one story where the alien threat didn’t need to be anything other than an afterthought.

I like that this was an episode that expanded upon Clara’s relationship with Danny Pink and finally moved their story arc forward by having the Doctor and Danny meet at long last. I also like that it developed both Clara and Danny more as characters. If you remember my main criticism of Clara last year, it was that she was an empty vessel; a character without a character, so to speak. Now that has been fully addressed and she’s fast turning into one of the most developed characters to ever travel with the Doctor.

And while I found the clashes between the Doctor and Danny a little forced at times – with their initial reactions to each other laid on so thick that nobody could miss the “I don’t like soldier/I don’t like officers” angle they were going for – it succeeded in moving

Mon then!!

Mon then!!

the season along nicely.

On the whole then, I’m happy with it.

And I enjoyed it to. It isn’t just that it was a creatively satisfying box-ticker of an episode; it engaged me, I found it funny and I enjoyed the viewing experience.

Bravo!

But to get back to what occurred to me, with people moaning about what Doctor Who should be about, rather than what it currently is about, it made me wonder what the social media reaction would have been to Season 7 of the show back in 1970. Nowadays people consider it one of the best and most consistent of all, but it was a massive change to the format at the time. Were people upset at the time? And do the people who get upset about the show now consider that over its 51 years, the show has switched gears a fair amount? Because if they don’t, then they should.

The Mystery of Coal Hill School

Coal Hill School confuses me.

I can't get my head around this school. It's in both a built up urban area and seemingly the countryside

I can’t get my head around this school. It’s in both a built up urban area and seemingly the countryside

I could be deliberately anal about it and say that it’s not the same school they used in Remembrance of the Daleks or even – it would appear – in Day of the Doctor last year, but I won’t. I won’t even say that it might be a school that can regenerate, because even if it could, that still wouldn’t be as confusing as Grange Hill suddenly upping sticks and moving to a completely different city.

No, what confuses me about it is that if appears to be a school set in an urban area on one side, hemmed in to an established, built up part of London that could not possibly have changed in decades or even centuries, and yet on the other side it looks as though it’s situated in the open space of the countryside, with vast areas of green and roaming play areas.

I just don’t understand it.

Nor, incidentally, do I understand the chess board in the corridor. Surely that would have been vandalised or at the very least be missing some pieces? It would have been in my school and I went to a “posh” one at a time before every second child had ADHD.

Random Observations

  • Once again, Peter Capaldi is just tremendous. Everything about him – and how he is written – is a joy. He just makes poor old Matt Smith seem incredibly crap in comparison. Long may Capaldi reign.
  • The scene where the policeman is killed by The Blitzer is actually quite grim for a show like Doctor Who. Even in these desensitized times, the sight of a severed and smoking hand falling to the ground is pretty strong imagery.
  • It’s often said by people who have an agenda, that the CGI and special effects in Doctor Who pale in comparison to those used on US TV shows, especially the big ones. Well I’d point anyone who thinks that in the direction of the newest episode of one of US TV’s biggest shows, Grey’s Anatomy. The scene with the helicopter trying to land on the roof was terrible compared to any effect seen on Who in the last few years.
  • I can’t look at the guy playing the Headmaster without thinking about his cameo in that episode of Coupling where he plays the guy smoking outside. If you’ve seen it, you know what I’m talking about #DeadAunt.
  • The PE teacher stuff went on a bit long for my liking, and I didn’t think it was particularly funny either. The rest of the comedy was great – especially the way the Doctor accidentally thought Clara was going out with the Matt Smith look-a-like – but that stuff left me cold.
  • It would appear that the school only had three teachers at parents evening, and two of them were English teachers.
  • That jumper the Doctor was wearing is awful.
  • This is the second story in a row that I could see Sylvester McCoy starring in. Of course, there wouldn’t be comedy; instead, the Seventh Doctor would be lying to Ace about the reason for being there, while Ace would have confronted some demon from her childhood. You know…like all the McCoy stories with Ace.
  • I weep for the death of the English language. Anyone who says “Bezzie Mates” needs a slap.
  • I didn’t realise soldiers were all Olympic Gymnasts too, or is that just another one of Danny Pink’s talents?
  • Outside of The Thick of It, Chris Addison’s acting style gets on my nerves.
  • And I only just remembered that since they were both in The Thick of It, if he has any scenes with Capaldi, it’ll be a reunion. Hopefully Peter can refrain from telling him to “Fuck Off”
  • First mention – I think – of the Incidental Music this season. I thought it was pretty good last night.

Doctor Who – The Caretaker Review: Final Thoughts

So it’s another strong story in a season which looks like it’ll be remembered as one of the best in a long time.

Hopefully I’ve not jinxed it now that I’ve said that, but anyway…

The Caretaker is all about character development and moving the season further along. I’m happy with that, and I enjoyed it.

It really is as simple as that.

Hey, it’s time for me to spam by book – Stuart Reviews Doctor Who – Part One: The Classic Era. Have you bought it yet? If not, why not? Get it here

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8 Responses to Doctor Who – The Caretaker Review (or “Oh The Humanity Of It All”)

  1. I didn’t really enjoy this one. I’ve no problem with character-focused drama in Doctor Who, but a good amount of the characterisation is either too forced or simply not believable enough – perhaps influenced by the fact that Gareth Roberts’ stories rarely ever hit the mark with me, though, and this is, if nothing else, a step up from the abysmal “Closing Time”.

    So from my perspective, this is the first real clunker of the series, which is disappointing; I didn’t go in to this one with high hopes, but still came out underwhelmed by what was a weak and unmemorable plot.

  2. Rob says:

    Honestly, if I had a coin for every time I’ve seen a “Moffat must go” comment or other massively hyperbolic comments on FaceBook, Twitter and YouTube I’d be a billionaire.

  3. Slavin Ivanov says:

    I agree with pretty much everything you say on the review. The monster was an afterthought, obviously, but the parts with Capaldi goofing around were a delight. This season is definitely stronger than most of the previous once, I would say.
    On a related note, next week’s episode looks promising. Moon stories are such a rarity on Doctor Who, aren’t they?
    🙂

  4. George Dolley says:

    While I agree that an episode with more of a focus on characters than monsters isn’t a bad thing, I dislike how they flippantly say things like “one of the most dangerous machines in the universe” if they’re going to have it as an afterthought. They should have just let it speak for itself with the killing of the policeman without trying to hype it up only to shove it aside.

    I also feel like something was a bit hit and miss, I think due to the script. Things like the P.E teacher thing that went on too long, odd elements such as the lack of teachers for a huge school, and Danny’s ridiculous flip (Jump through the air by all means, but a flip just felt silly), and particularly Danny’s interaction with The Doctor felt weird. Did The Doctor just forget about the fact that he too was a soldier once?

  5. Perry Armstrong says:

    It seemed weird the Doctor having such a hard time accepting a former soldier could become a maths teacher, given that this was exactly the career path of his BFF, the Brigadier!

  6. Simon marshall says:

    Although i found the episode and the series on general worth watching I don’t like the latest incarnation of the doctor at all. At least david tenants doctor portrayed the unfriendly harsh doctor in an amenable way. Maybe it’s just his natural charm and unless the writers and the BBC and deliberately trying to turn doctor who into something for diehard fans only because from reading online Capaldicis probably the least popular doctor of them all and I will have have to seriously consider whether it’s actually worth watching anymore

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