This week’s Doctor Who allowed The Doctor, Clara and Danny Pink to finally meet on equal terms. There was plenty of opportunity for comedy as a sense of vaudeville took over from some of the more frightening moments seen in previous episodes.
An incredibly fun-filled earth-bound adventure, laugh out loud moments came thick and fast in ‘The Caretaker’. The opening sequence gives us some idea of the number of unseen jaunts The Doctor and Clara have had (the revelation sand piranhas exist drew a great double-take from Jenna Coleman) and we started to understand more the struggle Clara has been having burning the candle at both ends, including suddenly having a tan when she hadn’t earlier in the ‘day’ or having to go on a run with Danny after already being chased by some off-screen alien threat. These are great touches from writers Steven Moffat and Gareth Roberts, suggesting the scope of The Doctor and Clara’s travel but also helping us to understand how the relationship between Clara and Danny has grown.
Back at Coal Hill School, The Doctor has sensed an alien threat but is determined to sort it himself. As he goes hilariously ‘undercover’ as the caretaker of the title (‘John Smith’s the name… but most people just call me The Doctor’), Clara tries to juggle finding out what he is up to with assuaging Danny’s immediate suspicion of the new caretaker and preparing for the impending Parents’ Evening. Queue aping at windows, interrupted lessons and more of the snappy, sarcastic arguments that are coming to define the 12th Doctor.
The balance of conflict between whatever The Doctor is up to (the plan seems to involve little more than sticking his ‘chronodynes’ everywhere and hoping for the best, but it doesn’t really matter) and Clara’s frustration at being caught between lives is brilliantly realised. The recurrent theme of ‘soldiers taking orders’ was turned nicely on its head when Danny correctly pointed out that he may well be a solider, but The Doctor is an Officer – the one who sends the troops off to die or fight. The animosity between the two characters was effective and believable. Although by the end of the episode they reached an entente of sorts when they realised they both want to ‘take care’ of their worlds and Clara, I imagine we’re going to see them clash again before long.
Another significant moment could be found in the appearance, after a two week absence, of ‘Heaven’, this time manned by Chris Addison with the mysterious ‘Missy’ otherwise engaged. The CSO officer killed by the largely redundant Skovox Blitzer (completely ruining my ongoing theory, by the way) was clearly impressed by whatever he was shown through the utilitarian blinds.
While it is still possible to raise concerns about some of the plot holes peppering this series so far, the simplicity of ‘The Caretaker’ was a refreshing change. Admittedly, the presence of the Blitzer and the threat it posed took a back seat but with the relationships between Clara, The Doctor and Danny now out in the open, there is a real sense this series is starting to set out its pieces for something major that will continue to build over the coming weeks.
Doctor Who Continues on Saturday on BBC ONE.