Recap: ‘Doctor Who’ – ‘The Caretaker’ shouldn’t quit his day job

Deputy Entertainment Editor
09.27.14

BBC

Last week, Twelve and Clara went on an old-school high stakes bank robbery with a cybernetic human and a mutant human. As you do. The big takeaways were the Doctor hates himself – still – and he is actively competing with Danny for Clara”s affections. Not in a “the Doctor wants to shag Clara” way but in a “the Doctor needs to be the most important person, always and forever” kind of way.

This week”s episode is called “The Caretaker” and seems more character driven. Off we go!

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Whiplash. That is the only way to describe what is happening here. The Doctor and Clara are chained to obelisks in an alien desert. They are going to be eaten by Sand Piranhas. But somehow they escape in time for Clara”s date with Danny. “Tan,” he remarks. 

Twelve entices Clara on an adventure to see fish people. Danny is asking Clara why she”s wet and covered in seaweed. (Girl, what are you doing? The TARDIS is a time machine. Put your clothes through the dryer and take a shower. It”s not like you were going to be late!) 

The Doctor and Clara are on the run, chased by an army with laser guns. “I hate soldiers, don”t you?” Twelve hedges. Danny is at Clara”s door, asking if she”s ready to run. 

“I can”t keep doing this.” Clara is exhausted and defeated by trying to live a double life. Being pulled in two different directions by the men in her life. A theme Whovians have watched play out before. But she rallies herself in the mirror. Of course she can keep doing this, ad infinitum! Denial is definitely not just a river in Egypt. 

Present day: Despite entering the TARDIS from inside her own apartment, Twelve seems surprised to see Clara. He”s being…weird. Nice? He says she looks lovely today. Something is up. There will be no adventure today. THEN WHY ARE YOU IN HER HOUSE?!

The Doctor has got a thing, a mysterious thing (is that what he calls it?), a thing involving going deep undercover. Clara calls him on making the mistake of clever people, by thinking everyone else is stupid. She laughs at the idea of him trying to be stealthy and undercover and…they engage in a snap-off with the TARDIS doors!

Awww, Sexy upgraded herself. And I guess she”s cool with Clara now? Maybe she just didn”t trust her when she was the Impossible Girl, and therefore,an unknown quantity?

Clara finally goes but does the universal signal for “I”m watching you.” The camera pivots and we see a screen on the TARDIS. The danger is coming from East London. Dun dun dunnnnn.

The next day at school, Clara realizes the students are on to her and Danny. Because they”re kids, not idiots. Danny wants to know if she”s okay because he is also not stupid and most of the time when he sees her, she”s spaced out. Clara apologizes, says she”s had a thing but the thing is gone and she”s all his now. I wonder if Clara realizes exactly how much she sounds like the Doctor? I”m guessing no, since she”s taken off-guard by the fact she just had the same conversation about cleverness with her boyfriend, only with her in the role of Twelve and Danny calling her out.

After the morning teacher”s meeting, the principal introduces the temporary custodian. To the surprise of no one (except Clara), it”s the Doctor. He introduces himself as the caretaker John Smith, and not for the last time I wonder if maybe that”s really his true name. You know what they say. If you want to hide something, keep it in plain sight. 

Everyone says hello, except Ms. Oswald, who is too busy trying to wipe the look of “Are you bloody serious right now?” off her face. As the rest of the staff vacates, the Doctor not-so-subtly brags that no one is paying him any mind, therefore he must be coming across as a completely normal human. Hahaha, Clara is such the audience insert. She mouths “What the hell are you doing?” as Twelve shuts the door in her face. 

Pfft, like that”s going to stop her. Danny truly isn”t stupid and can tell they know each other but Clara gives him the slip, and goes back to give Twelve hell. He can”t believe she saw through his deep cover disguise…which is a different coat. Clara is having none of this shit. After ascertaining the Doctor didn”t hurt the real Caretaker, she”s on the truth like genre savvy sidekick. If the Doctor is here, there is danger at the school. Alien danger. 

Wow. There is so much backstory just casually being dropped this season. Twelve just told an anecdote about how he lived with otters for a month after he and River had a huge fight. Which means at some point, off-screen, the Doctor and River lived together. Like a normal married couple. Long enough for them to have a month-long fight in which she threw him out of the house. Or the TARDIS? Tell me more, Capaldi!

But he doesn”t tell me more. Instead we get two kids from Clara”s school playing video games outside a spooky house. Luckily a police officer shoos them away. But oh no, a noise! The cop thinks one of the kid”s is playing hooky inside and goes to investigate. Obviously, he is about to die.

Mannequins, why did it have to be mannequins? Oh phew, they”re just a shout-out to Eccleston”s first episode. Instead it”s Robo-Garrus! And the cop thinks the cybernetic noises are from a video game and now he”s vaporized. Poor, doomed Red Shirt. 

Clara is teaching English. Because she is an English teacher. Interestingly, the room is pretty stark with only a whiteboard. So either she works at an underfunded school or the British educational system isn”t as keen on electronic chalkboards as America. Suddenly, the Doctor! He appears outside her window with suspicious wires and seems just as shocked to see her.

Because he can”t help himself, the Doctor points out Clara has the wrong date on the board. Jane Austen wrote “Pride and Prejudice” in 1796, not 1797. In a rage, Clara makes up a fake story about Twelve and Jane Austen being friends and starting a band with Buddy Holly and now I really want that to happen.

Class is over and Clara is off after Twelve to ascertain the nature of the danger. But she keeps getting delayed by other humans. By the time she gets to Twelve, it too late. Danny and Doctor have met. Adrian – who looks like budget Matt Smith – is singing Danny”s praises at being good with wires after five years military experience in Afghanistan. Meanwhile Twelve is messing with an electrical box and being as rude as humanly possible to Mr. Pink. The Doctor cannot reconcile a man being a soldier and a teacher of math. Danny has the patience of saint, continues to repeat he is a math teacher, not a P.E. teacher. From the look on his face, Danny can”t tell if the Doctor is insulting him or just senile.

After Danny finally leaves, Clara tries to jog Twelve”s memory about Colonel Orson Pink but the Doctor is being purposefully obtuse. Or he”s actually going senile. Instead he changes the subject to that of Clara”s boyfriend to distract her from the fact he”s putting a mechanical device on the electrical wires. Then, through a series of unfortunate miscommunications, comes to believe Clara is dating Adrian. Because of course he would think Clara is dating a poor copy of his former self.

Doctor, you arrogant shit.

Cue a straight up Scooby-Doo montage. The Doctor is putting more mechanical devices on things as he spies on Clara. Danny spies on the Doctor. Clara tries not to spy on anyone and just get on with the business of being a teacher.

Of course, while all the adults are busy playing at super spy, one of the kids actually makes a discovery. Courtney stumbles upon the TARDIS hiding in the Caretaker”s office because of course a teenager isn”t going to pay attention to a “Keep Out” sign. Much less a “Go Away Humans” sign. The Doctor is able to shoo her off, but I”d bet good money she ends up going for a spin in the TARDIS as hush money later. 

Just as Courtney leaves, Clara appears. She wants to know if the other Companions let the Doctor get away with this kind of shit. Twelve is endangering the school and won”t tell her what the plan is. That means he knows she wouldn”t approve of the plan. The guilt trip works and the Doctor finally relents. He”s been putting up scanners to find a Scovox Blizter, one of the most deadly killing machines in the galaxy. Basically it”s Garrus from “Mass Effect” grafted onto the body of a Spiderdemon from “Doom.” Otherwise known as terrifying. 

Clara wants to know what the plan is. It”s simple. We kill the Batman. Wait…it”s simple. The Doctor wears a watch of invisibility, let”s the Robo-Garrus pick up his scent, and leads it back to the school to use the Time Mines he placed all over the grounds to explode the bad guy billions of years into the future. Bob”s your uncle and it”s all over. The Doctor doesn”t even need Clara so she is free to go canoodle with her boyfriend.

Hahahaha, oh man this is going to blow up spectacularly when Twelve”s ego gets crushed. But for now, Clara is just happy the Doctor likes Danny…even if he doesn”t.

Freed from being a Time Lord babysitter for the night, Clara bumps into Danny outside. He asks why she”s wearing “I”m going to cancel frown” and can I just say how adorable it is that he knows her facial expressions that well? Because it is. But in a role reversal, Danny actually has to cancel because he has a thing. 

Everyone on this show is keeping secrets. EVERY. ONE.

Clara says it”s cool and we get a great visual of Danny walking through the messed up life-sized chessboard on the playground. Which is apt since his “thing” to do that night was take down all the Time Mines the Doctor placed around the school. I can”t even blame Danny because they look like bombs and as a soldier/teacher, Mr. Pink”s first responsibility is to keep the kids safe.

Meanwhile, the Doctor is at the spooky house where Robo-Garrus is still chilling. For a murderbot, he seems pretty content to just hang out and wait for victims to come to him. Unless they smell like a Time Lord. Despite being invisible, the Robo-Garrus can pick up the Doctor”s heat signature from his footprints and the chase is on!

We get our second Scooby-Doo moment of the episode as the Robo-Garrus chases the Doctor while Clara and Danny miss each other by seconds, also looking for the Doctor. Danny catches sight of the murderbot rampaging through the halls and follows after just in time to see the Doctor”s plan fall apart because Mr. Pink disarmed the Time Mines. And placed them in a circle of plastic chairs in the auditorium because reasons? Are we going to play deadly musical chairs?

The new arrival draws Robo-Garrus”s attention and Danny dives out of the way as it opens fire. However, the distraction gives the Doctor time to get one of the Time Mines operational and a rip in space/time opens. Of course this is the exact moment Clara rushes in. She keeps her boyfriend from getting sucked into the future with the Robo-Garrus and within seconds it”s all over. In more ways than one.

Danny”s seen too much. 

Instantly the Doctor is pissed at Danny for deactivating the bombs. Um, wait. Go back. How does the Doctor know that Danny did it? He could”ve just been wandering through as an innocent passerby. Whatever. Danny is unapologetic about trying to keep a creepy Caretaker from placing suspicious looking bombs all over the school grounds. But more importantly, did Clara see the thing?! 

Yes, Clara saw the thing. Danny is not crazy. It only takes a minute for Mr. Pink to put two and two together. Clara stalls for time by trying to pass everything off as a play for the school but Danny is just insulted she thinks he”s that stupid. Good for him. He then comes to a most logical conclusion. Clara is an alien and John Smith is her dad.

The Doctor and Clara are equally appalled. The Doctor because how dare Danny think someone as dashing as himself was the father of someone as old as Clara? And Clara because…actually I don”t know why she”s appalled because it fits the dynamic they”ve had this season. 

Not that it matter. Danny has seen more than he should and the Doctor is going to “Men In Black” his memory away. But Clara stops him. Danny is her boyfriend and the Doctor will not be meddling with his brain. Twelve is confused. Surely Clara has made a boyfriend error. She wouldn”t date a P.E. teacher. Or a soldier. The Doctor berates her so hard, Clara is backed into a Disney Princess moment.

“Because I love him!” she declares, right before King Triton blows up a life-sized statue of Danny.

Well that did it. The men are stunned into silence. But not for long. Danny still wants – and deserves – an explanation. Clara obliges. The Doctor is an alien, but she”s still from Blackpool. They travel through time and space. The Doctor shows off the TARDIS and we get the iconic “It”s bigger on the inside” line.

But Mr. Pink doesn”t have much time to be impressed. The school is in danger. The Doctor said the Robo-Garrus will be back in 74 hours. They need to evacuate the area and call in the army, a plan Twelve is adamantly against. Clara is forced to play intermediary and get the boys to stop fighting. I genuinely hope this is not the dynamic they”re setting up for the season but merely a blip as they all figure out how to live together. 

Back at an apartment (I can”t tell if it”s Danny”s or Claire”s), Danny asks the most important questions. Does Clara love the Doctor? She says not like that but how is Danny supposed to believe her when she”s been lying since they met? He asks why she even goes and she tells him “Because it”s amazing. Because I see wonders.” To which he repsonds, “You only know what someone thinks of you when you find out the lies they”ve told you.”

Would you like some ice for that burn, Ms. Oswald?

To prove to Danny that she is the same person with the Doctor that she is with him, Clara gives Danny the invisibility watch. Wait, when did she get that? Whatever. Cloaked in invisibility, she let”s Danny into the the TARDIS to watch her interact with the Doctor. It goes about as well as to be expected. This nonsense would stop if everyone stopped assuming everyone else is an idiot.

The Doctor senses Danny, who drops the disguise. It comes out that Twelve is a Time Lord and Danny is all “Ah ha! You can always spot the aristocracy!” To get under Twelve”s skin, Danny starts barking responses like a good soldier and it almost comes to blows as Mr. Pink delivers the scathing line, “I”m a soldier. He”s an officer. I”m the one who carries you out of the fire. He”s the one who lights it.” Clara looks like she”s going to cry. 

After they leave, the Doctor is once again introduced to Courtney Woods. In a fit of spite, he explains to her what the TARDIS is and says he”ll call her if he has any vacancies. Yep. She”s getting a ride through time/space later.

Despite the window of 74 hours, Robo-Garrus makes his appearance the very next night. During Parent”s Night. Clara and Danny manage to escape their duties and run off to help the Doctor. Twelve gives Clara the sonic screwdriver(!) and tells her to use it to distract the murderbot. Danny is 800% not okay with using Clara as bait, but she doesn”t even blink an eye before endangering herself.  The Doctor yells at Danny to get lost and not interfere and I swear Danny is going to punch a Time Lord in his smarmy, aristocratic face before the season is over.

Robo-Garrus chases Clara back to the Caretaker”s room but the Doctor doesn”t have his new plan ready yet. Explosions! Clara dodges but is in serious danger of being destroyed at the hands of a one-off monster of the week when phew, the Doctor”s device is ready.

It looks like a Ghostbuster proton pack, but is in fact a voice modulator to make Twelve sound like a Robo-Garrus general. There”s just one problem. He doesn”t know the final override code to shut it down and now it”s going to self-destruct and kill everyone! Suddenly, Danny Pink and his amazing parkour to the rescue! The Robo-Garrus is once again distracted long enough for the Doctor to remember the override code and save humanity from imminent doom.

Huzzah!

With the danger over, Danny let”s Clara know he put the invisibility watch back on and followed her every step of the way to make sure she was safe. Awwww. As he gives the watch back to the Doctor he”s even like, “I don”t need him to like me,” because he knows Twelve is TOTALLY her surrogate dad and just wants to make sure Danny is good enough for Clara.

Apparently saving the world is a good start.

As things begin to wrap up, Courtney Woods gets her inevitable spin in the TARDIS. She gets space-sick and vomits. Sexy is not amused.

Danny has a serious talk with Clara about serving under men like the Doctor. Men who push you to do better, to be your best self. But they also push you to feel no fear and fear is a good thing. Danny says he”s there for her when Twelve finally pushes too far and now I”m wondering what is coming down the pipe that will push Clara past the breaking point.

We end with our poor, doomed police officer who was gunned down by Robo-Garrus. He”s being interviewed by a new “Heaven/Nethersphere” representative and honestly I”m just grateful this plot thread picked back up. The officer panics after looking outside. “Oh my God,” he says. Just then, the lady “Heaven” greeter appears and the new greeter says, “Sorry, she”s a bit busy today.”

Oh, shit. 

So what did you guys think? How do you think Danny and the Doctor”s relationship will shake out? Who is the Victorian “Heaven” lady really? And was Courtney a one-off plot thread?

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