Doctor Who Recap: “The Caretaker”
Welcome to my obsession. Look out, spoilers! All the recaps are here.
In this episode, the Doctor applies to be a caretaker (janitor/groundskeeper) at the Coal Hill School where Clara works. Apparently, the school has been around for a while. Yet another reason I wish had better recall of the old series so I could at least recognize this stuff. Maybe one day I will do an epic motherfuckin’ rewatch. I could recap everything! Like I don’t have a day job!
Anyway, let’s get rolling.
The Caretaker opens with Clara and the Doctor chained to posts in the middle of the desert.
After a brief argument about who forgot the vibrocutters and why, the scene flips to Clara rushing to a date with Danny, apologizing for her lateness. Then we see a montage of similar situations–Clara and the Doctor doing something ridiculous, then her bursting into a date like “oh hey, seaweed in my hair is totally normal.” It’s pretty fun, and a good glimpse into what it must be like to live as the Doctor’s companion while trying to have a life in the “real” world, too.
Side note: during the montage the Doctor turns to Clara and says “I hate soldiers, don’t you hate soldiers?” It’s heavy-handed writing, and unnecessary since we already know how much he hates soldiers (see: how he treated Journey Blue). I guess they’re just trying to remind us of this season-wide theme. I dislike being talked down to, but on the other hand it is supposed to be a kids’ show. I just forget that because I’m obsessed with it. Whatever.
When the montage ends, Clara walks into the TARDIS to find the Doctor being nice to her.
Doctor: You look nice. Have you had a wash?
Yes, that’s the closest he’s gotten to nice to her lately. She’s naturally suspicious. He tells her they can’t hang out, he has a thing. She is more suspicious.
Clara: You are a very clever man making the mistake common to very clever people of assuming that everyone else is stupid.
He won’t answer any questions for her. (I still don’t know why he wouldn’t tell her. My only guess is that he wanted to spy on her, see who her boyfriend was, while doing the thing.) When she leaves, the TARDIS viewscreen reveals he’s found a blinking light in East London.
Meanwhile, at Coal Hill School, the children have deduced that Danny and Clara are a *thing* and are giggling in their direction. Danny asks her why she’s always like, weird, when he sees her.
Danny: It’s like you’re trying to be mysterious. I’m not stupid you know.
Ouch, Clara caught in her own words. She promises to be focused on Danny for the next few days. The audience goes AHAHAHA YEAH RIGHT.
Next up, staff meeting. The principal introduces the new caretaker, John Smith.
Danny shakes his hand. Cue Clara panic. Cue credits.
After the credits he’s talking to the staff as they file out and they’re basically ignoring him. He’s pleased, because that way it proves he seems like a boring old human. Clara’s pissed. Danny asks if she knows him and she’s like, “what I don’t know him what are you talking about who’s him I don’t even see a person there.” Then she runs back to talk to the Doctor some more about why he’s at her school.
She asks the Doctor if there are aliens at the school but he still won’t answer her questions. She changes tactics and tells him he can’t fake being a person.
Doctor: I lived among otters once for a month. Well, I sogged. River and I, we had this big fight–
Clara: Human beings are not otters!
Doctor: Exactly. It’ll be even easier.
She makes him answer one question: are the kids safe? He says no, but they will be if she lets him do his thing. I really don’t get why he’s being so mysterious and withdrawn from her.
Scene shifts to a policeman rousting some kids cutting class. He hears a thump in an old warehouse and goes to investigate. We’re all aware this is a Bad Idea. After some back and forth between the nice policeman and what sounds like a robot, this guy appears:
He proceeds to identify the policeman as a threat, and vaporizes him. I feel genuinely sad for the policeman, especially since he didn’t get the kids in trouble earlier, just told them to go on to school. He was a nice dude.
Meanwhile, in Clara’s classroom, one of the students is reading from Pride and Prejudice. The Doctor appears on a ladder outside her window. He criticizes her board, says she has the wrong date of publication for Pride and Prejudice.
Clara: And I suppose she was your bezzy mate was she, and you went on holidays together, and then you got kidnapped by boggins from space and then you all formed a band and met Buddy Holly.
Doctor: No, I read the book. There’s a bio at the back.
Why is he bugging her if he’s supposed to be avoiding her? DON’T ASK QUESTIONS!
There follows a scene where Clara tries to figure out what the Doctor is doing while trying to avoid doing her job. People keep asking her for things and she says yes without listening, which will surely come back to bite her in the ass later. We do discover the kids using the lovely phrase “Ozzie loves the Squadie.” I could NOT figure out what they meant by Ozzie until I remembered her last name is Oswald. Duh.
The next scene, where Clara discovers Danny looking over the Doctor’s shoulder while he does electrical work on a box, is totally messed up on my recording but pretty much ends with the Doctor assuming that Danny is a P.E. teacher because he’s learned that Danny was once a soldier. Clara points out that Danny Pink looks a LOT like that time traveler they met, Orson Pink. The Doctor is distracted and doesn’t think so. He slips a little mechanism into the electrical box. She asks what he’s doing, he says no. He asks if he is the one she’s seeing (she assumes he’s talking about Danny) and she neither confirms nor denies it. No one is answering any damn questions today.
Clara and the Doctor are interrupted by another teacher. They proceed to talk about Shakespeare, which isn’t important. What’s important is what the guy looks like.
The Doctor says, “OH.” Clara says, “what?”
They walk off together, talking The Tempest and the Doctor follows them being all mooney-eyed and awkward. Clara’s like “what are you doing.” We see them walk away down the hall while he stares after them all happy and grinning like an idiot. Best. Scene. Ever. I laughed a lot.
Side note: And then I felt a little sad for him, because gah. It was a nice moment, seeing him be so pleased and so… squishy. He cares, he’s so thrilled. He feels loved, I think, in that moment and it’s sweet. When he finds out it’s not his weird replacement bow tie wearing nerd she’s dating, he’s gonna feel a little rejected. I dunno, I just like this whole thing so much, it’s so very human.
There’s some more montage of the Doctor putting his little machines all over the school. Danny is watching him do it, keeping an eye out as it were. When he’s doing some work in the TARDIS, one of the more precocious students wanders in looking for paper towels.
Doctor: Can’t you read?
Courtney: Course I can read, read what?
Doctor: The door. It says “keep out.”
Courtney: No, it says “go away humans.”
Doctor: So it does. Never lose your temper in the middle of a door sign.
The student asks a lot of questions about the TARDIS and what he was doing in it, which naturally he won’t answer because this is the episode of never answering any questions. We learn once again that he’s equally good and bad with people when he tells her humans have a short lifespan and are constantly running out of time.
Doctor: Who are you?
Courtney: I’m a disruptive influence.
Doctor: Nice to meet you, disruptive influence. I’m dad. (okay I added that last bit)
Clara appears just as the student is leaving. She makes the good point that he’s endangering the school by lurking around doing his “thing.” She’s understandably upset. He finally relents (with no real explanation why) and shows her the threat, a robot called a Skovox Blitzer. It can apparently take out the whole planet if it wants to. The Doctor has decided he needs to get rid of it, because eventually the military will discover it, try to attack it, and take out the world.
Doctor: The world is full of P.E. teachers.
Clara: *rolls eyes*
In the TARDIS, he shows her is plan. He is going to use an invisibility watch (not kidding) to lure the Blitzer to the school but also keep it from scanning him and vaporizing him. He’s set up a time vortex with his little machines. He’ll send the creature far enough into the future to not be a threat to humanity, done and done. A very clever trick, really. She suggests it might be dangerous, luring a killing machine to a school, but he assures her it’s the biggest open space nearby and he’ll do it at night when no one’s there. She offers help, he refuses it. Why? Pshhh.
Before she leaves, he tells her he really likes her boyfriend and that he reminds him of a dashing young time traveler. I laugh a lot again. Poor Clara, and poor Doctor, and poor Danny when this gets cleared up. She’s pleased he approves.
Danny asks if Clara is going to reschedule their date for the evening. She’s like, no. So he does, instead, tells her he has a “thing.” Everyone’s evasive!
In the next scene, the Doctor uses his invisibility watch and the sonic to lure the Blitzer to the school as planned. Clara shows up to help since she isn’t going out with Danny. Now that he’s explained the plan, I don’t understand why she’d risk everyone’s safety by busting in without warning him but also Clara is understandably annoyed by his mysteriousness so I’m not too butt hurt.
At the same time, Danny Pink shows up at the school. He finds one of the Doctor’s time vortex machines under a fire alarm and pulls it off, shutting the thing down. Surely that will cause no irreparable harm, right?
Comic running about in hallways culminates in the cafeteria. The Doctor discovers his vortex machines are offline, and freaks out. The Blitzer locks on and goes to fire at the Doctor but Danny comes in at the last minute with a healthy “what’s going on here,” kind of attitude.
The Blitzer turns on Danny and blows a hole in the chairs behind him only because Danny is very quick on his feet. He drops the vortex machine he has, they sync up or whatever and bam, the vortex opens. It sucks everything around toward it, including the Blitzer and Danny. Thankfully, Clara shows up and keeps Danny from getting sucked in.
Eventually the Doctor gets the vortex closed and everyone is okay. However, the vortex was out of alignment and only sent the Blitzer three days into the future rather than a billion years. Doh.
The Doctor is seriously pissed off, and goes on a very healthy rant about how P.E. teachers shouldn’t mess with higher technology and focus on the offside rule and things. Danny freaks, because you know, space alien and time vortex.
Danny: Clara, why are you talking to him like that? Why are you using words like “chronodyne?” Was that thing a space thing? Oh my god, you’re from space. You’re a space woman. You said you were from Blackpool.
Clara: It’s a play! For the summer fete.
Doctor: It’s a what?
Clara: Yes It’s a play, shut up, it is a play.We are rehearsing a play. Shh. A surprise play (she goes on, awkwardly).
Danny: How stupid do you think I am?
Doctor: I’m willing to put a number on it.
Danny: I’m not a moron, Clara. He’s not the caretaker. He’s… your dad. Your space dad.
SPACE DAD. The Doctor decides to erase Danny’s memory but Clara intervenes–maybe don’t erase my boyfriend’s memory? The Doctor says Danny isn’t her boyfriend, she says yes he is and and also hadn’t you figured this out before?
Doctor: But he’s a P.E. teacher, you wouldn’t go out with a P.E. teacher. It’s a mistake. You’ve made a boyfriend error.
Ugh, I have so made a boyfriend error in the past. Anyway, she says she loves him, and right there you see the Doctor’s heart break just a little.
Side note: It isn’t because he wants her to love him romantically. He isn’t about that. But that good feeling he had earlier when he saw the Matt Smith lookalike, gets ruined here. It’s just… sad. I think part of the anger and the mean bullshit is about him being painfully lonely. I was thinking about how long he spent on Trenzalore basically alone, because he sent Clara away and the townspeople were not companion material. He was so lonely, he talked to a Cyberman head ffs.
Anyway, they go on fighting like this, which is sadly not giving Danny the best impression of the Doctor. In fact, no one this season has had a great impression of the Doctor. Clara tries to explain the Doctor and what they do together, but it’s sort of hard to explain all at once. We all get an indirect lesson in lying to our partners, I hope.
Sensibly, Danny suggests they evacuate the school and call the Army. This is the opposite of what the Doctor wants and so it makes him even more angry and now everyone is angry instead of not answering questions. The Doctor demands an explanation for Clara’s interest in Danny. He’s back to being a dick. Cool.
Alone, Danny and Clara talk over her lies, and his disappointment. It’s pretty painful. Danny asks her if she loves the Doctor. She says no. He tells her she’s lying. She says fine yes but not in “that way.”
Danny: Why do you fly off in the box with him?
Clara: Because it’s amazing. Because I see wonders.
Clara: What are you thinking?
Danny: That’s a good question. It’s funny, you only really know what someone thinks of you when you know what lies they’ve told you. You say you’ve seen amazing things and you kept them secret. From me. So what do you think of me, Clara?
He asks to know who she is when she’s with the Doctor, not what she’s chosen to show him. In a bizarre and inexplicable twist, she decides to show him by giving him the invisibility watch. I have no idea why this seems like a good idea. More lying should not really be the plan, but what do I know? Why does Danny go along with this dumb plan?
In any case, she takes invisible Danny on the TARDIS and the Doctor knows he’s there basically immediately. Before that though, he mentions that he needs 24 hours to fix the next thingy to defeat the Blitzer. Why he doesn’t use his time machine to get some extra time for this project, we do not know. Do not ask questions.
Once the Doctor is on to them. Danny reveals himself and they have a really fascinating interchange. Danny starts referring to the Doctor as an officer, saluting and telling him yes, sir and no, sir. It’s a great perspective, two sides of a coin. The Doctor hates soldiers, Danny hates officers. The Doctor winds up “dismissing” Danny in a shouting match, like an officer would.
Danny: Look at him right now. That’s who he is. That’s who he really is.
Danny leaves and Clara, after a deep, sad-eyed look at the doctor, goes after him.
Doctor: Humans. I never learn.
Before he can leave the planet to die in an angry fit, Courtney the Disruptive Influence shows up. She asks him what’s in the box, and the Doctor ends up showing her. She asks if she can go in space, he says maybe later. Something about her curiosity and her pluck reminds him, I think, how much he likes humans. He’s stuck with us, even when we’re pudding heads. He can’t quit us. Etc.
At the school, it’s parents’ night. Parents’ night, a bad time to have a surprise visit from a Blitzer who can vaporize people, is promptly interrupted by the early appearance of the Blitzer. As Danny and Clara are discussing Courtney’s disruptive influence, they see the Doctor waving at them from outside the door. They both end their conferences and head out.
The Doctor has strapped on his Blitzer-beating contraption like a backpack. I feel this is important to note.
The Doctor tells them the Blitzer is here early. Danny again sensibly suggests they evacuate. The Doctor tells him to shut up and leave them alone, even when Danny calls him out for using Clara as a decoy.
Side note: What I like about the Doctor is that usually he trusts his companions to take care of themselves. When he really thinks they can’t handle something, he’ll tell them but he usually lets them participate even when it’s dangerous. Like they’re actually people with their own agency. It’s nice to see that, especially when it’s women doing the dangerous stuff.
Clara taunts the Blitzer into following her and goes running down various school hallways toward the TARDIS. Danny sees her go by, and goes after her. The Doctor is by the TARDIS frantically trying to get the machine on his back online, then begins to speak to the Blitzer through the machine. It reads him as his supervisor, and the Doctor instructs him to shut down.
Without the right “access code” for supervisor, the Blitzer refuses to shut down and instead starts its self destruct sequence. The Doctor asks Clara to distract it but there’s a count of ten and before she can do anything, Danny shows up having used the invisible watch to sneak inside. He distracts the Blitzer by doing this cool flip over his head (I would also be distracted by that).
By the time he lands the Doctor has figured out the command and aborts the auto destruct sequence. The Blitzer shuts down, the world is saved.
Danny tells Clara he was behind her every step of the way, making sure she was safe. He says the Doctor is angry just in case he’s not good enough for her. The Doctor agrees, and says that saving the world is “a good start.”
We see the Doctor take Courtney the Disruptive Influence up into space. She barfs in the TARDIS. He’s pretty much like “yep.”
Clara and Danny are curled up in front of the television. Danny tells Clara he had superior officers like the Doctor before, ones that push you to be your best but sometimes that’s not good for you. He also says she should have been more afraid, running from the Blitzer. She says she trusts the Doctor, and that he’s never let her down. Danny makes her promise that if the Doctor ever pushes her too far, she’ll tell him. He tells her if she breaks that promise, they’re finished. He can’t help someone who won’t tell him the truth. She agrees.
Side note: It’s nice and all, but also… maybe she doesn’t need your help, Danny Pink. Maybe she’s done just fine so far on her own? I am vaguely annoyed. But I also agree she should probably stop lying to a guy she says she loves. Also I’ve been in the position of defending one friend to another, and it’s a shitty position. Being between these two is not the coolest place for her. I hope he’s supportive going forward, but the Doctor is being a huge jerk a lot lately and honestly if that were my friend’s friend, I’d be concerned too. Meh. Psi handled it better.
The show is over, except wait! The nice policeman is back, sitting in a white hallway talking to a guy wearing all white about his encounter with the Blitzer.
Eventually he realizes he can’t remember how he escaped and things get awkward. They have some “you’re actually dead” conversation. The man in white offers him a look out the window (but not us). The policeman says “my god.” The man in white looks up to see our weird Mary Poppins garden lady Missy come out of a door. Then he turns back to the policeman and says “She’s busy today.”
Until next week–SPACE DAD.
(screencaps from http://kissthemgoodbye.net/)