Hi all. My review of “The Caretaker”, the episode 6 Doctor Who series 8, differs a bit from my other reviews. I’ve got more questions than answers.
The Doctor (Peter Capaldi) is the titular caretaker at Clara’s school, Coal Hill. Clara (Jenna Louise-Coleman) has to handle both the Doctor and her boyfriend, Danny Pink (Samuel Anderson). The episode is pretty standard monster-of-the-week stuff. The Skovox Blitzer, a robot with an arsenal that can destroy a planet, does little more than advance the plot between the characters.
The Doctor doesn’t like soldiers. Why? None of the prior Doctors displayed this hostility. Even Ten, who hated guns and disliked authority, worked with and seemed to respect soldiers. Eleven was sympathetic towards the grunts, like Cleric Bob in “The Time of Angels.” The Eighth Doctor asked to be a warrior in “The Day of the Doctor.” But Capaldi’s Doctor displays little but scorn and contempt for people like Journey Blue and Danny Pink. Why?
I think this is a more important question than it seems at first. In “Deep Breath”, the Doctor claims he wants to fix his past mistakes. Have we seen him do that? Is there any way that this Doctor seems like he’s grown as a character from Eleven? The argument I’ve seen is that he’s more mature because he’s disillusioned; instead of trying to save everyone, the Doctor saves the people he can and maintains “professional detachment” (to quote Psi).
How is this maturity? The Skovox Blitzer is a war machine in hiding. It kills a policeman early on. We know little about it beyond that. The Doctor wants to lure it to Clara’s school to dispose of it safely. Clara objects, but goes along with it. Danny accidentally interrupts the process, which causes the Doctor to go on a rant about Danny’s stupidity. In reality, this rant should be directed at the Doctor, who, aside from reckless endangerment, never thought to create a backup plan in case someone found his devices.
The Skovox Blitzer is a war machine, but that doesn’t preclude the possibility of sentience or redemption. The Doctor gives it the chance for neither. The monster reinforces the Doctor’s militant beliefs. The Doctor is so focused on destroying the threat, he ignores everything else, including:
- The Doctor created the threat by provoking the monster
- Danny’s suggestion to evacuate the school after the monster returns
- Clara’s dependence on orders to stay alive
- The Doctor only tries to negotiate when he is cornered and unarmed
Although he claims to hate soldiers, the Doctor uses the instincts of soldiers to his advantage. And the primary instinct of a soldier isn’t to kill or destroy. After seeing her with the Doctor, Danny Pink points out to Clara:
You weren’t even scared. And you should have been.
Danny questions the Doctor, and does not obey; when he comes to the rescue, it goes against the Doctor’s plan. When he questions the Doctor, he touches a more sensitive nerve than we’ve seen yet. The Doctor loses his calm because Danny salutes him and points out the obvious: the Doctor has considerable more bloodlust than any soldier we’ve met in the series. The Doctor believes that fixing his mistakes means destroying threats, not saving people.
Clara has the soldier’s instinct to obey. A warrior/murderer/psychopath is driven by bloodlust, but a soldier functions on a strict hierarchy that he or she trusts to keep them alive. Clara trusts the Doctor, so when he uses her as bait/distraction, she doesn’t question him. The Doctor uses this, and has developed a paternal attitude toward Clara because of it. He says (of Danny):
You’ve explained me to him, but you haven’t explained him to me!
Not to mention his threats to kick Clara off the TARDIS if she disobeys. More than any other Doctor I’ve seen, Twelve has deliberately turned Clara into a useful weapon/tool. Though the episode explores Clara’s relationships, she is the only character left without resolution. The Doctor has always been dangerous to be around, but now he is a bad influence for his only friend.
Which makes Missy (Michelle Gomez) much more interesting. We know little about her, though we meet her assistant, Seb (Chris Addison), who introduces the dead policeman to… somewhere. It acts as a way station, I think, a way to the Promised Land, the Afterlife, the Nethersphere, and probably more. Seb also hints that Missy is god, or god-like. She certainly shows more concern for the (mostly) nameless casualties the Doctor now ignores. Which brings me to my question:
Is the Doctor still the hero of Doctor Who? Small things say “no.” The monster-of-the-week, though common to past series, was usually the focus of the episode. Instead, the monsters are nothing compared to a Doctor more willing to take the extreme/easy option.
Other things of interest: What is a Time Lord? I thought it was a species name for the former Gallifreyans, but “Listen” and “The Caretaker” state it was a social class or rank. If you know the history (and though I’ve looked it up, I can’t find a definite answer) leave m e a comment below or tweet @hohmeisw.
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