Sunday, September 28, 2014

Hey! Teacher! Leave Those Kids Alone!

Recap/Review of Doctor Who, Series 8 Episode 6: "The Caretaker" - SPOILERS!

Well... I didn't get that Ian Chesterton cameo (rats!) Other than that - this was a lovely episode.

One thing that I've noticed people getting a bit miffed about in recent Doctor Who is that the monsters seem to be taking a back seat to the characters and their stories. To me, that's actually one of the great strengths of the show, particularly in the Steven Moffat-era. Not that I wasn't interested in the characters in the Russell T Davies years, but Moffat's characters seem to be even more real. Especially juxtaposed next to the utterly bonkers adventures that they find themselves in. It's one of the things that I adore about fantasy and science fiction in general - when the stories are so steeped in the fantastical, but the characters still feel like they could be real people (even when one is an alien with two hearts and eyebrows that are threatening to declare independence from the rest of his face. Sorry, Scotland - I had to throw that in there).

By design, "The Caretaker" is meant to show us Clara trying to balance her real life with her Doctor life. Even more than Amy and Rory got the chance to do in "The Power of Three" (which, that is one of my all-time favorite episodes with the Ponds) - because we are essentially in the middle of Clara's story with the Doctor (at least, I hope so *not saying nothing - stupid rumor mill*). She is going on all these madcap adventures, but in the meantime she's got a job and a guy that she really likes and a life that she is still figuring out at this stage. And this episode's opening sequence shows that really well - also shows that Danny Pink is most certainly twigging to the fact that this girl that he really likes is also a bit strange. But he goes along with it because, dammit, he really likes her! (and she likes him too).

I enjoy these slice-of-life stories for the companions. I love delving into what traveling with the Doctor does to them and to their loved ones. And I love how creative these kinds of stories have gotten since the 2005 revival. It's not just "my daughter has been missing for a year" anymore. It's "here's my ordinary life - oh, the TARDIS is here! Doctor Time!" and feeling like you have to keep that a secret from the people you care about. Either because it's too weird to try to explain, or because it's too dangerous.

So when the danger invades Clara's very ordinary and safe life at school, what does she do? How does she keep her secrets without alienating Danny or the Doctor. This story is quite unique in that not only has Clara been keeping her Doctor life secret from Danny, but she's also kept the fact that she has a boyfriend secret from the Doctor. I love that aspect of the story - that Clara has these two people that she cares about in very different, but still meaningful, ways and she's essentially had to lie to both of them about various things. And it turns out that those secrets and lies were very unnecessary because both the Doctor and Danny care about her and are willing to listen to her when it comes time for those secrets to be revealed. Not saying that they're particularly happy that she lied, but once the truth is out, it's out. And it's time to deal with it, instead of being angry about Clara having hidden it.

In the end, the alien threat (which I don't even remember its name and it really doesn't matter) only serves to bring the weird space stuff into Clara's normal life and give the Doctor a reason to come to Coal Hill School under his version of "deep cover" (*snort* Right....) And these events move Danny and Clara's relationship further, as evidenced by their conversation at the end - where Danny admits that he wants to help Clara with whatever she needs because he cares about her a lot. But he can't help her if he doesn't know what's going on. To me, that is the best way of showing how two people care about each other. Don't get me wrong - I loved Clara's impassioned "I love him!" in the assembly-room-thing. But Danny's comment that he wants Clara to tell him if something in her life with the Doctor goes wrong because, as a soldier, he's used to dealing with officer-type guys and he wants Clara to be safe and happy was just as important and meaningful. And it gave me the warm fuzzy feels and I will never say no to that! :)

Other Things I Liked - 

- Of course, anything with the Doctor and Clara is going to be wonderful (Peter and Jenna are just so good together!) I think my favorite was the whole Jane Austen bit where Clara goes off about how the Doctor must have met Jane while she was writing Pride and Prejudice and they went off on holiday together and met Buddy Holly and whatever else, but then the Doctor just says that he read the bio at the back of the book that said that Jane Austen had written the book in 1796 (or whatever the date was).

- Courtney Woods - I thought she had potential as a companion, but then she really didn't. Do we count her with Adam as a failed companion? (Your Mileage May Vary)

- "I'm a disruptive influence." "Nice to meet you. Now get lost."

- Sooooo... soldiers can't teach math, Doctor? You're just going to ignore Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart teaching math at a boys' school in "Mawdryn Undead," then?

- I've heard people be upset about the new version of the opening theme tune. I admit I hadn't given it much thought, but this week I decided to pay attention to it. Honestly, it's fine. I don't mind it. People just need something to whine about, I guess.

- I love how the Doctor gets all serious when Clara asks him point blank if the kids in the school are safe.

- Do all British schools have a giant chess board? Or is that just Hogwarts and Coal Hill?

- The Doctor assumes Clara's boyfriend is the Matt Smith lookalike with the bowtie. Bless.

That's about all I've got for this week. Great, fun little story. Gave us some wonderful character relationship stuff. Just a very enjoyable episode. I wanna watch it again!

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