Recap: 'Doctor Who' - 'The Caretaker'
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!
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.