Living With Otters
Is “The Caretaker” good? Yeesss… But not unequivocally. There are emotional disappointments along the way and I feel some resentment at both another Clara story and another Earth story, but there are also reasons to forgive these.
I want to love the Doctor like I always have but it’s not easy. He’s very different. He wears his kindness on the inside and we only get to see it when he thinks no one’s watching. I need to be shown that this is the same man who lost Rose, the same man who loved River. “The Caretaker” is reassuring that way. Plus Pink Floyd.
The Doctor is painfully aware that his regeneration has redefined his relationship with Clara. He acts okay with it because there’s no alternative but a part of him misses that dynamic. When he sees Adrian and jumps to *that* conclusion he’s showing that. His disproportionate anger at Danny shows that. When Clara finally admits to Danny that her friend is “an alien,” the Doctor’s face projects disappointment because he’s more than that, much more, and it seems to him like Clara has provided minimal information to Danny on purpose.
Danny intentionally finds a raw nerve, “Ooh, a Time Lord!” and presses, hard. It’s his chance to push back and he leaps on it like a PE teacher throwing himself on a grenade. The Doctor becomes enraged not only at the suggestion that’s he’s an aristocrat, but the saluting, the “Sir, yes, sir!” sends him off the deep end. I thought this reaction was justified, Danny was showing off in front of Clara and “That’s who he really is” was way too much. I’m pretty sure Clara knows a bit better who the Doctor is, and so do we, thank you very much. True, the Doctor’s anti soldier bias seems very out of character but he did just spend a few hundred years defending Christmas from all manner of soldier so maybe that’s why. Bit the Doctor used to be a soldier and he’s no PE teacher so this is a bit mystifying to me. Danny pressed too hard though.
Danny is sensitive, curious, brave, and arrogant. He gracefully redirects the Caretaker’s unkind dismissal and presumptions; he doesn’t like it, but without Clara in the picture, it’s not worth it to him to push back. Danny doesn’t like soldiers either. He’s quick to point out that he *was* a soldier and he certainly doesn’t hesitate to judge the Doctor harshly right back and even resent his influence over Clara once he realizes they have a relationship. “Do you love him?” “What other way is there?” He’s doesn’t seems fazed at all by what Clara tells him about travel in time and space except to reflect on how this affects him and his relationship with Clara. He’s all, Hm, well, okay, I guess it’s all right for you to keep doing that when really he should be Wow! You’re even more amazing than I thought Clara Oswald! I know I said I don’t do weird but you know what? You’re worth it. I trust your decisions.
Clara has been juggling two lives for so long they were bound to come crashing down. She’s clearly torn between the Doctor and Danny, constantly defending one to the other, wanting so much for them to like each other. Clara takes a hit in this episode in terms of strength. Since when did she need Danny Pink’s help? He makes her promise to tell him if the Doctor pushes her too far… How far is that? Trenzalore? The end of the Universe? The Center of the TARDIS? I wanted Clara to say something sassy here, something strong, but she didn’t. She just made a promise (not a deal) and turned the TV back on. (If you only knew what I’ve seen, you would beg me to help you and keep you safe. And the Doctor taught me that, etc, etc).
It’s interesting to look back at season one of Doctor Who, way back in 1963, and we start to realize what Moffat may be up to. Ian and the standoffish Doctor argued often, with Barbara either mediating or taking Ian’s side and Susan… Susan? What better motivation to introduce Courtney Woods, disruptive influence? Love how gleeful the Doctor became at this pronouncement. It was also kind of him to take her up into space–this is what I meant, I need to see this kindness, not just the alien but the ancient kind being as well, the grandfather. He is the Doctor, after all, and either Danny will see this or he won’t. We don’t need his approval and neither does Clara.
I should say something about how “The Caretaker” also has a cool wheeled killing machine. That was pretty sweet. And the parents were funny. And the River reference. But mostly it was all about the triangle and that’s okay. We saw some warmth from the Doctor, as a side dish to snark, which was splendid and Capaldi appears to channel previous actors at will. Hopefully we’ll be treated to much, much more of him in the near future.