This has been a series which has went back to basics in terms of storytelling, so episodes have an actual story with plot and everything; something Stephen Moffat didn’t manage all the time in the last few years. The Caretaker however has a plot but it’s one which we’ve seen over and over again-alien robot trapped on Earth and the Doctor has to stop it before it destroys the world. As a plot it’s borrowing a bit as well from Terminator, with a little bit of Harlan Ellison as well.
The robot (a Skyvox Blitzer) is essentially a jazzed up version of the Mark IV from Richard Stanley’s Hardware, which itself is taken from a Kevin O’Neill drawn 2000AD strip from the 1970’s and another sign of just how much the current series of Who owes 2000AD. The Doctor has a digital watch that makes him invisible in this episode that he must have got in the 1970’s from The Gemini Man. There’s also Courtney, a schoolgirl from the East End who is possibly deliberately reminiscent of Sharon Davies, the companion from the early Doctor Who Weekly strips by Pat Mills, John Wagner and Dave Gibbons, which brings up that 2000AD connection again. This really is a episode where it borrows heavily from the past from elsewhere, and it’s own history to pad out what is essentially an episode where Clara, The Doctor and Danny Pink all collide.
It all boils down to the Doctor not liking Danny as he was a soldier, but Danny pointing out the Doctor’s own prejudices, while Clara is stuck in the middle loving a man who the Doctor thinks isn’t good enough for her. It does labour this point but thankfully the three main cast members work with some badly clunky dialogue at times, but Peter Capaldi and Jenna Coleman do wonders with it, and Samuel Anderson does more than just being the doe-eyed boyfriend as he tears into Capaldi’s Doctor for his clear superiority complex. All in all, it’s a character episode with a whole load of stuff thrown in to make it seem like an episode of Doctor Who which means it’s a stew which doesn’t quite taste right.
Capaldi’s Doctor is still The Doctor, but really, he’s a bit of an arsehole with an attitude problem who’s overly protective of Clara, and has a serious problem with soldiers even though one of the themes of the programme since it’s return under Russel T. Davies is how The Doctor weaponises humans to help him do what he needs to do. It’s a thread which has been left dangling since the second series of the new programme, but may well be actually resolved, or at least confronted head on in this series nine years after it’s return.
The Caretaker isn’t a classic episode. It’s a bridging episode for the first half of this series into the second half, and in doing so is clearly foreshadowing whatever is to come in the next six episodes. We’ve even got Chris Addison in this episode as the Missy/Promised Land storyline starts to develop more, though I don’t have a clue what’s going on. Next week, we’re on the Moon for what looks to be a BIG episode..