Sunday, September 28, 2014

Doctor Who: “The Caretaker” review

by Melissa Parkin

Living a double life is taking its toll on Clara. Being whisked away on intergalactic adventures while juggling a teaching career and romantic relationship is bound to be taxing on anyone. Clara struggles to keep a separation between these two lives. Neither the Doctor nor Danny knows about the other.

Photo by Anthony Harvey/Getty Images
To Clara’s surprise, upon his next visit, the Doctor refuses to extend an invitation her way on his next venture as he goes “undercover.” She leaves the TARDIS, unaware of his plans and confused by his suspicious behavior. The next day, the Doctor surprises when he suddenly pops up at Coal Hill School claiming to be “John Smith,” the new caretaker. Clara demands to know the meaning of him crashing in on her workplace. The Doctor evades her questions and refuses to provide a proper answer. Following their tiff, the Doctor discovers that Clara is romantically involved with one of her colleagues. Hilarity ensues as he mistakes the suitor in question to be the English teacher, who just so happens to look strikingly similar to Matt Smith’s Eleventh Doctor.

Just off school grounds, a police officer has a fatal run-in with a hiding Skovox Blitzer, a deadly robot armed with enough armaments to wipe out the Earth.  Soon enough, the threat makes its way to the school, and Clara finds her two different lives crashing into one another.

“The Caretaker” is a fun, slapstick ride filled with action, wit, and compassion. The chemistry between the characters is undeniable, and the main trio shines as they all feed off what each brings to the table. The Doctor’s immediate disapproval of Danny and Clara’s need to keep Pink away from the Doctor’s world makes for great conflict, and equally delightful lark. Incorporating the campy school-based adventure of the 2006 episode “School Reunion,” and the level of danger on par with the classic Cybermen, “The Caretaker” is sure to appeal to both new and old fans alike. It does touch on the arc for this series, but only very lightly.

The school setting is refreshing. The banter is giggle-worthy, and the Doctor’s dry humor continues to improve from episode to episode. This week’s monster, the Skovox Blitzer, admittedly won’t become an iconic creature in the Who-verse. It doesn’t convey the same visual menace as the Cybermen, and in fact looks more like a sinisterly distant relative of Short Circuit. Despite its lack of physical fearsomeness, its death ray (capable of incinerating a human with a mere strike) definitely makes the Skovox Blitzer a force to be reckoned with. “The Caretaker” may not be perfect, but the overall episode was quite enjoyable.

Rating: A -


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