We’re now midway through the eighth series of Doctor Who, and this is shaping up to be a very promising debut run. Smith’s series five debut is nigh on impossible to beat, but I think Capaldi’s will come in a close second.
‘The Caretaker’ wasn’t brilliant – far from it, rather – but it is definitely not the worst of the series. I still stand by my affirmation that ‘Robot of Sherwood’ is. I doubt anything will surpass that in direness. ‘The Caretaker’, co-penned by The Moff and Gareth Roberts, was a rather charming filler episode which was necessary in developing Clara’s storyline, and inevitable narrative ending. Here her relationship with both the Doctor and Danny is explored in-depth, and Jenna Coleman sizzles with both leading men. She is brilliant throughout this episode, playing both humour and sincerity with ease. She has come along way since last year’s lacklustre ‘The Bells of Saint John’.
That said I think Capaldi is more suited to darker episodes. Like ‘Robot of Sherwood’, and ‘Time Heist’ to an extent, Capaldi is out-shadowed by other, more adept actors. He can play humour, that is without question, but it just doesn’t suit his Doctor as much as his predecessors.
The threat of ‘The Caretaker’, the Skovox Blitzer, was rather secondary and it could have easily been anything or nothing at all. Its design was breathtakingly beautiful, but it brought nothing to the story and was thrown in just to create some form of danger with which Danny could prove himself. Touted as one of the most dangerous weapons ever created, there is definitely scope for the Skovox to return, but probably not for a couple of series. There have been far too many robot threats this series – from the Clockwork Droids of ‘Deep Breath’ to the mechanical knights of ‘Robot of Sherwood’. ‘Time Heist’s’ the Teller is the only new monster we’ve had this series thus far, but thankfully next weeks ‘Kill the Moon’ looks set to rectify this.
As the threat is secondary, ‘The Caretaker’ takes on a more character-driven narrative. It’s similar to Roberts’ other penned tales, ‘The Lodger’ and ‘Closing Time’, in that the Doctor takes on the role of a human to thwart some alien threat. Here he is the titular caretaker, a slapstick, boisterous figure of a man who is quite at odds with the world of Coal Hill.
Capaldi plays John Smith exceptionally well, but like I said earlier, he is much more suited to the darker tones of his Doctor. An episode of two a series, perhaps, but nothing more. Capaldi has never been better than when he’s had something sinister to put his teeth (and eyebrows) into – just look at the sublime ‘Listen’.
Coal Hill School is a thrilling nod to the classic series, and whilst it would been brilliant to have William Russell cameo as an aged Ian Chesterton, it was probably for the best that he didn’t. After all, the fans didn’t act too well about the first Doctor’s cameo two episodes ago. But Coal Hill works as the perfect way to get the Doctor and Danny to interact.
Their meeting scene is the standout scene of the entire series thus far. Both actors spar brilliantly off of one another: Danny is funny, fearful and sceptical; the Doctor is standoffish, angry and sceptical. Capaldi may be older and he may have much more experience than Samuel Anderson, but here they are both on a par. Danny’s introduction into the world of the Doctor is akin to Mickey Smith’s from series one, but thankfully he seems to have accepted it quicker than Rose’s boyfriend. Here’s hoping that Danny gets a trip in the Tardis. Sooner, rather than later.
His relationship with Clara is developed substantially here. Evidently a few months have passed for Clara – she declares her love for Danny, after all. Them being together is very believable. Danny is handsome and charismatic (and I think I’m falling for him a little…) and the perfect partner for Clara’s feisty, spunky companion. Likewise, her relationship with the Doctor is similarly developed. They exhibit playful animosity towards one another earlier in the episode, and downright angst later. Thankfully, though, the Doctor and Clara don’t love one another like that – simply the Doctor wants the best for Clara, and he doesn’t know if Danny is the best for her yet. He’s looking out for her like a father figure. It’s a brilliant take on the Doctor-companion relationship, and one which I hope is explored further as the Doctor comes to accept Danny.
So what else happens this week? Well Courtney Woods is formally introduced, and she is a little annoying (although not as annoying as the Maitlands, thankfully). She take’s a trip with the Doctor and Clara next week, so expect to see more of her as the series progresses. Hopefully an episode featuring the Doctor, Clara, Danny and Courtney travelling somewhere will occur further down the line; that will blatantly nod to the very first episode.
We also get a tantalising glimpse of the nethersphere once more. Chris Addison cameo’s as Seb, a likewise camp and over-the-top employee at heaven. Apparently you have to be camp to know its secrets. Just look at Michelle Gomez’s Missy. Missy plays a pivotal role in the series finale, and if you know who (or what) else appears in the finale, you should be able to piece out what is going on in heaven. I won’t spoil it if you don’t…
Spoilers leads me nice fully onto my final point. Midway through the episode the Doctor fleetingly mentions River’s name when discussing a past adventure. And all I have to say on the matter is PLEASE CAN WE SEE CAPALDI AND RIVER TOGETHER? I miss River.