Doctor Who: "The Caretaker" and Class Warfare

Shades of Ian Chesterton? By the way, would it kill you guys to give William Russell a cameo?
Shades of Ian Chesterton? By the way, would it kill you guys to give William Russell a cameo?

One of the things that's been hard about Peter Capaldi's run on Doctor Who so far is that he feels very hard to know, let alone like. "The Caretaker" was honestly the first episode where I felt like I really understood where he was coming from, which led me to why I sort of dislike the Twelfth Doctor, and weirdly that led to me starting to really enjoy him.

Gareth Roberts teams with Steven Moffat on this week's script... making it eight of the last nine episodes Moff's had a hand in. It works well this go 'round. Gareth Roberts is probably the most technically skilled writer to contribute to the revived show outside of Neil Gaiman, and that strength comes through in the solidity of the plot. For the first time this season there seemed to be no lazy holes of unexplained actions, and I didn't get to the credits screaming, "But how did they X when they never did Y?"

Granted, the monster was an utterly forgettable robot made frightening only by a particularly gruesome death in the opening. It could have been a Cyberman and no one would have noticed, though there was some real care put into the creating the robot's language and logic. Its defeat was fairly anticlimactic, but admittedly well in keeping with The Doctor as a character.

The real standout, though, was Samuel Anderson as Danny Pink. We've finally gotten him into the Tardis, and it was worth the wait.

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His romance of Clara has felt very "Rose and Mickey 2: This Time He Has a Satchel", and has contributed to another season full of too much Coupling and not enough adventure. It still feels like that, and Twelve's whole "I'm not your boyfriend" act seems to be coming across as a bit of self-denial at this point. Doesn't matter, because this was one of the first times I've ever seen a male human stand toe to toe with The Doctor on an equal footing.

Yes, Rory punched Eleven for seemingly throwing away Amy's life, but in most of his run he still was in awe of The Doctor and constantly worried about being left for him. Going back into the classic series there was Jamie, but aside from "Evil of the Daleks" I'm hard-pressed to think of a time when his faith in The Doctor wasn't total.

Danny Pink could be male counterpoint to The Doctor that we've been waiting for all decade.

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For the record, the Seventh Doctor pulled pretty much this same schtick off at Coal Hill with the help of soldiers and he didn't need a funny talk box to do it.
For the record, the Seventh Doctor pulled pretty much this same schtick off at Coal Hill with the help of soldiers and he didn't need a funny talk box to do it.

The Twelfth Doctor's new and inexplicable disdain for soldiers has been a recurring point in the series. It's understandable after the end of "Day of The Doctor", even if I should point out that he and the rest of himself went to the aid of the War Council of Gallifrey, not the presumably civilian High Council. It's been one of Capaldi's more annoying tics, but it plays well to his maniacal anarchist pacifism.

Except Danny denies him that identity and it clearly shakes The Doctor to his core. Upon hearing the term Time Lord Danny steps up to The Doctor and begins a terrifying parody of a soldier and his commanding officer.

"I'm a soldier," he tells Clara. "Guys like him are officers."

And he's right. He's totally right. The Doctor is maybe the humblest of the Time Lords (Marvel at the concept for a moment), but Twelve has made it his business to spend most of his time simply assuming command where he may not have earned it, allowing foot soldiers lives to be thrown away more carelessly than most of his other incarnations would have, and refusing to acknowledge when his own deductions may be immoral or just plain wrong. He even makes his "disguise" so laughably see through, so little regard does he have for non-Time Lords to sense something wrong. Danny shoves that in his face.

We don't have this sort of open class warfare system here in America. It's hidden, and you're not supposed to speak this way to the feudal lords (Ours own Walmart instead of estates. Not sure which country is dumber in this regard but I'm pretty sure we're both being scammed). It's easy to forget that all The Doctor is he became because he was still one of the ruling class of a society that oversaw time itself and had access to miracles. He's Bruce Wayne and Tony Stark and it's one of the things that's starting to turn Capaldi positively Shakespearean.

Meanwhile, an unarmed math teacher like Danny can somersault over a murderbot and help save the day while The Doctor was fiddling with his expensive looking gadgets. As far as I'm concerned Danny can't be a full-time Tardis crewmember fast enough for me. He's the right man for this job. What better foil for the conflicted old soldier that is The Doctor?

Jef has a new story, a tale of headless strippers and The Rolling Stones, available now in Broken Mirrors, Fractured Minds. You can also connect with him on Facebook.


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