Why are Clara and the Doctor lying to each other so much? He wouldn’t tell her what he was doing, even though he was smack in the middle of her workplace with no explanation. She hasn’t told him about Danny and seemed deathly afraid of what he was going to think. Worse, she has a conversation with Danny that mimics almost word for word one she had with the Doctor moments early, demonstrating that she treats him pretty much exactly the same way the Doctor treats her: by lying badly to him and occasionally insulting his intelligence when she does it. And in order to prove to Danny that she is the person she says she is – in other words, in order to prove her honesty to him, what does Clara do? She steals an invisibility device from the Doctor and tells Danny to eavesdrop on a conversation between the two of them. How is THAT not a major red flag to any boyfriend?
Why has there been so many lies between the main characters in series 8? What are they hiding from each other?
In class, she’s teaching Pride and Prejudice: a story about a young woman choosing both between two worlds and two men (one is aristocratic and the a soldier). It represents the choice between two completely different lives that it looks like Clara will soon have to make.
Reminds me of something in “The Caretaker”. Not sure what, though.
That The Caretaker can exist within the same series as produced Into the Dalek and Listen is cause enough for celebration in itself, that it can feel so of a piece with them – something that, despite it being so entertaining, Robot of Sherwood failed to manage – is a minor miracle; it might have been as big a fish out of water as the Doctor was. Gareth Roberts has this knack of writing something completely different and yet that fits perfectly, and that while it might threaten to undermine the Doctor, ends up reinforcing him. He’s achieving a synergy with Steven Moffat’s version of Doctor Who that he never quite reached with Moffat’s predecessor, and by being a team endeavour, The Caretaker effortlessly succeeds in being Roberts’ finest Doctor Who work yet. It is a thoroughly enjoyable episode from start to finish, and also one that forms a crucial intersection in Series 8 – and neither achievement is accomplished at the expense of the other.
Each episode of series 8 has felt like a chapter of a much larger story, rather than a disparate collection of stories loosely connected by a gimmick. It’s not simply the Missy scenes, but it is the running threads of being a hero, people lying to each other, being true to yourself and more.
And yet, Peter Capaldi’s Twelve is tremendously aware of how much he doesn’t fit in with the humans, and this seems to encourage him to be actively antagonistic towards his similarities with the day-to-day of humanity. He chides us for our limited lifespans, counts the days until he can stop pretending to be one of us, and insists we fit into easy boxes that aren’t possibly bigger on the inside.
This is were I reveal the rather interesting revelation I had this morning after finally getting around to watching the Extradental about Time Heist (an inertia which speak volumes). I like Peter Capaldi. I bloody hate his Doctor. There, I’ve said it. Phew. Which means that I can really enjoy his performance and I do, a lot, but he just doesn’t feel like he’s playing my Doctor. It’s difficult to describe but it’s almost like the Doctor is absent. The closest he’s come, for obvious reasons, is in Listen and possibly Robots of Sherwood, but apart from that, sheesh.
The Caretaker is the epitome of this absence of the Doctor syndrome. When he mentions River, I don’t believe for a second that he’s the man who met her which I know is in stark contrast to Graham’s Russian doll metaphor in his review of Deep Breath in DWM. When he’s in the TARDIS tinkering it doesn’t feel like his space. Clearly you’ll dismiss this as the usual problem of holding onto the past, of missing Smith, but honestly it’s not that and like I said it’s not necessarily about Capaldi whose working really much better with his line readings. But it’s definitely something. Perhaps it’s just a matter of taste. I have Pertwee and C. Baker issues too and the Doctor’s very specifically being steered in that direction away from the benevolent alien figure. It could just be that.
But it goes much deeper than that. It’s the feeling that I’m watching a series called Doctor Who, which is doing all the things that Doctor Who does and is, but there’s an emptiness that wasn’t there before.
The ninth Doctor was a grumpy, dark Doctor, yet there were moments of fun. He remained a galactic tourist who loved to try different food and kiss strange people. The twelfth Doctor doesn’t feel like that.
But there are glimpses of the fun Doctor. The fragments of adventures seen at the beginning of “The Caretaker”, or the Doctor’s offers to see amazing sites around time and space, hint that the same Doctor exists. But the focus is on the character that Stuart Ian Burns describes.
I talked two weeks ago about how there’s a way in which Capaldi is Pertweeesque, in that he’s confident in simply playing the Doctor by picking an approach to the character for a given scene and just building it up out of the sorts of things Capaldi likes to do as an actor. A corollary to this is that he’s very much Troughtonesque, in that he dictates the tone of a scene by deciding how he’ll pitch his performance and requiring everyone else to respond to that, even if he doesn’t have a ton to do in the scene. (Watch the scene at the halfway point where the plot temporarily wraps up for a stellar example, particularly his “you can explain him to me,” which he delivers stunningly well. I quite like the decision to include all the emotional investment of a romance between the Doctor and Clara and none of the actual romance, and that line pays that approach off beautifully.) Such that in a real sense, every script gets one final rewrite from Capaldi, who redoes it via his performance.
In his review, Sandifer discusses the “rumour” that there was a conflict between Steven Moffat and Peter Capaldi. Sandifer argues that there is collaborative sparks between the two.
He’s like channelling Darren from Bewitched or something.
We shouldn’t be expecting characters that are perfect or idealised in Doctor Who (or any drama), and Danny Pink is illustrating that. He may be the sensitive war veteran, but in the final scene of “The Caretaker”, he attempted to control Clara through threatening to end their relationship.1 And Clara isn’t any better, as described at Tom & Lorenzo, Clara is a TARDIS addict:
This is a story about an addict and her emotionally abusive ex-boyfriend.
Honestly, if that’s what Moffat’s really going for here, we couldn’t applaud the idea enough. It’s crazy and dark and weird; as if Alan Moore was asked to write a season of Doctor Who. But as we also noted in our Listen review, Moffat doesn’t always seem to understand just how dark he’s getting and just how much damage his character should be suffering. The story of River Song, if it was being emotionally truthful, should have ended with broken friendships and lifelong pain for almost everyone involved, but instead it pretty much ended with hugs. This is why, even though it looks clear as day to us that everyone involved in this story should get the hell away from each other, we doubt that’s quite what Moffat’s trying to do or say. Although if he proves us wrong and this was the master plan all along, we may just call him a genius by the end of it.
Let’s wait and see. Yet it is already fascinating.
Note the Clara’s silence as her reaction to Danny. ↩
With all of that said, for goodness sake Doctor Who, are you […] kidding me? […] how is it we now have a companion, again in this decade who not only feels like she has to seek the Doctor’s approval of her boyfriend and seek her boyfriend’s approval of the Doctor? Why isn’t she asking what business it is of her friend who she goes out with and on the other hand what business it is of her boyfriend who she’s friends with? A companion (and yes I appreciate the irony of that term in this context) who is then effectively shamed and made to feel guilty in both directions by, for the purposes of this, a controlling father and a controlling boyfriend, just the sort of thing we’re supposed to be fighting against now.
How much is this a deliberate component of the story telling? We have never seen anything like this in Doctor Who.
TH: All tropes you’ve seen before. Unlike Curse of the Black Spot, some tropes *were* subverted. But not the right ones. #tweetnotes
What undermined the story was that the Doctor and Clara did not know why they were robbing the bank. They were not active in the heist (at least, not that they remembered it), and the clever twist for breaking into the bank was the obvious use of the time-travelling TARDIS.
Imagine a story where the TARDIS couldn’t be used and the Doctor and Clara had to use their intelligence and resources to break into the bank, not blindly stumble through the bank. Where the Doctor thought he was more intelligent than anyone else, and he is trying to prove that. But his reward is that he needs and appreciates others. Where the Doctor and Clara are trying to save a soul.
As a side note, recall that “Into the Dalek” was a story that lead the Doctor going deeper and deeper into a dangerous environment. “Time Heist” was another story going deeper into another dangerous environment. Only one of these stories had an emotional resonance for the Doctor.