WARNING! MAJOR SPOILERS!
With Clara running a dual life, splitting her time between her adventures with the Doctor and school teaching, it was inevitable that sooner or later there would be an episode where these two lives met, and caught right in the middle was Danny Pink, Clara’s boyfriend, who naturally the Doctor does not get on well when he learns that Danny is in fact, a former soldier, and automatically assumes him to be a PE teacher, when he teachers Maths. It’s interesting to watch the exchanges between the three characters over the course of a character-centric episode, with no big plot moments to tackle.
Doctor Who fans will no doubt recognize Gareth Roberts as the writer behind this episode, and that’s because of his season 5 and 6 scripts The Lodger (which was fantastic) and Closing Time (which was OK). Roberts tends to write episodes where the Doctor is out of his element in a normal situation, in this case working undercover as a Caretaker at Coal Hill School in order to investigate the possibility of an alien threat. Whilst the alien threat is, like it was in all of Roberts’ episodes, the weakest part of the series, it did allow for an otherwise very strong character-focused episode.
The Caretaker is just as much a radically different episode to last week’s action packed Time Heist as that was to the slow-moving atmospheric horror-filled episode that was Listen. This episode has a large element of humour going for it with some great interplay between various scenes. The episode doesn’t, apart from one notable cheesy moment (the less said about the somersault scene, the better) go too far, keeping it enjoyable and for the most part, not groan-worthy.
The episode also featured a welcome development when it came to the scenes featuring the Promised Land. We also were introduced to another figure here as well as Missy (who is apparently too busy to deal with the deceased character of the week) with the role being played by actor Chris Addison (who also worked with Capaldi on The Thick of It, and is an awesome stand-up comedian) being appreciated even if it was only for a few seconds. As we’re entering the halfway mark in the season, it’s good to see that this plot thread hasn’t been ignored entirely as I thought it might be when the previous few episodes didn’t feature it at all.
The characterization of Clara is something that has improved over the course of the series, with more depth being added to her character than before when she was just “The Impossible Girl.” Now that the 50th Anniversary is over its allowed her to develop further as a character and as a result she’s continued to remain one of my favourite companions. Whilst she may be a divisive character, she’s certainly never been dull, and she really shined in this episode with some great scenes throughout. It was good to see that the chemistry between her, Capaldi and Samuel Anderson’s Danny Pink all worked very well and it’ll be interesting to see how the relationships between the three characters changes over the course of the latter stages of the season.
This series as a whole has been fairly consistent in terms of good episodes with not a single bad one between them (however, your mileage may vary). However, a problem with season 8 so far, and something that I’m going to keep mentioning, is we haven’t quite got that episode yet. The one that’s instantly everyone’s favourite. Dalek from Season 1, for example. The Doctor’s Wife from Season 6, another. However, that said, we’ve still got half of the season to go so there’s plenty of time for some good stuff to come, especially with episodes with titles like Kill the Moon, Mummy on the Orient Express & Death in Heaven to come.