Doctor Who - "The Caretaker" (Season 8, Episode 6) Recap/Analysis | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
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Doctor Who - “The Caretaker” (Season 8, Episode 6) Recap/Analysis

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Sep 30, 2014 Web Exclusive
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[Spoiler Alert: If you haven't seen the latest episode of Doctor Who, then read no further.]

Peter Capaldi's turn in the TARDIS is giving us one of the most consistently good seasons of Doctor Who since Matt Smith's first year. And, just as Smith's adventures with the Ponds framed the emotional arch of season five, Clara Oswald's courtship with ex-soldier Danny Pink provides a grounded narrative for The Doctor's outlandish attributes to work with. It works best in an episode like this week's "The Caretaker," when the sci-fi hijinks take a backseat to the relationship drama, even though they're the source of conflict in the drama in the first place. The Doctor poses as his human alter-ego, John Smith, and takes a position as caretaker at the school Clara and Danny both teach at (Coal Hill School, which dates all the way back to Doctor Who's first episode in 1963), where he hunts an alien war machine while also checking in on Clara's personal life.

The Doctor gets more unlikeable in this episode, as he expresses his prejudice for Danny based on his military background, and shamelessly dismisses him as a P.E. teacher. The Doctor's disdain for Danny could have easily veered into creepy jealousy territoryespecially with his initial assumption that she was dating a Matt Smith look-alikebut instead it feels comfortably paternal, even if it is maddening and illogical.

Despite The Doctor growing even more cantankerous, this episode delivers some of the series' best comic moments, and production-wise is as sharp as ever. That's actually another consistent element this season; with a few exceptions it is one of the most well-constructed TV shows so far this season. Doctor Who is as notorious for its budget effects as it is time travel, but recently it's started to catch up. The last three episodes are among the best looking of the rebooted series, hinting that the quality isn't likely to diminish any time soon.

I haven't mentioned the various "afterlife" tags that seem to be building into a season climax yet since there hasn't been very much to analyze, but it's worth pointing out here because it is expanded just a little bit. The mystery remains compelling because it lingers in the background, and so far hasn't bothered to muddle in the affairs of The Doctor and Clara's day to day adventures, giving some much needed levity to The Doctor's affairs. We know its building to the finale, but the hints are separated enough from the story that speculation hardly feels necessary. We'll have to stick around to see where it takes us. (www.bbcamerica.com/doctor-who/)

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Author rating: 8/10

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