Sunday, 28 September 2014

Doctor Who Cares? - Doctor Who: The Caretaker Review

Review by Jack Sutton

So this series had it’s run of good episodes. Two. And even then, they had their issues. Listen – great episode, lousy ending. Time Heist – good episode, not without it’s flaws. The Caretaker – Bad. That’s right folks, S8 has now returned to the low standard that we’ve come to expect in one of the most Clara-centric episodes yet.

First of all let’s talk basics. Clara’s struggling with her double life, trying to go on adventures with the Doctor whilst keeping it a secret from her boyfriend. Just when she thinks she’s getting the week off to focus on her personal life, the Doctor appears at her school undercover as a Caretaker, in order to track down a robot that is “one of the most dangerous killing machines in the universe” (because there aren’t enough of those around already, right?)

It starts off looking promising, with an ominous villain and some hilarious Doctor-humour (I feel like there could be a pun there…Doctor Who-mour?). Unfortunately, this deadly killing machine gets about 10 minutes of screen time, and two action pieces – one about halfway through, and one at the end.

The rest of the episode is then padded out with the unnecessary sub-plot that NOBODY CARES ABOUT! Clara having to choose between Danny and the Doctor, Clara discussing her relationship with Danny, Clara talking to Danny about what happens now that he knows the truth, blah blah blah. People who don’t like Clara (and that’s not a small number of people) should probably skip this one.

Meanwhile, the Doctor takes a back seat for most of the episode, and it seems like he is hanging out in the background battling the enemy, whilst Clara moans about her problems and talks about her relationship. One scene in particular features a lengthy discussion between the couple that I honestly can’t recall. It was seriously boring stuff.

Don’t get me wrong, I have no problem with romantic sub-plots. Rose and the Doctor were in love, Martha had the who unrequited love thing, then there was the love triangle between Amy, Rory and the Doctor, and then later on having a married couple in the TARDIS frequently came up – the relationship between Amy and Rory becoming a factor in many episodes, such as The Girl Who Waited or The Angels Take Manhattan. But it’s when these sub-plots become focal factors in the episode, and get in the way of what we came here to see that it starts to become a problem.

It’s like going to the cinema to watch a horror film, sitting down with your popcorn and your drink, then sitting through two hours of Hugh Grant stutter his way to a romantic climax. Anyway, back to this weeks episode. The action scenes were pretty good, even if there was never really a sense that the characters were in any danger. Capaldi was good as always, delivering fear for the first time in this incarnation. Clara was Clara. Let’s leave it at that.

Lastly, “Heaven” made a return, and brought with it a surprise cameo from the always loveable Chris Addison, setting us up for a “The Thick of It” reunion in the finale, but even this felt forced. It seemed like the writers thought “Hm, we haven’t mentioned this in a while, better kill someone off and put them there, just to remind everyone that something’s happening”. It didn’t really offer much in the way of new mysteries or answered questions, all it really showed us is that the mysterious woman isn’t always happy, and let’s be honest, we could have guessed that from the start.

The Caretaker takes us back down to the low standards that we had so hopefully thought had been broken over the last two weeks. Boring, Clara-centric sub plots take over too much, and get in the way of the Doctor doing what he does best. In a 45 minute programme about battling aliens, it would be nice to see more than 10 minutes of the actual battling. If you’re one of the rare people that actually like Clara as a character, then you might enjoy this episode, but if (like the majority) you would much prefer to see the Doctor fighting menacing creatures, as opposed to Clara talking about her feelings for half an hour, you could probably skip this one.

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