Doctor Who: The Caretaker Review (Contains Spoilers)

The Doctor's back in Shoreditch and endangering Coal Hill again...

Almost every Doctor Who writer has a certain thumbprint that they tend to leave on the stories they write. Steven Moffat has mind-melting time paradoxes, Classic Who scribe Robert Holmes had unsubtle political commentary, and Gareth Roberts has the Doctor trying to blend in with modern day humans; with The Caretaker being his third episode in a row to use this plot device. But that€™s not necessarily a bad thing since he tends to do it very well. Despite the mass of similarities to The Lodger (2010) and Closing Time (2011), The Caretaker manages to carve its own little niche as a relaxed comedic episode thanks largely to the completely different character dynamics at play this time around.
The real thing that the episode has going for it is the humour. It€™s not the out there gag-a-minute humour of Robot Of Sherwood but it€™s still a very warm and amusing episode despite that. The focus on character dynamics and enforced tension without the villain having too large a bearing on it works very well in the context of the episode and allows for some genuine character building away from the humorous moments. Particularly since this is the first episode where Danny both meets the Doctor and is under the spotlight rather than being on the sidelines. Also, to its considerable benefit, The Caretaker isn€™t trying to be overly clever and trip up the viewers. Save for the scenes set in the Promised Land at the end, it€™s all perfectly easy to follow and one of those episodes that you can switch your brain off for. This does lend it a certain air of predictability but that€™s not necessarily a bad thing. The only flaw with this episode (and it€™s not really a big one to be fair) is the monster of the week. BBCBBC While credit has to go to the animatronics team and actor Jimmy Vee for their work bringing it to life, the Skovox Blitxer is pretty underwhelming mainly because it doesn€™t get the chance to do anything. Although it does get a pretty nice introductory murder complete with a pretty grim shot of a severed hand, the rest of the time it€™s a means to end rather than the centre of a decent 'when aliens attack' story. The general mandate of modern Doctor Who is that it needs some kind of monster even in the lighter more character-focussed episodes. And when the focus is on the characters, the monster and its story is going to suffer. When the Skovox Bitzer finally does meet the Doctor, it casually gets shunted out of the way until later in order to get back to the character moments. And because it€™s a perfectly designed killing machine that doesn€™t really get to do any real killing (other than the ill-fated PCSO at the beginning), it€™s hard to buy into as a genuine threat. Though undoubtedly, the best thing about the Skovox Blitzer story is the subtle but noticeable implication that the Blitzer€™s presence is the Doctor€™s fault; thanks to him having landed the Tardis in and around Coal Hill so often and generating the Artron Energy that attracted it. Which also functions as a nice little continuity nod to the Classic stories set in the area.
The episode€™s biggest moment though is that it significantly advances the series€™ story arc for the first time since Into The Dalek a month ago. While Missy is only back for a few seconds, the addition of Chris Addison€™s camp and sinister Seb into the mix is a nice expansion of the subplot rather than a repeat of the arc building scenes in Deep Breath and Into The Dalek. Plus the sterile white corridors are much more intriguing than the gardens and manor house overflowing with cake that Missy presides over. Particularly since the PCSO appears to see something pretty spectacular when he looks out of the window. The Caretaker isn€™t exactly a world beater in any field but still a solid episode regardless. Underwhelming monster aside, it€™s fun and undemanding viewing reminiscent of the earthbound stories of the Russell T. Davies era as well as Gareth Roberts€™ other work on Doctor Who. A pretty standard middle of the road episode that works as a nice breather before things get dark next week and stay that way for a while. What did you think of The Caretaker? Undemanding fun? Or has there been a spillage somewhere? Let us know in the comments section below...
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JG Moore is a writer and filmmaker from the south of England. He also works as an editor and VFX artist, and has a BA in Media Production from the University Of Winchester.