MatthewWelcome again to another episode of the Space-Dad Companion Piece, where our expert team takes a look at the latest episode of Doctor Who. The Doctor goes deep undercover this week, as a dangerous force threatens both Clara’s school and, worse, her relationship with Danny Pink.

Spoilers from this point on. Do not read on unless you’ve seen The Caretaker.

The first thing I want to ask, before we get onto this week, is how we generally feel about episodes like this one, where the Doctor gets put into more mundane situations – things like The Lodger and The Power of Three?

PaulMost of the time it comes off trite, but this episode was actually very well done. It worked mostly because the characters were bickering and had drama – as well as the eventual introduction of Danny to the Doctor.

I also liked the bit with the schoolgirl. Seemed like it was setting something up…

Matt KYeah, the confrontation with both Danny and that girl was a good laugh.

CookieSometimes they work. The Lodger was a great episode with some great set moments.

Others feel like they have run out of steam halfway through.

MatthewThe Power of Three definitely collapsed half way through, I agree. But I do tend to enjoy seeing the Doctor struggle as a fish-out-of-water, and there was loads of that this week.

Was that the same girl in next-week’s preview, by the way, or was that someone else with similar hair?

CookieI don’t think so, she looked older.

PaulI think they could’ve picked her up when she’s older (Amy Pond style).

What didn’t work so well for me was the alien thing. It was kind of okay – but not fantastic. We didn’t really get to the bottom of why it was there (or how it come to be there). It just seemed very “background-ish”.

CookieI have to agree with Paul – the alien robot was a let down.

MatthewIt was properly tacky, wasn’t it. But, I suppose, if it had been any good we’d probably all be complaining because it was barely in the episode! I didn’t mind that it wasn’t well explained because it really wasn’t the focus of the story.

But I admit, for the universe’s greatest warrior it was a pretty crappy shot.

Skovox Blitzer

Can it wait for a bit? I’m in the middle of some calibrations.

CookieAren’t all bad-guys crap shots?
PaulThey could have added a bit where the Doctor sonic-screwdrivers him so the calibration is off to explain that.
Matt KThe robot did seem like a rip-off of a Dalek; though a battle between the two would be an interesting scene.
PaulIt does seem that if one of them could destroy a planet – in essence have the power of Daleks – that they could actually do something less throwaway with them.
CookieMaybe they will return in a later episode, unleashing their full force?
MatthewI feel like we’re all overthinking this. The monster was rubbish because it didn’t matter in the slightest – it was just an excuse for awesome dialogue and bickering.
CookieYes, this was definitely a character-driven episode, which was nice to see.
Matt KYou would think with the invisible watch he could have disarmed the robot manually or something, though.
PaulI liked that watch, but it made me think of the Spy from Team Fortress 2
CookieI loved the watch, can I get one please?

It was nice to see the Doctor tinkering with other gadgets, rather than just the sonic screwdriver.

MatthewI did like the watch. I’m surprised they didn’t break it somehow at the end, though, because it seems too powerful to keep around.
PaulThey’ve got to bring it back! They’re probably going to use it in the finale or something (I’m calling it!).
MatthewAs well as his new watch, I have to ask… um… was the Caretaker also wearing sequins under his coat?

PaulNo, I think it was a knitted jumper with white stitches here and there – reminiscent of a starry sky.

I also noticed that the clothes Clara was wearing was almost like the inverse of what the Doctor wore – black spots on white rather than white spots on black…

Oh, and I was right – Clara is an English teacher!

CookieYes and Danny’s a PE Teacher… ooops… I mean a maths teacher.
PaulYeah, I think they played that more PE teacher angle more aggressively than the Doctor always calling Mickey “Ricky”. More aggressively by far!
CookieDanny is becoming quite an interesting character, I loved how he dressed down the Doctor as an officer and an aristocrat.
Matt KI admit when Danny appeared and did that flip it felt nicely executed. So far Danny does seem to be a bit more of an initiative guy.

PaulYeah, I think he’s definitely growing on me. And the dynamic of the Doctor and Danny was bringing out the darker side of the Doctor…

I think they’re definitely trying to play the Doctor as a father figure.

CookieAgreed, which is making for some great tension between the three of them.
MatthewI liked how Danny was the only one worried about collateral damage. The Doctor and Clara were trying to save the world, but the “soldier” is the only one worried about saving actual people.

PaulHe’s being played as more than just a soldier though – I think earlier in the season we did see Danny trying to get away from his past.

The Caretaker

Don’t cross the timestreams!

CookieThere does seem to be something in his past he’s not very comfortable with. Add to that the Doctor’s sudden distaste for soldiers as a whole, it’s going to make for some very interesting scenes in future episodes.
Matt KI guess the Doctor might be seeing a bit of himself in Danny or something, maybe he reminds him of his younger days.
PaulThat’s – to me at least – the reason why he doesn’t like soldiers, or Danny. He had to be the War Doctor, in essence forced to be a soldier, and he totally hates it!
CookieAll true, yet the previous incarnations didn’t have such a mistrust of soldiers.
PaulTrue. I wonder what the current Doctor would make of UNIT…
CookieNow that would be an interesting story to see, how would he react to Lethbridge-Stewart’s daughter now.

MatthewHe also married a gun-happy lunatic, lets not forget!

Yay for the mention of River chucking him out, by the way. I’m glad to hear that they properly lived together at some point.

CookieYeah that was a great touch, I liked River – really wish we could see more of her. Alas that’s not going to happen.

Plus don’t forget his daughter was a soldier!

Matt KI want River back now!

And blimey, The Doctor’s Daughter. I forgot about her. Wonder if she’ll ever make a return?

CookieI doubt it, amazingly though the actress is married to David Tennant and her father is… do you know?
PaulI think it’s one of the Bakers. I’m going to say… Colin Baker.
CookieClose. It is, in fact, Peter Davison – classic Who ties there for you all!
MatthewDo we think Danny’s going to be tripping in the TARDIS soon? I was amazed Clara didn’t offer to bring him along…
CookieI would say, like Rory and Mickey he will soon be caught in the middle of the travels.

PaulI think he’s going to stipulate a trip to make sure Clara is in safe hands. That’d make sense. Can’t imagine the Doctor being too willing to take him along, but I think he will almost force himself aboard.

I think maybe we’ll also get a time-travel story which explains why Danny isn’t keen on being “just a soldier”…

MatthewThat’s a very good call. But that would mean a Doctor Who episode set somewhere like war-torn Afghanistan and – wow – that would be something totally different and unexpected.

CookieWould be a nice twist, it could indeed work to be fair.

It would definitely be nice to see more of his past.

PaulI don’t quite know why they would go this route (especially peaking interest in him not wanting to remember his past) if it’s just going to be left as it is. Although it’s entirely possible I’m reading too much into it…

The PE Teacher

Ozzie loves the Squaddie

Matt KMaybe he’ll get pulled in with Clara and the Doctor and something he sees will trigger some painful memories and he has to confront it.
PaulThat would be another good way to tackle it. Not a whole episode but at least a few clips.
MatthewWherever they’re going with it, they’re doing an amazing job of character-building this year. We’re only half way through the series and already the new Doctor, the rebooted Clara, and Danny all feel like fully-realised people. I’m very impressed!
CookieAgreed, the characters are getting some great development this season – which is just helping the series get stronger each week.
PaulIt is getting better. I just hope that the height of the quality is when they inevitably have their mid-season break (they always seem to do that).
MatthewI don’t think there’s a break this series, thank gods. We’re half way through now, so I think we’ve gotten away with it.
CookieAye no mid season break – hurrah!
Matt KI’d still like to find out what this Promised Land is.

MatthewYeah, this is the first time I’ve almost believed that it’s really the afterlife.

Almost.

CookieNow we know it has some different names, including the Nether Realm!
PaulNether Realm is from Mortal Kombat! I’m sure the Doctor would not approve…
CookieOh yeah, I knew that – just realised I’d got it wrong. It’s Nether-Sphere!

MatthewI kinda love that name.

But the most interesting development this week is that it’s not a one-woman show. Missy has employees helping with whatever it is she’s doing.

PaulIt’s an organisation…

…but for what?

Matt KSome place harvesting souls or something?
CookieWhatever it is, you can bet its not going to be any good.
MatthewWe’ve gotten into lots of serious stuff so far, like Danny’s past and Missy’s evil plan, but we’ve not really mentioned the humour in this episode. And we should, ‘cos I thought it was hilarious!
CookieMr Capaldi is really bringing his comedy timing to play in this episode. Makes me grow even fonder of his incarnation

Matt KThe whole chore for Clara shifting with between the Doctor and then to Danny was pretty funny – reminds of that one montage last season.

And the Doctor getting Clara mixed up with that other teacher was good.

Adrian

“He’s not my type…”

MatthewOh yeah, Fake-Matt-Smith was amazing.

PaulI thought he looked a lot like Matt Smith as well. Do you think that was on purpose (why the Doctor mistook the conversations as “flirtation”)?

CookieAye definitely on purpose, no way was it coincidence.

His vanity really spoke volumes there, with Adrian.

MatthewOh, absolutely. That’s why the Doctor was so pleased she liked him.

“He did remind me of a dashing young time-traveller.”

PaulAh, didn’t catch that bit.

The humour is quite well done, but the reason it works so well is because of the tension between them all. If it weren’t for that I don’t think it would’ve worked so well.

MatthewI agree – this series is doing a really nice job of juggling serious stuff like Danny’s past and Clara’s relationship with all the humour and fun and nonsense.

They haven’t gone too overboard with this “darker Doctor” stuff, and I appreciate that.

PaulYeah, it does seem to have eased off at the moment – something very much for the best.

They’ve found a balance between characterisation and plot which works nicely.

Matt KJust hope they do a good enough job when Clara leaves.
MatthewIt’s weird. Last series I wanted her gone… but now I’m seriously going to miss her. They’ve made me really care about her in the space of just these six episodes – brilliant work!
CookieShe has grown a hell of a lot, in such a short space of time. Alas all companions seem to move on.
MatthewAnd so must we, I’m afraid. Final question, then – what did we all think of The Caretaker?
CookieThe Caretaker was a strong episode, showcasing some great character growth and dialogue. The big bad robot was rather weak – however the other parts more than made up for this shortcoming
Matt KWell it’s good to see another school episode. Reasonable alien, good confrontation between everyone, and good number of laughs and awkward moments.

MatthewI really enjoyed this episode too. The humour was spot-on, and all the character work was excellent – the animosity between Danny and the Doctor is really compelling and I’m really looking forward to wherever it leads. I agree that the monster was rubbish, but I disagree that it was a problem – I felt it was exactly what an episode like this needed.

All in all, this might be tied with Listen as my favourite episode – that one had a stronger script, but I feel like this one was a little better executed. This series really has its hooks in me now.

PaulI do think the caretaker was a good choice for a role, and one that I can’t quite see Capaldi being comfortable in (not as the Doctor at least). It does make me wonder, with all the running around – how did the school actually keep running?

Generally I thought this episode was probably the strongest so far. It’s mix of drama and humour was fairly believable. It’s just a shame that the background was a bit weak – although I did like the Ghostbuster style backpack as well as all the other references.

The series as a whole is coming into its own. It’s set up enough mysteries to keep stuff going, but not so many that you feel like it doesn’t actually have an end-goal and makes stuff up as it goes along. I just hope that they tie some things into previous seasons – Doctor Who has always treated the regenerations as separate lives, but it doesn’t really have to, and it’d be nice not add to the mythology rather than having it as a separate chapter.

MatthewAnd that’s it from us at The Companion Piece this week. We’ll be back next Monday but, ’til then, why not let us know what you thought of The Caretaker? Get in touch in the comments, on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, or by sticking your head through the window and singing like an otter.

We’ll see you all next week when the Doctor and Clara try to Kill the Moon. Apparently.