Sunday, September 28, 2014

In Which I Review Doctor Who (8x6)

O brave new world! That has such people in it! 
--The Tempest
 This weeks episode, "The Caretaker," has a bit of a Tempest-like feel to it. A normal mortal (Danny) stumbles into a magical world of magicians and monsters and in the process finds someone to love. Now, unlike Ferdinand and Miranda, Clara and Danny have known each other for longer than a few days and are obviously quite in love. Much to the Doctor's dismay. I talked about this last week in my review of "Time Heist." The Doctor seems to have a bit of back and forth when it comes to his relationship with Clara Oswald. He insults her like a brother or best friend (his insults feel exactly how my best friend and I talk to each other), but sometimes he also acts like a jealous lover who doesn't want to share Clara. In the season premiere, the Doctor said that he wasn't Clara's boyfriend so why is he acting like someone who's favorite toy is about to be taken away? And then Danny inadvertently stumbled into the answer: because the Doctor is Clara's space dad. The Doctor is Prospero and he can wave his magic stick and curse you or bless you and his obsession with Clara stems from how un-romanticaly those two are wrapped up in each other as family, alone on their island, avoiding the real. This episode was very much about relationships and how these three people--Danny, Clara, and the Doctor--will all relate to each other. Can Clara have it all? 

Let's talk about these various relationships. I want to start with the most obvious and easy to discuss: Clara and Danny. I don't know how long it has been since they began dating, but things are obviously going swimmingly. Except, Clara is keeping a massive secret from Danny, namely her double life as a time traveling, space venturing lady who sometimes finds herself in really dangerous situations. Up until now, Danny hasn't seemed too concerned about Clara's vanishing and weird acts. She's quirky! Clara is obviously trying to have both lives, much like Amy before her. Side note, but this is something that is really bothering me: companions are supposed to LIVE with the Doctor. They have their own room and bunk and they travel with the Doctor, occasionally stopping at home for laundry. This is nothing against Clara because Amy and Rory did it too at the end of Season Seven. But it's not how companions are supposed to function. I know we live in a world where woman are in the workforce and can't take massive time off but...he has a time machine.... Anyway, it bothers me since Moffat appears determined to erase certain aspects of the past. Back to Clara and Danny. Is there a ship name for them? Should there be? PinkGirl? Danny's a good guy; he served his country, he is kind to his students, he and Clara have a good time together, and he's obviously very protective of Clara. I loved the part at the end in which Danny makes Clara promise that she'll tell him if the Doctor pushes her too far. He's looking out for her. It's sweet in a pre-21st century per-feminist way because it was also total emotional blackmail when this declaration is followed up by "or I'll leave you." I'll let it slide because I think this is how Clara is going to get out of the TARDIS: the Doctor goes too far and Danny pulls Clara out. I don't know if I see the relationship between The Doctor and Clara ending well; had this been the 11th Doctor, then yes. But 12 is so different, so acerbic and coarse. He rebuffs all attempts at affection but if there is a giant take away from this episode, it's that he deeply cares for and loves Clara. If Clara and Danny decide that the Doctor has gone too far in his treatment of Clara or he has put her in danger one too many times, The Doctor--THIS Doctor--isn't going to take that lying down.

So how about the Doctor and Clara? The Doctor goes deep undercover--which means he puts on a different coat--at Clara's school. There's a giant machine that kills people, but honestly that's the least interesting and least important part of this week. When the Doctor thinks that Clara is dating someone with an uncanny resemblance to Matt Smith (bow tie and all), he's fine with it. This is a proper chap, an English teacher, and Clara is using him as a substitute for the Doctor. And this is where I have trouble. The Doctor shouldn't find this flattering because his relationship with Clara isn't that of lovers. It's father and daughter, or maybe even more accurately...it's the Doctor and Susan. For those not in the know: Susan Foreman was the 1st Doctor's granddaughter who traveled with him for some time in the first few seasons. Clara is a Susan stand-in. Think about it: she's young, idealistic, she was incredibly weepy until Moffat changed her characterization around. She teachers at Coal Hill, where Susan went to school. And now what is happening? Clara has fallen in love with Danny Pink, a former fighter. Susan fell in love with DAVID Campbell, a 22nd century freedom fighter. The Doctor eventually leaves Susan to be with David in a very teary goodbye. And here's Clara who wants to be back on time for dates with Danny. I think, subconsciously, the Doctor sees this as being Susan 2.0 and so he's hanging on for dear life, which for the 12th Doctor means being verbally cruel. He's in dad/grandad mode when he realizes that Clara is not dating the nice foppish English teacher, but a soldier who teaches Physical Education (which Danny does not) which makes him not good enough for Clara. On the one hand, it speaks to how The Doctor views Clara--she's special, she's talented, she's smart and she needs someone who is good enough. But he's so possessive and protective that even when Clara declares that she loves Danny, The Doctor is affronted by such a suggestion: "how can you date a PE teacher? You've made a boyfriend error. How can you date a soldier?" And even after Clara explains everything to Danny, the Doctor's response is, "you've explained me to Danny, but you haven't explained Danny to me." But, does Clara owe the Doctor that? Yes, The Doctor has shown Clara wonders but he is not actually her father or grandfather. He doesn't require an explanation into Clara's personal life.

Which brings us to Danny and the Doctor. I have a general issue: the Doctor hates soldiers. Now, on some level, I get why. The Doctor is a soldier; he was a Warrior for one iteration. He's soaked in blood and he's no longer running from it or forgetting it. So he sees others like him and hates them for being a reminder of what he is. I get that. It's a narrative thing. HOWEVER, I think Moffat is forgetting that the Brigadier was once the Doctor's best friend. The Doctor didn't particularly like working with UNIT, but he did it when needed and tried to curb their homicidal tendencies. But this absolute abhorrence to all soldiers is a bit extreme. So why doesn't he like Danny? Well, the Doctor may actually like him. Or he may hate him. It doesn't matter; The Doctor only needs Danny to be one thing: good enough. And it isn't until the end of the episode that the Doctor thinks Danny might just be. He's open to it, just like Propsero eventually concedes that Miranda and Ferdinand love one another. But I don't think the Doctor is ever going be open to Danny fully; he'll gladly hate him the second Danny disappoints. This is a pretty big change from past Doctors. 10 liked Mickey well enough even though he was in love with Rose; 11 liked Rory quite a bit. But 12 is just not thrilled at "his" Clara being taken away.

This is a very plot-lite episode. It's our standard "the Doctor tries to be human but fails miserably." Though, to be fair, he's better at it than 11 ever was. One of the problems I'm having is that, so far, there are no stand out episodes. There are episodes that made me laugh (Robots of Sherwood), episodes that made me think (Listen) and episodes I didn't like (Time Heist). But there are no episodes that become instant classics of that Doctor--Blink, Midnight, The Lodger, The Doctor's Wife being examples of such instant classics. So far, the 12th Doctor hasn't had one. The episodes are decent but nothing stellar. Capaldi is doing great work but the writing isn't quite up to snuff. Also, wherever this Missy and Paradise story is going, I wish it would get there faster. It's a lot of teasing but no real building the mystery. I'm kind of over this heaven and death thing. So far humans from the future, robots, and humans from present day have landed in Paradise but not everyone was affected by the Doctor. The cop from this episode never even met the Doctor. Hopefully this plot begins to pick up steam soon.

Miscellaneous Notes on The Caretaker

--Smattering of funnies:
"Why do you have two jackets? Is one of them faulty?
"Why are you being nice?" "Cause it works on you."
"I hate you!" "That's fine. That's a perfectly normal reaction."
"Why do I keep you around?" "Cause the alternative would be developing a conscience of your own."

--I have a lot of issues that they spent an entire episode at Coal Hill and there was not one reference to Ian or Barbara or Susan.

--Is Clara allowed to wear short shorts with tights as a teacher?

--"You want to know what's inside the box? I'll tell you what's inside the box! It's a time machine. It also travels in space. And it usually contains a man who just wants to get on with his work of preventing the end of the world, but keeps being interrupted by BORING little humans." This is all of Doctor Who summed up in a few sentences.

2 comments:

  1. I really want to know why Mary Poppins was so perturbed when she walked out into the very white hallway. My leading theories about Paradise include "bubble-universe" or a dimensional shift.

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