Caretaker is an episode with a number of sparkling, funny moments, joined together by jokes that don’t work at all and a monster that’s laughably bad.
Let’s start with the Skilvoxy whatever. Yes, I understand it’s not meant to be the point of the episode, that it’s basically an excuse for the Doctor to run around Coal Hill School being eccentric and rambling on about how much he can’t stand humans. But still, if you’re going to throw a monster into your episode at least pretend to give a shit. The Doctor makes out that the Skilvoxy whatever is the perfect killing machine (and fuck me how many of those are there in the Doctor Who universe?) but really it’s just a stubby, poorly designed metal thing that can’t shoot to save itself. Am I taking it all too seriously? Maybe. But if the Skilvoxy whatever is meant to be a bit of a laugh, it’s a joke that falls entirely flat.
And talking about the humour, it’s a mixed bag. The first ten minutes are genuinely funny. Clara going from adventures to dates with Danny, then from dates with Danny back to an adventure is lovely stuff. And the Doctor as a school caretaker is a nice idea – I love Capaldi’s wink. But after that the jokes are mostly miss, rather than hit. The Doctor going on about how he can’t accept that Danny’s a maths teacher – calling him PE throughout the episode – is not only over-egged to the point you want someone to kick the Doctor repeatedly in the nuts, but it’s also borderline racist – as if the Doctor is saying, “I can’t envisage a black guy being a maths teacher.” I know that’s not what is intended, but it comes off that way.
The main point of the episode, though, is the Clara and Danny dynamic There’s definite chemistry between the two and Samuel Anderson’s Danny is a breath of fresh air. He’s good at the funny, the angry and the incredulous. If I have a concern it’s that Danny is now positioning himself as the guy who is going to protect Clara from the Doctor’s craziness. And I wish Clara had said back to him that she’s been doing this adventuring long enough to know that she doesn’t need his protection. Instead she just nuzzled up to him. It’s not Clara’s most empowering moment.
For me, though, the best bit of the episode, is Danny standing up to the Doctor and calling him a toff and an officer. It’s an angry and passionate scene, which nearly, but not entirely, puts the Doctor in his place. It could have gone further, Danny could have stood eye to eye with the Doctor and said, “I’m a maths teacher. That’s what I am. Live with it.” And I also I wish it was this moment, and not Danny vaulting over the Skilvoxy whatever, that garnered respect from the Doctor. Still, it’s a great scene, that just about saves the episode.
Oh, and all the bits with Courtney, the disruptive element, and the Doctor are great.
Overall then, I’m willing to give the Caretaker a pass mark. For me it’s my second least favourite episode of the season, with In The Dalek at the bottom of the list.