You know the What’cha Reading crew is made up of a devoted bunch of Whovians, but we’ve had some differences of opinion about the Capaldi era. Chuck and I are the two most outspoken on the subject, and rather than continuing our debate on private email threads, we thought we’d bring it out in the open for your reading entertainment (we’re thoughtful like that). Basically, Chuck wrote out his thoughts on last week’s episode, “The Caretaker,” in a very coherent manner and I’m going to try to answer each point he raises. This is either going to be a really cool dialogue or resemble something like a bull in a china shop…no way of telling. Strap yourself in, because here goes our very first Doctor Who Point/Counterpoint.
Chuck: So first thing’s first I guess. I can’t get past the illogical nature of the statement I’m about to make but here goes. It’s obvious from the sets and the opening credits that they’re spending more money on production but why does everything look cheaper? From the opening credits to the Tardis herself everything looks fake (or faker?) I would prefer the cardboard sets of the 50’s at least they had some sort of authenticity.
Julie: I’ve kind of loved the new credits since I heard Moffat based them on a fan’s design. No, they aren’t as high-tech as some we’ve seen, but I think it’s a nice change from the standard Time Vortex opener we’ve all come to expect. I particularly like the shot of Twelve’s very intense stare, because I can’t help thinking “Attack Eyebrows!” when I see it. I do like the bookshelves and chalkboards that Twelve has, too. This Doctor is a scholar. It’s not as grand as Nine’s coral TARDIS, but Twelve’s TARDIS reminds me of a library and I like that. The only thing I’m not totally fond of is the telepathic part of the console (that Clara used to steer them to Danny Pink’s past in “Listen”) which just looks like it would feel gross to touch, but other than that I’m good with it.
Chuck: On to the episode! The Caretaker. From the promos we knew The Doctor would be masquerading as the school janitor and I was looking forward to seeing some Doctor/regular person interaction. It’s always amusing to see his reactions to those around him. Not this time. Somehow in a school full of students and teachers we only get a glimpse of 6, The Doctor, Clara, Mr Pink, a troubled student, and the big bad. Oh the English teacher gets five seconds of time but he’s only highlighted because of a passing resemblance (in wardrobe) to Matt Smith. And even when I tried to convince myself that this was an “exploration of Clara and The Doctor’s relationship” it still didn’t really work. Capaldi is so over the top, in his delivery and his mannerisms for most of the show it’s hard to even get what’s being presented.
Indulge me another moment on that idea. All the “modern” Doctors have had over the top personalities of some kind, it kind of goes with the territory. That’s not my issue. My problem is that all Capaldi seems to bring to his performance is that over the top, awkward, curmudgeon attitude. I noticed it even in last weeks episode, the man couldn’t sell himself to me as The Doctor during his soliloquy in the opening act of “Listen” and that was a perfectly written Doctor Who speech.
Julie: I’ll state up front that I feel like this is one of the weaker episodes so far this season, and I’m disappointed with that considering the writing team: Gareth Roberts and Steven Moffat. Roberts is the guy that gave us “The Unicorn and The Wasp” and “The Lodger,” which are two of my favorite episodes of Who, and I expected… more. However we knew that the inevitable Danny Pink/Doctor meet up was going to happen, and I think it was fairly well done. I agree with Chuck that I would have liked to see more of the Doctor among the humans, especially after he made the comments about fitting in among the otters, but hey, the main focus of this one was going to be on the Danny/Clara/Doctor triangle. I do not agree that Capaldi is over the top (something I have heard from some other friends as well). Over the top in a series that involved Matt Smith’s physical comedy and Chris Eccleston’s cheekiness in “Boom Town”? I don’t think it’s possible. I think that Capaldi is paying homage to the Doctors who were on when he was a kid: Hartnell’s curmudgeonliness (that’s totally a word), Troughton’s humor, Pertwee’s dramatic fashion sense. I fell in love with Twelve at the very outset, and at basically the midpoint of the season I still love him.
Chuck: Back to “The Caretaker”, there were some bright spots, though I’m sure it they’ve covered it before, it was refreshing to see the “living two lives” thing being examined. How Clara juggles being a full-time teacher, a social life, and goes traveling with The Doctor is beyond comprehension. I’ve always felt that was why previous companions are always treated as if they’ve been gone a while (except when they’re hanging around waiting for him to return), and the need for The Doctors apparent inaccuracy with the Tardis controls. Seeing her try to bounce between work, the Tardis, dinner dates was a lot of fun and fairly well written.
Well kind of. How many dates did they show her on? 3? 5? I ask because they seemed to show no real passage of time for either us (the audience) or Clara and Mr. Pink (You do know they’re dating yes?). It struck me as odd that the writer and director didn’t take the opportunity to subtly suggest that the relationship was moving in some way. They were no more intimate, in conversation or physically, from the first date to the next. We never get the feeling that they’re getting to know one another. Maybe the jogging date was meant to suggest they had progressed past dinner dates?
Julie: I agree with you. Moffat’s female characters have been widely criticized, and I figure it’s just because he likes to write the Doctor the best. Other characters are less interesting to him except how they showcase the Doctor’s various personality traits. Much like the Doctor himself, Steven Moffat prefers skipping ahead to the next time the Doctor speaks. I will say that one of the joys for me this season has been seeing the relationship between Twelve and Clara. Twelve made it very clear that he is not her boyfriend, but I ship Whouffaldi like no one’s business and every episode there is at least one line of dialogue that gives me hope (why the hell is he trying so hard to impress her and discredit Robin in “Robots of Sherwood” like a jealous boyfriend? Why is it okay for her to move on in “The Caretaker” with someone who vaguely resembles Eleven, but not Danny Pink? Answer me that.) Even taking off my Whouffaldi goggles, though, I love that he depends on her to be his carer, to really see him and tell him if he’s a good man.
But getting back to the Clara/Danny dynamic, yeah, it simultaneously feels like they’ve dated for ages and not long at all. The evening at home at the end of the episode feels like they’re an old married couple. It also contained one of my least favorite lines, when Danny makes Clara promise to tell him if the Doctor pushes him to far and not lie about it: “I am saying it because if you don’t tell me the truth I can’t help you, and I could never stand not being able to help you.” It just really rubbed me the wrong way. “Do what I say, because I have to be able to help you.” Forget that, Clara’s proved she’s completely capable. If the choice is adventure with the Doctor or Danny Pink coddling her, I’d choose the Doctor every time. Shame, because I liked Danny up to that point. Win me back, Danny. Don’t say things that sound so misogynistic!
Chuck: Then there was the suggestion that The Doctor was an Officer. Someone used to giving orders (and expecting them carried out). While it is true that he has always been presented as a leader, it has always been that of a pied piper, people follow because they feel compelled to. Not even The War Doctor gave me the impression of a hard-nosed commander or as Mr. Pink puts it “an aristocrat”.
Julie: Completely. Traveling with the Doctor is a choice. Danny’s dislike of aristocrats is almost as puzzling to me as the Doctor’s dislike of soldiers. I’m guessing there is some giant Moffat puzzle piece still missing that will make this all clear. (Please let there be some giant Moffat puzzle piece still missing that will make this all clear.)
Chuck: Add to all of this a cheap Cyberman/Dalek hybrid bad guy (really they couldn’t resurrect Anthony Head’s character Mr. Finch from the 2006 episode School Reunion?). Another disappointing episode. I can’t believe we’re half way through this series and it’s still this stiff, this unappealing. But maybe that’s just one man’s opinion.
Julie: Yeah, the Skovox Blitzer felt very Terminator 2 as a spider. I was not really impressed with it as a baddie. I feel like this was just an off week, though. Hoping for good things with “Kill the Moon,” even if the title feels like a re-tread of “Let’s Kill Hitler.” It appears to have freaky spiders, and I hate spiders, so I would probably kill the moon too if it was infested with them.
So, what were your thoughts on “The Caretaker”? How do you feel Capaldi is doing as the Doctor? Any other burning Who issues you feel like we’ve missed in our take on it? Let us know in the comments!