Doctor Who – The Caretaker Review

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The Caretaker is on the face of it a rerun of The Lodger, the Matt Smith episode that put the Eleventh Doctor in a domestic flat-sharing situation in order to solve an alien-related matter, much comedy ensues, etc. This time around its Peter Capaldi’s Twelfth Doctor who is pretending to be the school caretaker at Coal Hill School where Clara teaches.

Yes, there is indeed comedy to be derived from this situation. However I think this episode turned into something a bit different. Actually it was in the same way that I expected Listen to be a rerun of Blink and was surprised at that episode.

The episode beings with a montage showing Clara juggling her adventures with the Doctor and spending time with boyfriend Danny Pink. She is endeavouring to spend more time with Danny when she is introduced to the new school caretaker, which of course is the Doctor. He has detected a dangerous alien war machine in the area and has picked the school as a convenient place to dispose of it after hours.

However the alien war machine is frankly just a bit of a McGuffin for the real story. As it turns out this episode is a character piece and at the heart of it is the Doctor’s prejudice of and dislike towards soldiers, no doubt at least partly motivated by his incarnation of the “War Doctor”. Upon being introduced to former soldier turned teacher Danny the Doctor pigeonholes Danny as a PE teacher and he refueses to process the information that Danny actually teaches maths.

Meanwhile the doctor is trying to work out who Clara’s teacher boyfriend is. He obviously discounts Danny automatically and he focuses on a young dashing bow-tie wearing fellow with floppy hair. He approves.

Eventually after fighting the McGuffin alien Clara and the doctor are forced to reveal that they travel in time and space. A shocked Danny thinks Clara is an alien and he asked if the doctor is her “space dad”. But Danny clearly hits a nerve when he recognises something of an “officer” in the doctor. Ultimately Danny tells Cara that the Doctor wants to know if Danny is “good enough” for her.

There’s lots of other fun stuff in this episode. For example the caretaker has a building with red doors that look not unlike the Tardis doors. The Doctor also befriends “disruptive influence” Courtney but she’s not cut out to travel in time in space apparently.

An entertaining episode that takes is half-way through the season and a big improvement over last week’s Time Heist.

Under the Dome Season 2 Musings

I gradually became a big fan of Under the Dome when season 1 was broadcast on Channel 5 last year and I was obviously looking forward to season 2 so see how the folk of Chester’s Mill are getting on. Here are a few of my thoughts on season 2 so far based on the first five or six episodes.

First of all I have to comment on the departure of some of the main cast members. In the space of the opening episode two main characters were dispatched with unsightly haste.

First of all that nice Sheriff Linda was squished between the Dome and a vehicle when the Dome went all magnetised. Shame as she was one of the more interesting characters from the beginning – she had had to step up when Jeff Fahey’s Sheriff Duke Perkins had his pacemaker explode on him at the start of the series. (I kind of hoped she would step out from behind the car all flattened like Wile E Coyote but no such luck.)

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That nice Sheriff Linda. Toast.

Then at the end of the first episode of season 2 that nice Angie got dispatched by a mysterious axe-wielding killer. Again, Angie had an interesting storyline as she had been kidnapped by crazy Junior Rennie who locked her in his bomb shelter on Dome Day. This provided one of the best moments of the first season when Big Jim found her and you wondered just what he was going to do in order to protect his crazy son.

Plus she was kinda cute…

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That nice Angie. Cute, but Toast.

But whatever the reasons for the hasty dispatch of the characters it means that substitutes needed to be found quickly. Angie was immediately replaced by Melanie Cross who has inexplicably reappeared after being missing for 25 years. This is Very Convenient as she can now take the place of Angie in the “four hands” quartet.

Then there’s Sam, a former paramedic who is under the Dome with everyone else but has been hanging out in his cabin all this time so we’ve only just met him. Seriously?

Also we have a new lady scientist/schoolteacher Rebecca Pine. Initially it seemed as if she would just be there to pull solutions out of the hat to solve Dome-related problems such as a red acid rain that was causing mayhem. But her character took an interesting twist when she decided there wasn’t enough food to feed the population and there needed to be some “culling of the herd” via some swine flu she had cooked up. Anyone who died would be one less mouth to feed and only the healthy would survive. Big Jim Rennie was predictably all for this but luckily Rebecca had second thoughts at the last minute. Still, it was an interesting moral dilemma for some of the characters; Do you kill some to save some if the alternative is that everyone dies?

The show does get a bit silly in its dealings with Big Jim. One minute he’s leading a lynch mob to hang Barbie for murders Big Jim committed, and then all is forgiven. Then Big Jim is in the cells for the swine flu plot, and the next he is forgiven. I want to shout at the screen “Don’t trust him!” But then I remember that history has shown how a charismatic leader can take control when he says what the people want to hear. Maybe the show should concentrate more on this aspect using the Dome as a metaphor.

I also find the show more interesting when it deals with the problems that the “Millers” have to deal with because of the Dome, e.g. food shortages, dust storms, acid rain, etc. When it deals with the sci-fi elements it does get a little silly with all this mini-dome and four-hands malarkey. And I do have a problem with how new characters are just dropped in, or that new information is just conveniently dropped on the screen. E.g. the email mysteriously works again so that Junior can get a message from his mother, who is supposed to be dead.

And the sudden appearance of Melanie in the lake felt a bit credibility-straining, but as least she’s tied into the appearance of the Dome-egg thing when it arrived via a meteor in 1988.

Plus she’s kinda cute…

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That nice Melanie. Cute, and from 1988. Not Toast. Yet.

Doctor Who – Time Heist

This week’s episode of Doctor Who turned out to be a fairly run of the mill bit of business. It wasn’t terrible by any stretch of the imagination but it it did have a distinct “in between” feel about it. Some spoilers follow.

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The Doctor and Clara are called to a meeting by a mysterious figure who wants them to rob a bank. The next thing you know they and two others – a shape-shifter and a computer augmented hacker – have had their memory wiped. The reasoning for this is quite a nice idea; The bank in question is the most secure in the universe because the people running it can detect the guilt of everyone who walks inside. So the only way to get in is not to actually know what your plan to rob it actually is, hence the mind-wipe.

Incidentally (or actually crucially) the means of detecting guilt is a creature called the Teller, which is realised with some very nifty animatronics. It scans ones memories for guilt and then turns their brains to “soup”. Ew.

Eventually we discover the not very surprising fact that the whole time heist was organised by the Doctor himself and the aim of it is to rescue the Teller and his captive mate and return them to their own world. Just like in last years Hide in fact. Aw.

So not a bad episode, just one that could have slotted into any previous Doctor’s run of episodes whereas Deep Breath and Listen could only be Capaldi episodes.

Doctor Who – Listen

A summary and review of Listen, with spoilers.

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The fourth episode of the new series turned out to be a bit of a surprise. From what little I had read about it in advance I was under the impression that it would be something in the vein of Stephen Moffat’s classic Blink that introduced the Weeping Angels. However Listen turned out to be something entirely different.

The opening of the episode had the Doctor speculating that a creature could have evolved that was perfect at hiding. He ties it in with a dream that he thinks everyone has had where the dreamer wakes up and a hand reaches out from under the bed and grabs their ankle.

So with that hypothesis in mind the Doctor picks up Clara who has just had a disastrous date with fellow teacher Danny Pink. He hooks her into the Tardis console so the Tardis can take them to the moment on her timeline that Clara had the dream.

Only Clara is distracted by the date and they end up at a children’s home where a certain boy called Rupert Pink is worried something is under his bed. Clara gets under the bed to convince him otherwise.

And then someone sits on the bed.

By now the Doctor is in the room too and he suggests the figure under the blanket is either another child playing a trick on Rupert or the being he believes exists. The doctor tells Rupert that fear is a superpower as it makes you strong. The Doctor convinces the mysterious figure to leave but we are left wondering what was under the blanket.

They leave Rupert with a toy solder to protect him, a soldier without a gun called Dan.

Clara gets the Doctor to return her to her disastrous date to try and repair the damage from earlier. All goes well until Clara lets slips Danny’s real name, Rupert. Oh dear.

Then a space-suited figure enters the restaurant and beckons Clara to follow. It’s Danny, except it’s not… It’s actually his descendent Orson Pink, a time-traveler from 100 years in the future who the Doctor found marooned at the end of the universe while investigating Clara’s timeline. Orson has Rupert’s toy soldier which is a family heirloom and he gives it to Clara.

The Doctor takes them back to Orson’s time ship in the far future. Orson is unhappy about returning because of the strange banging on the hull at night. The Doctor opens the airlock when the noises start but neither we or Clara see if there was a being or if it was just the metal expanding or contracting.

The air seal fails and Orson rescues the unconscious Doctor. Then the banging starts on the Tardis door and Clara takes control of the Tardis to get them out of there. On stepping out of the Tardis she finds herself in a barn where a boy is crying. Is it Rupert? Orson?

A man and a woman enter the barn and Clara hides under the boy’s bed. They ask the boy if he wants to come in to be with the “other boys”. And then the man makes a remark about how the boy will “never make a time lord”

Ok, I wasn’t expecting that.

In the Tardis the recovered Doctor calls to Clara and the boy gets out of bed. Clara’s hand shoots out and grabs his ankle. She is horrified at what she has done and tells the boy it is just a dream and to go back to bed. Then she gets up to go but turns back and gives the boy a variation of the fear is a superpower speech.

During her speech we see a glimpse of the John Hurt War Doctor taking the Moment to the barn in last year’s The Day of the Doctor. (Cue: “Holy crap! It’s the same barn!”)

She leaves the boy the toy solder without a gun and her last line is “fear makes companions of us all” which is a line spoken by William Hartnell’s Doctor.

So there was never anything under the bed. Never anything outside the door of the time ship. There was no monster, no alien because fear is the monster in this week’s episode.

(Although there was the figure under the blanket. I guess we need to come to our own conclusion on that.)

The episode has the same somber and slower tone that we had in the series opener Deep Breath which I find very welcome. This allows character scenes to develop such as that between Danny and Clara on their date.

Capaldi is on fine form delivering his lines with intensity. There is a continuing gag where he insults Clara’s appearance, such as the observation that she needs three mirrors to see her face as it’s so wide.

Really, I think I’m going to have to go back and watch it again to appreciate the episode better. As I said at the start I was expecting another Blink. What we got was something entirely different.

Doctor Who – Robot of Sherwood

This week’s episode of Doctor Who proved to a bit more of a lighthearted romp than the previous episodes as advertised. It’s very much a standalone episode where the Doctor promises to take Clara to anywhere in time and space. She insists on seeing Robin Hood despite the Doctor’s insistence that Robin Hood never actually existed. Nevertheless he sets the coordinates to 1190 Sherwood forest.

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And wouldn’t you know, the first person he meets upon exiting the Tardis is said Robin. There’s a bit of mucking around with a sword vs spoon fight before the Doctor and Clara are taken to meet the merry men. Then it’s off to the Sheriff of Nottingham’s castle to try and win a golden arrow. There the Doctor discovers the Sheriff’s knights at in fact robots.

Capaldi seems to be developing a trademark bickering persona for his Doctor. He’s constantly irritated by Robin and launches into arguments with his counterpart. Writer Mark Gatiss does some interesting stuff comparing the legend of Robin Hood with the Doctor who feels anything but heroic.

The episode does touch on what must be the arc of the season. The Doctor discovers another spaceship from the future that is programmed to find the “Promised Land”, one assumes the same Promised Land as mentioned by the clockwork man in the season’s opening episode.

So in summary a fun lighthearted episode to bed in the new Doctor. But next week’s looks a fair bit more sinister…