Another week, another very good episode of Doctor Who! We're six for six so far.
Showrunner Stephen Moffat has either written or co-written all of the first six episodes, which is surprising to me, as his past output has been uneven at best. So why wasn't he this good during the Matt Smith years? What changed?
Whatever he's doing differently, let's hope he keeps it up. I've been sort of half-seriously calling for Moffat's head the past couple of seasons due to some of the sub-par scripts he's churned out (I'm lookin' right at you, The Angels Take Manhattan). If he can keep up this level of quality though, he's welcome to stay as long as he wants (I'm sure he's breathing a sigh of relief knowing I approve).
The Plot: As the episode opens, Clara's trying to balance her travels with the Doctor and her relationship with Danny Pink. Meanwhile, the Doctor detects alien energy at the Coal Hill School, where Clara is teaching. He becomes the temporary caretaker in order to stake it out. He discovers a Skovox Blitzer, one of the most deadly life forms in the universe, is prowling around the school, and sets a trap to capture it.
Sparks fly when the Doctor and Danny meet and immediately take a dislike to one another, much to Clara's dismay. She eventually discovers both men are wary of the other because they have her best interests at heart, and don't want to see her get hurt.
Thoughts: • This isn't the first time the Coal Hill School has appeared, of course. It was featured way back in The Unearthly Child, the very first episode of Doctor Who. It also appeared in the Seventh Doctor story Remembrance Of The Daleks. And of course Clara has been working there for the past couple of seasons.
• So why do aliens seem so drawn to the school? Is it one of those focal points in time and space, like the Rift in Cardiff?
The Doctor believes "artron emissions" in the school may have attracted the Skovox Blitzer. This isn't the first time we've heard of artron energy– it was first mentioned way back in the Fourth Doctor story The Deadly Assassin.
Artron energy seems to have something to do with time travel. Could the presence of the TARDIS be the source of the artron emissions? If so, the Doctor may very well have brought the Skovox Blitzer to the school himself.
• The Doctor replaces the regular caretaker in order to trap the Skovox Blitzer. I loved that he just put the janitor jacket on right over his Crombie coat and thought it was the perfect disguise. His black sleeves were even hanging out of the caretaker jacket!
• This is not the first time the Doctor's gone undercover and tried to pass as human in recent years. He did so in The Lodger and in Closing Time. In fact, the plot of The Caretaker is pretty much identical to those previous episodes. The Doctor detects some sort of alien presence, he goes undercover as a human to investigate, he influences the lives of those he's staying with, and chases off the alien in the third act.
It shouldn't be a surprise I suppose. Gareth Roberts, wrote all three of these episodes. If you need a story about the Doctor posing as a human to flush out an alien, Edwards is your man!
• Ugh, the Doctor wears his horrible sequined top again in this episode. I got a better look at it this week, and it appears that what I first thought were sequins are really dozens of tiny holes, revealing white fabric underneath. Whatever the hell it is, it's awful looking and the sooner it gets destroyed in a laundry accident, the better.
• Man, Jenna Coleman was reaching maximum levels of cute in this episode, even more so than usual. Which makes the Doctor's inevitable dig at her appearance (which he's done every week so far) that much more incongruous and mean-spirited.
Once again I'm impressed by the improvements they've made to Clara 2.0's character. And once again, Jenna Coleman rose to the challenge. I'm really gonna miss her after she leaves in this year's Christmas Special.
• It's taken half a season, but the new Doctor's finally starting to warm up. I'll be honest, in the first couple of episodes Peter Capaldi left me kind of cold, but in the past couple of episodes it seems like he's becoming more comfortable in the role.
• In this episode the Doctor reveals his true nature and the TARDIS not just to Danny, but also to a young student named Courtney Woods. He's worse at keeping his identity secret than the Michael Keaton version of Batman.
I've noticed in recent seasons that whenever someone does find out the Doctor is an alien and they see the TARDIS interior, they accept it pretty quickly and matter-of-factly. I think that's probably how most people would really react. The majority of the public already believes in aliens, so seeing the Doctor would only confirm their beliefs.
• Speaking of Courtney Woods, are they prepping her to become a companion? Why would they devote so much screen time to her otherwise? I hope that's not where they're going though. The idea of the Doctor traveling around with an underage female student is a little... against the law.
• The Doctor realizes Clara is having a relationship with one of her fellow teachers. He believes it's Adrian, the English teacher. Did you notice that Adrian looks a bit like the Eleventh Doctor? He even sports a bow tie!
• The Doctor uses an invisibility watch to hide himself from the Blizter. So where'd he get that? Has he had it all along, or did he just now tinker it together?
Clara gives Danny the watch so he can secretly observe her interacting with the Doctor. Danny later gives it back to her. He should have kept the watch! Why shouldn't companions have special powers like the Doctor?
• I loved the desgin of the Skovox Blitzer. It'd make an awesome action figure. Too bad Character Options quit making the 5" toy line.
• During the Blitzer's POV shots, its eyesight seemed to operate on a different wavelength from ours. I wonder why, when the Doctor (or Danny) used the invisibility watch, it couldn't see them in infrared? Did the Doctor anticipate that and mask himself from all possible wavelengths? Next week, the BBC costume department gets some more use out of the Doctor's space suit.