The Caretaker: Initial Reactions

the caretaker promo

The terrifying Skovox Blitzer is ready to destroy all humanity – but worse, and any second now, Danny Pink and the Doctor are going to meet. When terrifying events threaten Coal Hill school, the Doctor decides to go undercover.

I’ll be honest – when I first read the synopsis for this episode, I wasn’t that excited. I mean, it looked fine (which is definitely better than ‘awful’), but this year every other story has seemed to take it that one step further and at least tried to make it into the “exceptionally awesome” category. So, using the beautiful power of hindsight, how did The Caretaker measure up?

It was fine; and when the brilliance of the likes of Listen and (as I’m assured) Kill the Moon sit on either side of an episode of Doctor Who, “fine” is all we Whovians really ask for. Sure, “fine” was underwhelming back in the classic era when the Doctor only departed for a new adventure every four weeks (at best), but nowdays – as much as we don’t like to admit it – the show needs time to (literally) come back to Earth, have a not-really-threatening enemy and, most importantly, breathe. Boom Town did it, School Reunion did it, as did The Lazarus Experiment, The Lodger, Closing Time, and (to some extent) The Power of Three.

Another ‘fine’ thing Gareth Roberts’ episode managed was the array of blink-and-you’ll-miss-it references that should always come hand-in-hand with a story set at none other than Coal Hill School. “Wait, there were references?!” I hear you ask. Yes, yes there were; allow me to elaborate…

A Few Initial Reactions

  • You know what time it is – harping on about Clara’s wardrobe has become somewhat of a traditional ‘first point’. And thanks to the cold open sequence and the fact that it was set over several days, this episode provided a cracking showcase. I may even write a new post chronicling Clara’s impeccable fashion sense.
  • And onto the episode itself, which contains a reference within the first minute – the Doctor previously met “fish people” in The Underwater Menace. I’m going to assume he took Clara to meet those particular fish people again.
  • “I hate soldiers, don’t you hate soldiers?!” “…yeah!…” Oh Doctor, you have no idea.
  • The Doctor has, of course, gone undercover “John Smith” at a school before – but that time he was a science teacher. The job of the caretaker makes more sense though; in Remembrance of the Daleks the Seventh Doctor was mistaken for an applicant for the job of Coal Hill’s caretaker.
  • I love that Twelve hates humans. It was a trait that the First Doctor and even the Ninth had, but Twelve is a bit quirkier in that respect. He knows he needs humans to keep him company, but he still can’t stand them.


  • “I think that was just a sort of general wink, he winked at everybody, it was a general welcoming wink.” I love it when Clara looses her cool, yet somehow still manages to at least try to keep it together
  • I love how the Doctor’s definition of “deep cover” is changing his coat. It’s reminiscent of The Unquiet Dead, when Nine insisted Rose change into a 19th century dress while he just “changed his jumper”.
  • “I lived among otters once for a month. Well, I sulked. River and I, we had this big fight…” I love this reference! Although I seriously can’t imagine Eleven sulking among otters…
  • What the Doctor implied was 76 Totter’s lane definitely looks different now – and I loved how ‘UFO’ was graffitied on the window next door. The fact that it now has a iron gate makes sense, the previous “I. M. Foreman” gate was shown to be removed The Day of the Doctor.
Totter's lane, apparently.

Totter’s lane, apparently.

  • It’s way more likely to be a coincidence, but I believe the “no parking in front of the gates” sign at 76 Totter’s Lane is a reference to the infamous “no parking in front of this garage” sign shown when Ian and Barbara return to London in The Chase (1966).
This reference, though probably unintentional, is awesome.

This reference, though probably unintentional, is awesome.

  • We have a copper with a torch! Yes! If you didn’t get that reference *eyeroll* it’s meant to reflect the first ever Doctor Who scene, in which a policeman walks past 76 Totter’s lane and shines a torch on the “IM Foreman” sign.
  • Now here’s something really interesting: the popular theory is that Missy saves her victims from death at the last second by materialising around them. We know that she saved the policeman – so why do we see his burnt arm after the robot shot him? There goes that theory…
And with a single shot, the most popular story arc theory triumphantly swaggers of the table.

And with a single camera shot the most popular story arc theory triumphantly swaggers out of the room.

  • Aaaaand now I’m imagining the Twelfth Doctor in a band with Jane Austin, Buddy Holly and “Boggins from Space”. You know, that could work…
  • “Who asks for homework? Amateur”. I thought Calvin was cute, until I discovered he was that annoying kid who reminds the teacher to give out homework. *Facepalm*
  • I also completely forgot this until very recently that the Brigadier, who was a solider, retired and became a maths teacher. That’s an interesting connection to Danny…
The Doctor hanging with his buds - Eleven and the solider. This is definitely going to end well.

Twelve hanging with his buds – Eleven and the solider. This is definitely going to end well.

  • It’s kind of hilarious that the Doctor can’t believe that a solider can actually be kind and intelligent. It says a lot about him, in a way.
  • I’m not going to lie, for the first time in a long long time Doctor Who put me into a fit of continuous giggles. The entire time the Doctor mistook Clara and Adrian for a couple and kept hanging around I could hardly contain myself.
  • “Ozzie loves the Squaddie” bahahahaha. You know, I forgot this, but when I was at high school my PE teacher married one of the science teachers. I guess Clara and Danny’s predicament is more realistic than I first thought.
"What's the matter with kids today?" The real question is which 'kids' the Doctor was actually referring to...

“What’s the matter with kids today?” The real question lies in which ‘kids’ the Doctor was actually referring to…

  • So Courtney does become sort-of-important! I thought so!
  • “Why do I keep you around?” “Because the alternative would be developing a conscience of your own.” “I used to have a teacher exactly like you once.” The Doctor could be referring to a teacher at the Gallifreyan Academy, but I think this is supposed to a deliberate reference to Barbara, a Coal Hill history teacher and companion to the First Doctor. She was known for challenging his morals on many occasions.
  • “Probably homed in here because of artron emissions . You’ve had enough of them in this area over the years.” Yup, the Doctor’s been in the Coal Hill area quite a few times now – he stayed there for quite sometime with his granddaughter Susan, and returned in his Sixth and Seventh incarnations (if you didn’t know, artron energy is what powers the TARDIS).
Best. Sign. Ever. I'm making one of these.

Best. Sign. Ever. I’m making one of these.

  • The watch of invisibility?! Now that is cool.
  • Danny even keeps track of all of Clara’s facial expressions? Nawwwww
  • Thank goodness Danny has gotten less awkward around Clara. It’s gone back to cute awkward instead of painful awkward.
Clara's even cute when she has her 'I'm about to cancel' frown on.

Clara’s even cute when she has her ‘I’m about to cancel’ frown on.

  • I love how the Doctor’s nickname for Danny is now ‘PE’. I guess it’s similar to Eleven calling Rory “the Nose” and Nine’s habit of calling Mickey “Ricky”.
  • “‘I’ve got a swimming certificate, so that qualifies me to meddle with higher technology…Oh, no. There’s only room in my head for cross-country and the offside rule.”‘ Twelve definitely has some of the best sarcasm of the lot. Which, by the way, is my favourite type of humour. Although he was pretty mean to poor old Danny…xD
  • Danny didn’t buy Clara’s stupid ‘play’ story. If there’s one thing I like, it’s a male companion who’s (a) always thinking and asking the right questions, (b) got a lot of common sense, and (c) athletic. *cough* Steven *cough*. Today, Danny Pink ticked every single one of those boxes. I officially love him.
  • “He’s your space Dad”…it’s ok Danny, I still love you. It kind of helps to tick the “always thinking” box.
  • “You’ve made a boyfriend error” LOLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL
"Adrian's just a friend and not my type." You know, for a second, for one tiny second, I actually felt really really sorry for the Doctor.

“Adrian’s just a friend, and not my type.” You know, for a second, for one tiny second, I actually felt really really sorry for the Doctor.

  • So far, apart from Clara’s theme, none of the incidental music from the Matt Smith era has really carried through to the Capaldi era…until The Caretaker. Any keen Whovian would have noticed the familiar sound when the Doctor first opened the TARDIS doors for Danny – it was a simplified version of the infamous “The Sad Man With a Box“, which was a variation of “The Mad Man With a Box“. “My Silence“, a variation of “Sad Man” was, of course, one of the tracks used for Eleven’s regeneration (TV themes are complicated, people!).
  • So…there’s an alien, who used to look like Adrian, then he turned into a Scottish caretaker, and every now and then – when I’m not looking – you elope with him.” Nawww poor Danny is actually taking this really really well.
Now THAT'S my kind or male companion.

Now THAT’S my kind of male companion.

  • “He already knows I’m here. That’s why he’s talking like that, he’s being clever.” Aaaaand Danny also ticks the “clever” box. You actually cannot help but love him.
  • And not long after, Danny ticks the ‘athletic’ box with his awesome somersault over the robot.
  • Danny saving Clara though. Nawwwwwwwwwwwww
Okay, I'm officially ready to move on from Whouffle. *Fangirls for five minutes*

Okay, I’m officially ready to move on from Whouffle. *Fangirls for five minutes*

  • I love that Danny basically has the Doctor figured out. But there’s one thing that’s seriously bugging me – we don’t have Danny figured out. Come on, I want to know about that civilian he killed! It’s not fair Moffat!
  • “If you don’t tell me the truth I’ll never be able to help you. And I can’t stand not being able to help you.” Case in point: Danny ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥
  • Woo hoo, Missy is back! And everything just got weirder and did nothing for what we already know! I really love and hate this arc!

Next Week: Kill the Moon

The trailer didn’t tell us much, but I don’t really care, because I already absoutely cannot wait for this episode. All I know is “by the end of the episode things will never be the same again due to the Doctor’s actions.” To be honest, I don’t even want to know any more, so we’ll leave it there.

Except I have a crazy theory. You know how Clara has to make a decision between an innocent life and the human race? What if the innocent life is hers? What if she “dies” and is saved my Missy?!?!?! That would explain all the cast (and Moffat) commenting that she may not even make it to the end of the series…

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Posted in Doctors, New Series Reactions, New Series Tele-Stories, Projects, Series 8, Story Media, Twelfth Doctor
2 comments on “The Caretaker: Initial Reactions
  1. Good review! I feel like Twelve is starting to grow into the role now. I felt like this was the first episode he’s been truly comfortable in. Even though it wasn’t my favourite episode so far, I think it’s my favourite *Twelve* episode…

    • I agree, I genuinely felt like I was watching “the Doctor”. He’s really starting to get his own quirks now, the ‘no humans’ thing was alluded to in the first five stories but this episode really set it in stone. I still prefer Time Heist overall, but from a character development standpoint this story trumped them all. The conflict suffered a little, but I think it did what Into the Dalek was trying to do but didn’t quite manage.

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