Saturday, 27 September 2014

Doctor Who: 'The Caretaker' Review

Danny Pink is not an interesting character. So to devote a large amount of an episode, let alone an entire season to introduce him is ridiculous. I don’t blame Samuel Anderson for this, given that he gave a perfectly fine performance as Orson Pink in ‘Listen’ he can obviously act. With the kind of scripting that Danny Pink has, nobody could save this character and I really suspect Anderson’s doing the best he can with what he has to work with. The real issue is that Danny doesn’t have anything to his character aside from his soldier backstory. I can’t imagine what Danny does on his days off, aside from Clara or what music he might listen to, anything that make suggest he is a rounded character. 
Ok real talk, a character having Post Traumatic Stress Disorder should be handled with a bit more care. I don’t mean in terms of offending people, although I’m fairly sure it shouldn’t, I mean narratively.  If you’re going to pull from the big book of bad things, such as rape, murdered family members, PTSD and so on, it should be for a good narrative reason. Dark backstories are the narrative Pandora’s Box and once opened you need to be careful. When I say careful I mean that when used correctly you can make a good story better and handle the topic appropriately, when not...bad times.
‘Vincent and the Doctor’ managed to deal with the mental health angle with a reasonable deal of care and dignity. Not only that, but it managed to work the symbolic idea of an invisible monster into the actual plot that surrounded it. At this point all we know about Danny is that something bad happened to him when he was a soldier…that’s about it, if you’re going to make us feel sympathy for someone, we need to know who he is, what the war has done to make his life worse. I appreciate that some of this may be in future episodes but the back story was not introduced in future episodes, we have that now.
That being said the biggest issue with Danny is Clara, she agreed to go on a date with him within minutes of meeting him, despite seeing him have, what can nicely be described as a public meltdown. Now maybe she thinks he’s the new hotness and ignored the odd behaviour or maybe night terrors really turn her on. Now it’s possible that she feels sorry for him and is giving him a chance. Let’s ignore for a fact that she would be taking pity on him, which is a terrible way to introduce a disabled character. Why did she agree to a date? We didn’t see him do anything to show that he was a nice guy. We didn’t get a scene where she overheard him offering to help a student after hours or saving a cat or anything remotely to separate him from every other guy at the school, ignoring the ones who’d get her jail time from dating of course. Apparently she now loves him, so any more development isn’t really needed I guess? FYI Moffat, love doesn’t conquer all in fiction, we as an audience, without hormones to blind us, need to understand why they love each other. 
I think Steven Moffat has developed writing shorthand of assuming the audience has seen every cliché and established trope in storytelling, so he doesn’t bother to use any of them, leaving undeveloped characters and scripts full of holes. I hope that the Clara wuvs Danny arc is not more of this and actually has a conclusion for once…
For ‘The Caretaker’, Moffat was writing with Gareth Roberts, a writer who usually injects a certain level of comedy to his scripts. This episode actually made me laugh several times, and I laughed with it, not at it, which makes a nice change. The overall plot made sense and Peter Capaldi continues to give a brilliant performance as the Doctor, not the same Doctor he was playing in the previous episodes apparently but good all the same….Ok that’s the good stuff over with.

We open with a ‘Love and Monsters’ like comedy montage to show Clara’s double life, complete with terrible keyboard demo music. Clara’s plight is made worse when The Doctor goes undercover at her school to track a back massager like Digimon that destroys everything. The robot killing machine is terrible, even by Doctor Who standards, I appreciate it isn’t meant to be the focus of the episode but it’s huge and shoots lasers so I’m going to rate it as if it were.
When the idea of The Doctor’s invisibility watch was discussed, why was it not used as the basis of a story by itself? The idea of invisibility and the danger of that power would be a good start for a character led episode, loads of potential. Instead it is used as a throwaway story element, one I suspect will never be seen again despite obvious plot uses for such a thing in future episodes. The script in general can’t see the wood for the trees, if the point of the episode was the five minute scenes with The Doctor and Danny squaring off, make that the entire episode! You could have trapped the three of them in the Tardis and had a character discussion based episode. You could have actually produced something interesting in the process, just possibly.
Now I’m going to be honest, when I mentioned the successful use of symbolism in Vincent and the Doctor I was setting this episode up, I tricked you all and I apologise. Attempts are made to add symbolism to ‘The Caretaker’ but they are handled worse than most media college students would. We have a disrupted chessboard at the school once The Doctor has arrived and a mirrored Clara talking about her double life. Top tip, symbolism is meant to be subtle. It works better when the audience doesn’t notice it immediately.
 When the director wasn’t trying to work GCSE level art into the episode they were being distracted by the 1960’s Batman tv show. So distracted by Batman in fact, that they let the camera lean constantly back and forth, Dutch angle after Dutch angle, we get it! THINGS AREN’T HOW THEY SHOULD BE! THINGS ARE LEANING TO A DANGEROUS EXTENT! 
This episode is really messy and far too ‘New Who’ for its own good. I think if i'd watched this episode without having seen the Clara/Doctor/Danny build up in previous episodes I would have liked it a lot more. As a standalone Who story it really isn't that bad, it's just that the character build up before this point has been terrible enough to condition me against it/them. The episode has some really funny lines and this brings a great comedy performance from Capaldi. He alone is keeping this season going and he yet again manages to just about scrape an episode from being unwatchable. 

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