Bonkers. That’s the best word to describe tonight’s episode of Doctor Who.
And yet, in the craziness of the story show runner Steven Moffat and co-writer Gareth Roberts were able to weave in some weight as companion Clara Oswald (Jenna Coleman) falls further for fellow Coal Hill Secondary School teacher Danny Pink (Samuel Anderson). The first Doctor’s granddaughter Susan was a pupil there and first companions Ian Chesterton and Barbara were teachers.
A robotic killing machine is hiding out near the school. The Doctor goes undercover as school caretaker to lure it out of hiding.
It’s a long time since the Doctor has used his John Smith pseudonym, a name he has been using for centuries when he wants to pass himself off as a human. It was in this identity that the tenth Doctor took refuge when the family of blood came after him as he disguised himself as a school master in pre-World War I England. The third Doctor used the identity all the time after the Time Lords banished him to Earth for interfering in the affairs of others.
What seems to be the main story here in The Caretaker, the arrival of an alien war machine, is actually only the vehicle for Moffat and Roberts to do some exploration of the Doctor and Clara’s relationship. What they, of course, find is an old Time Lord who owes everything to the impossible girl Clara became last season to save him from The Great Intelligence. And a young girl who has seen wonderful and terrible things at the Doctor’s side and stood with him in his most desperate hour.
Six episodes into the new series Peter Capaldi, as the new Doctor, and Coleman, as Clara, are finally beginning to feel like a team. Ironic since Clara is starting to turn her attention to Pink.
I’m sure Moffat, and his fellow writers, are beginning to set us up for Clara’s departure from the TARDIS.