Review by Ken Parker
Doctor Who, like many good TV shows often have two or more stories going on at the same time. We have the surface story that often involves a weaker written structure that may keep younger kids happy with monsters, explosions and action. Then there are the underlying ideas that are generally character orientated. "The Caretaker" is about a killing machine let loose near Coal Hill School and the Doctor tries to stop it. The underlying story involves Clara, Danny Pink and the Doctor. Can the three of them get along long enough to stop the alien threat?
The primary story of the killing machine and the Doctor's attempt at stopping it is certainly not this episodes strength. It is presented and mostly treated as an almost backdrop idea that puts the Doctor, Clara and Danny in close approximation of one another. This no doubt results in several reveals including Danny finding out about the Doctor and Clara's status as travelers in time and space as well as the Doctor finding out Clara has a boyfriend.
The story executes this character triangle fairly well with the backdrop of the school, parents night and the killer robot. The relationship between the Doctor and Danny goes as well as we all thought as the Doctor's distrust in him, because he was a soldier, takes the main focus. His sudden hatred of soldiers has been a primary development this season and is not a surprise to be present here. This hatred seems a bit odd and over done but seems to be created in partiality to contrast with Danny's character. This works well and brings a lot of character development for all involved. Danny also does not trust the Doctor and has trouble accepting Clara's relationship with him.
All of this character work is punctuated with some of the usual running around trying to stop the alien bad guys. It also has a fair amount of humor. The Doctor and Courtney Woods was a neat little side plot. Perhaps the most poignant moment for me was Danny pointing out to Clara that while he is indeed a soldier , the Doctor is like the one giving orders. He is the one that lights the fire – summing up perfectly what the Doctor has done forever. He is the one that has manipulated soldiers to be in the right place at the right time and so many died under his command. I would expect this to be more of the primary umbrella story arc this season. This is even emphasized again as the Doctor is able to give orders to the killing machine toward the end of the story.
The invisible watch is not something I really wanted to see in this story. This was a plot device used for Danny to see what it is like inside the TARDIS as well as make a heroic appearance toward the end. This is a device that is too powerful and hopefully it is forgotten about. I expect it may appear again one more time this season in a surprise reveal.
The Doctor certainly has new feelings toward Danny at this point and one can see the end game for Clara on this. This reminds me a bit of the Doctor letting Susan go at the end of “The Dalek Invasion of Earth”. If Danny is 'good enough' for Clara, the Doctor will end his travels with her. It is also possible that the Doctor will do something to drive Clara away from him.
Anyhow, "The Caretaker" was a pretty light story with some good moments. If you like these character stories then you should like this one but if you want more action and a plot that is less background and more important, I can see why you might not like this one as much.