Mop in hand, Christopher Morley does battle with a sinister puddle and then brings us his review of The Caretaker.
"The caretaker's box. Every caretaker has one".
While that may not be strictly true, though we can most definitely understand if any watching custodians of cleaning/maintenance seek to get their hands on a similar box of their very own after a viewing of The Caretaker, as the autumn term begins so to speak & we find ourselves at the midway point of Series Eight we can at least say you'll never look at anyone doing the job the same way again!
Of course in a sense this isn't exactly unfamiliar territory for the Doctor. He'd made an enquiry of sorts about the janitorial position at Coal Hill School during his Seventh incarnation, as part of a bid to investigate/meddle in the Dalek Civil War ( not to mention have a little play with the Hand of Omega while he was at it). Six selves later he's back, throwing himself into the role with much more gusto than the man he had been back then could manage. Another alien menace has its sights on the school this time- the robot Skovox Blitzer.
Much as Remembrance Of The Daleks arguably marked a transition from clown to schemer for the little fellow in the question-mark pullover, can we say a similar shift is about to happen for his latest subsequent self? This has, after all, been trumpeted as his first meeting with Danny Pink. Just what Clara didn't need. She knew the Doctor would be going ' deep undercover', but to have him turn up as a new member of staff at the one place she thought she could forget all about travels in time & space ( as if she'd really want to) is quite an eye-opener.
With a knowing wink, the staff are introduced to Mr John Smith- the name of course first given to the Doctor in his Second incarnation by Jamie McCrimmon aboard the Wheel in The Wheel In Space. The Third Doctor also uses it while serving as scientific advisor to UNIT, as does the Tenth after using the Chameleon Arch to maintain cover as a human. And of course the Eleventh displays it on his library card.
The question is, can 'Smith' pass himself off as human at all, let alone do a decent job as caretaker? It might be a difficult one to answer if there's no school to speak of by the time Blitzer's finished! Factor in the sense that the Twelfth is possibly the most alien of the Doctors yet & its a difficult ask from the off. But we do at least get to witness more of the professional lives of Ms Oswald & Mr Pink, which might get the Doctor going all misty-eyed. After all he travelled with two teachers from exactly the same school once before, so you can forgive him a trip down memory lane as he goes about his new job. Small wonder then that he's so keen to save the place!
Whether ' saving us all from certain death at the hands of a spidery robot thingy' was in the job specification when the Doctor went for the role goes unrecorded. But this being a Gareth Roberts episode, of course we'd see him having to try living as a normal workaday member of homo sapiens for a bit. He might enjoy it- after all he's got a brush. And a new coat. Plus the walls need sponging, & there's a sinister puddle.....thankfully we never learn where that is. Soon enough we know where Skovox is though- busy raising merry hell!
And so we find ourselves thrown into the heady mix of surrealist comedy & full-throttle adventure that Doctor Who often does so well, with a few clunkers admittedly thrown in. Love & Monsters anyone? Thought not. The Lodger & Closing Time, also from the pen of Roberts, are probably fairer points of comparison. The Doctor among humans? Tick that particular box. Fitting in to varying degrees of success? Check. Temporary human companions other than the ones he's travelled with all along? Check.
Danny & Courtney will at least get a TARDIS trip for their troubles though in next week's episode, Kill The Moon...
Wondering where you've heard ' when I say run, RUN!!!' before? Much like the ' John Smith' alias, it dates back from the days when the Doctor sported a bow tie & Beatle-cut & had a fondness for the recorder! Happy times indeed. All thoughts of Jamie, Victoria, Zoe & the adventures they shared will have to be put on hold though. There's that big meeting with Mr Pink to prepare for.......
We already know soldiers are a no-no. Even if they happen to be a former soldier turned Maths teacher. What his old UNIT chums from his Third incarnation would make of the change of heart, even if it was gradual- you'll recall the Doctor would frequently lament the limitations of the military mind before growing fond of his old sparring partner - currently goes unsaid. Their return in the big finale of this current series, with overtones of The Invasion promises to be a definite ' one to watch', then.
Plus, now that the awkward first meeting is out of the way the true nature of the relationship between the Doctor & Danny can begin to unfold. On the surface there seems to be a sort of begrudging respect, perhaps honed on the Time Lord's part in light of his War years. Whether more on that will be revealed man to man, soldier to soldier, in the near future is a tantaliser of a question. But do they really trust each other?
At least we can rely on the Doctor to save the day, on this occasion anyway. Fans of Ghostbusters will no doubt approve of the device he rigs up & attaches to his back to help him do so. He ain't afraid of no robot! There's an obvious ' who ya gonna call?' gag to be made somewhere too. Indeed, the offer of a full time job as caretaker/protector might have been a smart move on the part of the Coal Hill board of governors.
Alas, for now he's gone- though one day he could come back. Yes, he could come back. Until he does, though, we can at least be content that while he is indeed ' a bit over-qualified for the position ' the Doctor was able to fill it when it really mattered- when ' a great evil ' was indeed ' at work somewhere in this school' once more. That said, if you yourself are a caretaker- first, we salute you. Secondly, feel free to tell us if you thought Peter Capaldi's method acting was either spot on or an insult to your noble profession!