Doctor Who: Every Caretaker Has Their Own Box

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Christopher Morley hangs out at Coal Hill School.


The lot of the caretaker is certainly not a glamorous one, as the Doctor knows all too well...



While he may be more than adequately qualified to take up a sponge and give the walls a good seeing to, as he alluded to in the self-explanatory The Caretaker, his contribution to the welfare of Coal Hill School & certain members of its teaching staff goes well beyond making sure the place is tidy!

Indeed he could well have taken up that particular job twelve selves beforehand, the TARDIS having found itself in that scrapyard on Totters' Lane and his granddaughter a pupil at no doubt one of Shoreditch's finest educational establishments. As he may have said in turning down the job first time around,
"Young man, is it reasonable to suppose that anybody would be inside a cupboard like that, hmm?"
But while he couldn't quite bring himself to stoop to the level of janitor, as he could have to keep a closer eye on young Susan. did he not take on a duty of care of a different sort to Ian Chesterton & Barbara Wright the moment they became initially unwilling passengers in what they must have thought was a normal police box given the times?


IAN: Come on, Doctor, get us off! Get us off!
DOCTOR: Yes. Yes, it's matching up.
SUSAN: We're beginning to land.
DOCTOR: Oh, how I wish...
IAN: Have you taken us back to our own time?
DOCTOR: You know I can't do that. Please be reasonable.
A miracle worker he wasn't, the implication that he couldn't even actually properly pilot "the ship" hardly filling his charges with confidence! Though he did eventually manage to get them temporally home safe before returning to familiar ground within seven regenerations as part of a bid to keep an eye on both the Hand of Omega & the Dalek civil war the artefact was stoking.......



Here he went so far as to turn down the advertised post of school caretaker, though in a sense he did so anyway without the aid of the trusty mop & bucket - wiping away the great evil he knew was at work in corridors once walked by Chesterton & Wright. Corridors he could've been scrubbing had writer Ben Aaronovitch chosen to do a Gareth Roberts. As it happened he gave that a miss...
DOCTOR: Oh, no. We're here for a completely different reason.
HEADMASTER: Oh. What can I do for you, then?
DOCTOR: Well, we would like to look round your school, if you don't mind?
HEADMASTER: I'm afraid that's out of the question.
DOCTOR: We've got reason to believe there is a great evil at work somewhere in this school.
HEADMASTER: You'll have to be a bit more specific, Doctor.
It's hard to escape the conclusion that Roberts himself might have taken more than a little inspiration from what some see as the Seventh Doctor's crowning glory.


Another frayed around the edges Scottish Doctor would later prove more receptive to the idea of getting to work against sinister puddles! Even if his cover story consisted merely of a new coat & a brush, Peter Capaldi possibly inspiring those in the Doctor's newest temporary profession to smarten up and acquire a box of their very own.
CLARA: Are there aliens in this school?
DOCTOR: Listen, it's lovely talking to you, but I've really got to get on. I'm a caretaker now. Look, I've got a brush.
CLARA: Doctor, is there an alien in this school?
DOCTOR: Yes, me. Now, go. The walls need sponging and there's a sinister puddle.
CLARA: You can't do this. You cannot pass yourself off as a real person among actual people.
Coal Hill, of course, didn't need a real person to ward off the Skovox Blitzer. Step forward a Time Lord! But it shouldn't be forgotten that one of those real people was following in Ian & Barbara's footsteps in ticking both the teacher & companion boxes and having trouble balancing the two. No doubt causing the school's board of governors a headache and giving them reason to curse this odd John Smith fellow - the alias he used to blend in as a normal boring human being.
"Thanks. Yes, John Smith's the name"
It was of course retrospectively implied to have stemmed from a certain pop group Susan was fond of - had he taken the job, the tetchy, elderly-looking and thus quite possibly ideally suited to the post according to cynics First Doctor might have hummed (or should that be hmmed?) a hit or two of theirs while doing a spot of mopping up before discovering Pink Floyd later on as he went about his rounds?



Perhaps it's lucky for the rest of us that he wasn't simply tempted to stick his lot in caretaking at Coal Hill, becoming "the maintenance man of the universe" to quote his Tenth incarnation. Well, he does have a screwdriver! Even if it hasn't always proved as handy as he'd have liked it to be.



The good workman of course never blames his tools, even if this one's no regular John & hadn't had cause to take up the one most associated with him up again post-The Visitation until a good four selves after the Terileptils knackered it.



It would of course return once he'd swapped cricket gear for a considerably more stripped down leather jacket and jeans!


DOCTOR: I've got a sonic, er. Oh, never mind.
JACK: What?
DOCTOR: It's sonic, okay? Let's leave it at that.
JACK: Disrupter? Cannon? What?
DOCTOR: It's sonic! Totally sonic! I am soniced up!
JACK: A sonic what?!
DOCTOR: Screwdriver!
Mercifully the Ninth Doctor was never forced to endure a stint as a hospital porter during the events of The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances. Though across his many lives that special box of his has been making sure he's on time to sweep up after the rest of the universe....mind you, who else would?

Not always where he wanted to be but always where he's needed, as true of the faithful custodians of the cleaning cupboard as the Doctor himself, with quite probably no finer tribute paid to the unsung champions of the brown jacket & brush.

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