In the Forest of the Night

There’s no such thing as an arboreal coincidence.

The Twelfth Doctor

Synopsis

Everywhere, in every land, a forest has grown up overnight and taken back the Earth. It doesn’t take the Doctor long to discover that the Earth’s days are numbered…

Review

In the Forest of the Night is one of those episodes that has an intriguing concept at its centre, however, it doesn’t feel as though it has enough plot to cover the story’s run time. After a strong run in the latter part of Capaldi’s debut series, and indeed some great stories that I’ve recently reviewed on here, I’m not going to deny that this story took some effort to watch to write this review. There are certainly positives here, but make no mistake, this is the weakest episode of Series 8 for me, made all the more surprising that it has come from the acclaimed writer, Frank Cottrell Boyce, who would later go on to write Smile, which is certainly a better story than this one.

I’ll start with the main positive, which is the direction of Sheree Folkson. This is her only directorial credit for Doctor Who, which is a great shame as I think she does some great work here. The early establishing shots of Maebh running through the forest are simple but really fantastic, starting off by focussing on the trees before introducing us to the character. Equally, once Maebh arrives at the TARDIS, there is some lovely camera work going around the upper level of the set as the two walk around before coming back down to the central console – it is a good use of the available space. Folkson does the more out of the ordinary stuff well here too – the scenes where Maebh talks to the lifeforce of the trees looks visually stunning. If Sheree Folkson came back to direct another episode, I think we could expect some more solid direction work from her.

As I said in my introduction, I think the central idea of In the Forest of the Night is an interesting one, but it is possibly too simplistic to cover a 45-minute story and would possibly have felt more at home with Matt Smith as the Doctor than Peter Capaldi, as this feels like a fairy-tale. I think that a large degree of this is because there is no real sense of threat. Whilst Maebh, the Doctor and Clara encounter wolves and a tiger whilst in the forest, they are dealt with easily and the fact that the reasons behind the forest springing up overnight are benevolent undermine the story somewhat. From reading around in preparation for this blog, a lot of commentators draw parallels between this story and Kill the Moon, which certainly is the case here, especially with the speech Maebh gives telling humans not to attack the forest feeling very similar to Clara’s about the hatching Moon earlier in this season. For my money, Kill the Moon takes similar steps and does them better than they are demonstrated here. This story also has some leaps, like the world waking up at the same time to find that the world is covered in trees, disregarding time zones entirely, or the fact that London is seemingly deserted, with only the central characters, Maebh’s mother and the team trying to burn the trees down out in London. Whilst Cottrell Boyce’s central message of listening and believing children is admirable, it almost goes too far in suggesting that children taking medication to help them deal with issues is a problem – Maebh is presented as the rule, rather as an exception. However, the story is clearly intending for us to agree with the Doctor rather than Clara and Danny, who are insistent that she needs to take her medication, which is a troubling message for the show to be sending out. The story also falls down when it comes down to the ending. As soon as Maebh mentions her missing sister, Annabel, you can almost guarantee that she will show up come the ending. It feels like an afterthought, however, with no real reason for this brief scene to be there. The story also has the problem that the human race ultimately just forgets the events of this story is also a big minus and feels like a cop out.

This story features Clara and Danny’s ‘gifted and talented’ group of school kids who have had an overnight field trip in a museum. As the famous saying goes, ‘never work with children or animals’, and Doctor Who is no exception to having had experience of the lottery of child actors. The most recent examples before this episode were the Maitland children from Series 7 and Courtney Woods from Kill the Moon. The kids here are a bit of a mixed bag, from good (Abigail Eames as Maebh) to non-descript (the majority) and the irritating (Harley Bird as Ruby). I don’t think that the poor performances are entirely down to the actors, but, as mentioned above, the story isn’t fantastic.

This is stressing me. When I get stressed, I forget my anger management.

Bradley

This is an episode that certainly focuses more on Danny, who almost occupies the Doctor role of this story, focused on getting the children to safety. Samuel Anderson does really well here, as Clara is preoccupied with the situation with the Doctor. This story marks the culmination of Clara’s lies to both him and the Doctor, with Danny finding her marking on the TARDIS. This episode showcases the Doctor’s innate ability and affinity towards children, especially characters like Maebh. The fact that she is able to break down his coarse exterior is something that we previously saw with Courtney Woods and reinforces that this is the same character as his predecessors. Equally, the scene where Clara sends the Doctor away shows how far this Doctor has come. Clara is a bit of a mixed bag here and her priorities seem off for the entire episode. At first she is more concerned about informing the Doctor than ensuring that the children in her care get back to their parents safely. Later, she is more concerned that Danny has found her books on the TARDIS than a potential disaster.

Verdict: A good concept for this story coupled with some great direction is let down by the lack of peril and there is not enough plot to cover the runtime. 3/10

Cast: Peter Capaldi (The Doctor), Jenna Coleman (Clara Oswald), Samuel Anderson (Danny Pink), Abigail Eames (Maebh), Jaydon Harris-Wallace (Samson), Ashley Foster (Bradley), Harley Bird (Ruby), Michelle Gomez (Missy), Siwan Morris (Maebh’s Mum), Harry Dickman (George), James Weber Brown (Minister), Michelle Asante (Neighbour), Curtis Flowers (Emergency Services Officer), Jenny Hill (Herself), Kate Tydman (Paris Reporter), Nana Amoo-Gottfried (Accra Reporter) & Eloise Barnes (Annabel).

Writer: Frank Cottrell-Boyce

Director: Sheree Folkson

Behind the Scenes

  • The title is taken from William Blake’s poem The Tyger – “Tyger! Tyger! burning bright/in the forest of the night!” It had previously been quoted in Planet of the Spiders and audio story The Emerald Tiger.
  • One of the buses seen in the background has an advert on it for Series 8 of Doctor Who. A in-universe appearance for the show previously occurred in Remembrance of the Daleks.

Best Moment

They are pretty thin on the ground here. I like the brief Missy cameo and the shots of the spirits of the trees.

Best Quote

Be less scared. Be more trusting.

Maebh

Previous Twelfth Doctor Review: Flatline

Other Reviews mentioned:

Kill The Moon

Flatline

Could you not just let me enjoy this moment of not knowing something? I mean, it happens so rarely.

The Twelfth Doctor

Synopsis

With the Doctor trapped in a shrinking TARDIS, Clara is forced into the role of the Doctor, complete with a group of people to save as a force from another dimension threaten their existence.

Review

Flatline sees a return to the “Doctor-lite” stories that were commonplace in David Tennant’s era and feels like a story that wouldn’t have felt out of place in Russell T Davies’ era as showrunner, with contemporary Britain the setting for a takeover. However, by the mere fact that we haven’t had an abundance of this story in the intervening years, and with an original and creepy foe, Mathieson makes this feel quite fresh. Jamie Mathieson is a fantastic addition to the show for the late Moffat era and this story is a fantastic example of what he brought to the show.

Unlike some other Doctor-lite stories, Capaldi’s Doctor feels constantly present through being the voice in Clara’s ear. If we compare this to an episode like Love & Monsters or Turn Left, it is scarcely noticeable that Capaldi probably shot all of his scenes in a couple of days. Clara is forced into the lead role, and it is perhaps a chance to see how developed this character has become over the course of this series. From being ‘the Impossible Girl’ in her first half series, she has become a defined and flawed human being, seen to be lying to Danny and making the Doctor complicit in this. From his brief cameo, Danny seems to have made his peace with the idea of Clara continuing her travels in the TARDIS, but the fact that Clara still continues to deceive him is more of an issue in their relationship. Whilst I have problems with this, they become much more relevant to the series finale and so I will go into more detail when I get to review that episode. That said, Danny does encapsulate Ultimately, the story is designed to show the responsibility that the Doctor takes on when he enters situations like this and he is clearly alarmed at the ease with which Clara slips into the role. She takes the authority role over the group of community service outcasts and is ultimately accountable when only Rigsy and Fenton survive.

Why can’t you say it? I was the Doctor and I was good.

You were an exceptional Doctor, Clara.

Thank you.

Goodness had nothing to do with it.

Clara Oswald and the Twelfth Doctor

As mentioned above, this story does feel as though it wouldn’t have felt out of place during the Tenth Doctor’s era. Mathieson has set this on a council estate, which harks back to the Powell Estate, and there are numerous mentions that the authorities are hoping that the problem will solve itself. Officer Forrest tells Clara and Rigsy as much shortly before she is absorbed into the rug as the trio investigate the home of another victim. Clara’s band of companions feel like the forgotten of society, and Rigsy is an example of the potential that exists in these scenarios. A further reinforcement of this is Fenton, the community service supervisor, who regards his charges as scum. Fenton fills the role of the person who the audience want something unpleasant to happen to, almost guaranteeing their survival. This reminded me most strongly of Voyage of the Damned, where Rickston Slade survives the events aboard the Titanic. Mathieson does waver from some aspects of the Russell T Davies era and Doctor Who in general, however, when Clara stops Rigsy from making the heroic sacrifice, substituting him losing his life with her losing her hairband. The story also has some moments of lightness and humour, such as Fenton only seeing a blank piece of paper when presented with the psychic paper, due to his lack of imagination, a detail which is completely throwaway, but it’s always nice to see that the Doctor’s gadgets have flaws.

Ultimately, the strength of the story lies in the monster. A foe from another dimension, whose motivations aren’t really ever fleshed out, but seem to be hostile, the ‘Boneless’ are a great one-off antagonist and bring out the strongest elements on the production side. The direction by Douglas Mackinnon is fantastic, and he makes the story feel really unsettling at times, starting with the cold open where the camera moves slowly to allow the reveal of Roscoe’s stretched out body. This story utilises a combination of great direction and special effects, particularly when the Boneless take on a three-dimensional form in the tunnel towards the end of the story. Moments like the reveal of George being killed work really well, and the transition between him seeming three dimensional and then merging into the wall and eventually melting away is really well done. One moment, conversely, that doesn’t work so well is when the hand pulls Al back down the tunnel and the camera tracks with it. It would be much more effective to have Al just pulled out of shot, but I have come to terms with it as it introduces the human facsimiles who are really sinister in the way that they move and their appearance. The story also takes advantage of playing with the reduced size of the TARDIS, complete with funny moments like the Doctor passing Clara the sledgehammer through her handbag or the Addams Family reference as the Doctor gets the TARDIS off the train track, followed by his little celebratory dance.

Putting Jenna Coleman in the leading role works really well for this story, and brings great performances out of her and Capaldi. The Doctor wants to believe the best of the Boneless until he has definitive proof that they are out to harm humanity, and his speech at the end was the moment that sold me on this Doctor forever. Out of the guest cast, Rigsy really stands out and it is a good performance by Joivan Wade, who we’ll see again in Series 9. Rigsy is a character who falls into the mould of a directionless outcast but his experiences with Clara (and by extension, the Doctor) open his eyes. I really like the fact that the solution to the story involves his artistic skills to power up the TARDIS.

Your last painting was so good it saved the world. I can’t wait to see what you do next.

It’s not gonna be easy. I’ve got a hairband to live up to.

The Twelfth Doctor and Rigsy

Verdict: A story which is creepy and visually interesting and sees the companion take on the responsibilities of the Doctor, Flatline is a standout episode from Capaldi’s debut series. 10/10

Cast: Peter Capaldi (The Doctor), Jenna Coleman (Clara), Joivan Wade (Rigsy), Samuel Anderson (Danny), John Cummins (Roscoe), Jessica Hayles (PC Forrest), Christopher Fairbank (Fenton), Matt Bardock (Al), Raj Bajaj (George), James Quinn (Bill) & Michelle Gomez (Missy).

Writer: Jamie Mathieson

Director: Douglas Mackinnon

Behind the Scenes

  • This was the original idea that Jamie Mathieson pitched to Steven Moffat, after which, he was also asked to write Mummy on the Orient Express. After several drafts, he was asked to minimise the role of the Doctor to abide by the production schedule.
  • Mathieson wanted to maintain a sense of mystery around the Boneless, and so chose not to have them speak.

Best Moment

There are a lot here, but I think I’m going to have to go for the Doctor getting the TARDIS off the train tracks.

Best Quote

I tried to talk. I want you to remember that. I tried to reach out. I tried to understand you. But I think you understand us perfectly. I think that you just don’t care. And I don’t know if you’re here to invade, infilitrate, or just replace us. I don’t suppose it really matters now. You are monsters! That is the role you seem determined to play. So it seems I must play mine. The man who stops the monsters. I’m sending you back to your own dimension. Who knows? Some of you may even survive the trip. And if you do, remember this. You are not welcome here. This plane is defended. I am the Doctor. And I name you the Boneless!

The Twelfth Doctor

Previous Twelfth Doctor review: Mummy on the Orient Express

Mummy on the Orient Express

Start the clock!

The Twelfth Doctor

Synopsis

After the conclusion of Kill the Moon, the Doctor takes Clara onboard a replica of the Orient Express in space for their final trip together, where the passengers are terrorised by a mummy.

Review

Well, this is the second review in as many weeks to feature Mummies!

In the show How I Met Your Mother, it is stated that one of the leads is able to watch Star Wars in sickness and in health, in good times and in bad. Doctor Who fills that criteria for me, and this episode is certainly one that never fails to lift my spirits. The story comes at a crucial time for the Twelfth Doctor heading towards the end of his first series as the titular Time Lord and seems to see him beginning to soften from his harder persona from the start of the series. That being said, he still does let a lot of people die in order to get answers!

Jamie Mathieson deserves a lot of plaudits for his work here. Although not his first script for the show (the following story, Flatline was Mathieson’s own idea and his first script), it feels as though he is a veteran scribe for the show. There is an argument that Mummy on the Orient Express is one of the perfect jumping on points for new viewers to Doctor Who and this is in no small part down to the script. The story requires very little foreknowledge of the show or even the series it fits into – besides the fact that Clara and the Doctor have fallen out. Mathieson’s script moves through moments of melancholy (Clara and the Doctor realising that this is their final adventure together), to moments of sheer terror (pretty much any moment the Foretold appears on screen) and finally to moments of humour – the whole cast, especially Capaldi and guest star Frank Skinner, get opportunities to show off their comedic abilities. The director, Paul Wilmshurst certainly deserves credit for making this story as strong as it is, especially when it comes to the Foretold. I especially like the use of the sixty-six second countdown which intercuts between scenes of the Foretold advancing, usually with characters delivering exposition about it.

I’m not a passenger. I’m your worst nightmare.

A mystery shopper. Oh great.

Really? That’s your worst-? Okay, I’m a mystery shopper. I could do with an extra pillow and I’m very disappointed with your breakfast bar. Oh…and all of the dying.

The Twelfth Doctor and Captain Quell

The main villain of the piece is the computer, Gus, who is manipulating the Foretold to attack the passengers onboard the Orient Express. John Sessions is perfectly cast as the initially innocuous and gentlemanly train’s computer, who gradually reveals himself to be ruthless in his pursuit of his ultimate goal of analysing the Foretold. The murder of the kitchen staff purely because of the fact that the Doctor will not terminate his call with Clara perfectly highlights this, and it is further reinforced by his destruction of the train after the Doctor has figured out the truth behind the Foretold. The Foretold in itself is suitably sinister, similarly to the Mummies in Pyramids of Mars. There is something about the way it shambles along which is particularly creepy. In 2015, my then-fiancée now wife bought us tickets to go and see the Symphonic Spectacular at Wembley Arena where one of the performers was dressed as the Foretold and I was absolutely obsessed with how creepy the foot drag is. I like the idea of it picking off passengers by frailty, be it physical or mental, as it is with Maisie.

This story has a particularly strong cast, led by Capaldi and Jenna Coleman, even though the episode sees them spend most of the episode apart. That being said, I’m not a massive fan of the resolution of the Doctor and Clara’s spat with her lying to both Danny and the Doctor, but I think that’s probably best addressed in a later review when this really comes to a head. I distinctly remember the outcry when the news of Foxes’ casting was released, which seems ridiculous now as it is purely for a brief cameo and I quite like her cover of Don’t Stop Me Now. Frank Skinner really steals the episode as Perkins though, becoming the de facto companion for the episode and it still makes me sad that we didn’t get more of him in the rest of Capaldi’s run. Having listened to his radio show for a long time, I know how sad he will have been to have seen that moment in the script, as Skinner is a huge fan of the show.

It’s quite a vehicle you’ve got here, Doctor. I won’t pretend to understand half of it. Having said that, I did notice that you have a couple of drive stacks need replacing.

Oh you did, did you?

Yeah. You should get someone in. And a job like that takes forever.

Really? Well, I suppose whoever I did get in, might be easier to have them stay on board for a while. I don’t suppose you’d know of anyone?

No, Doctor, I don’t think I do. That job could, er, change a man.

Yes, it does. Frequently.

Perkins and the Twelfth Doctor

Verdict: If the above review isn’t clear, I love this story. A highlight of Capaldi’s era, if not Doctor Who as a whole. 10/10

Cast: Peter Capaldi (The Doctor), Jenna Coleman (Clara Oswald), Samuel Anderson (Danny Pink), Frank Skinner (Perkins), David Bamber (Captain Quell), John Sessions (Gus), Daisy Beaumont (Maisie), Janet Henfrey (Mrs Pitt), Christopher Villiers (Professor Moorhouse), Foxes (Singer) & Jamie Hill (Foretold)

Writer: Jamie Mathieson

Director: Paul Wilmshurst

Behind the Scenes

  • The Foretold was deemed to be too scary for Doctor Who and meant that the story was broadcast at 20:35, the latest transmission time for a televised Doctor Who story. Producer Brian Minchin attempted on multiple occasions to have footage included on the Series 8 trailer, but was unsuccessful.
  • Like The Robots of Death, Terror of the Vervoids and The Unicorn and the Wasp, this story utilises elements from the works of Agatha Christie.
  • One of the few examples of a non-digetic visual appearing on Doctor Who – the timer can only be seen by the audience and not the characters in the story.
  • The character of Perkins was based on a friend of Mathieson’s who is a train buff and helped him with details of the Orient Express.
  • Steven Moffat approached Mathieson to write this story whilst he was working on Flatline, giving him the title to work with.

Cast Notes

  • Christopher Villiers previously appeared in The King’s Demons.
  • Frank Skinner is a self-professed die-hard Doctor Who fan and had previously appeared in The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot as well as making a brief cameo appearance in Dark Eyes: Eyes of the Master for Big Finish and would later go on to appear in the Fourth Doctor audio The Sinestran Kill.

Best Moment

The scene of the Doctor talking to himself in his cabin, where Capaldi channels his inner Tom Baker.

Because you know what this sounds like? No, do tell me. “A mummy only the victim can see?” I was being rhetorical! I know exactly what this sounds like.

The Twelfth Doctor

Best Quote

Oh, I remember when all of this was planets as far as the eyes could see. All gone now. Gobbled up by that beast. And there’s that smile again. I don’t even know how you do that.

I really thought I hated you, you know?

Well, thank God you kept that to yourself. There was this planet, Obsidian. The planet of perpetual darkness.

I did. I did hate you. I hated you for weeks.

Good, fine. Well, I’m glad we cleared that up. There was also a planet that was made completely of shrubs.

I went to a concert once. Can’t remember who it was. But do you know what the singer said?

Frankly, that would be an astonishing guess if I did know.

She said “hatred is too strong an emotion to waste on someone you don’t like”.

Were people really confused? Cos I’m confused. Did everybody leave?

Shush. Shut up. Look, what I’m trying to say is, I don’t hate you. I could never hate you. But I can’t do this any more. Not the way you do it.

Can I talk about the planets now?

The Twelfth Doctor and Clara Oswald

Previous Twelfth Doctor review: Kill the Moon

Other links:

How I Met Your Mother, Season 4, Episode 1: Do I Know You?

Kill the Moon

Kill the Moon

Hello, hello.  Hello Earth.  We have a terrible decision to make.  It’s an uncertain decision, and we don’t have a lot of time.  The man who normally helps, he’s gone.  Maybe he’s not coming back.  In fact, I really think he is.  We’re on our own.  So, an innocent life versus the future of all mankind.  We have forty-five minutes to decide.

Clara Oswald

Synopsis

The Doctor, Clara and Courtney visit the Moon in 2049, where they discover the Earth’s constant companion is more than another mere celestial body.

Review

I’m not going to deny that this is a very divisive episode of Doctor Who – if you read reviews from professional critics, you’d come away believing that this was a masterpiece, whilst reading reviews written by fans you might be forgiven for believing that it is one of the worst.  I sit somewhere in the middle of all this.  Whilst there are some questionable bits of science and Courtney Woods, I enjoy large portions of this episode.  This story makes me think what my decision would be if I was asked to vote on the fate of a creature that may well destroy the Earth, and the opening 20 minutes have quite a lot of creepy moments.

Kill the Moon Courtney

I’ll start with the negatives.  Courtney Woods is possibly rivalling the Maitland children from Nightmare in Silver for the most annoying child character to feature in the show.  I understand why they bring children into the guest cast for Doctor Who, to appeal to children who, ultimately, are the core audience of the show.  However, a misstep is to make them so mind-bogglingly ambivalent about the situations they are experiencing.  Here, Courtney goes from making quips about the antibacterial spray killing 99% of all germs to wanting to go home.  Equally, the fact that we are told by Clara that the Doctor told Courtney that she is not special rather than shown it is frustrating and feels as though something was cut from the previous episode. If we had been shown the reasoning behind this declaration from the Doctor, it would make us care a lot more about this character.  As it is, she is just there for a lot of the story and I can’t really think of many moments that would have been drastically changed if she hadn’t been included in the story at all.

I know that a lot of criticism is equally laid at the door of the story’s big reveal that the Moon is in fact an egg which is hatching.  This is something that doesn’t bother me too much as I don’t come to Doctor Who for serious scientific ideas, however, this certainly does border on the side of the more comical bits of pseudo-science we have had in the history of the show.  The fact that the creature, once hatched, is able to lay an egg of equal size to replace the now destroyed first moon does border on the ludicrous.

In the mid-twenty first century, humankind starts creeping off into the stars, spreads its way through the galaxy to the very edges of the universe.  And it endures until the end of time.  And it does all that because one day in the year 2049, when it had stopped thinking about going to the stars, something occured that made it look up, not down.  It looked out there into the blackness and it saw something beautiful, something wonderful, that for once it didn’t want to destroy.  And in that one moment, the whole course of history was changed.

The Doctor

One thing the story does well, however, is produce an incredibly dark atmosphere, especially in the opening twenty minutes or so.  The direction, and especially the lighting, are really well done to create this, and it is helped by the spider-like creatures that inhabit the Moon’s surface.  I’ve stated before on this blog that I do not like spiders, and these ones are especially creepy.  This all helps to generate a feeling of unease , which is complemented by Peter Capaldi’s performance.  The story certainly does lose some of this once the egg reveal is made, but it certainly sets out what the production team intended.  I like the fact that this is set in a time where humanity has lost their interest in space travel – the idea of Lundvik and her crew being third-hand astronauts crewing a second-hand spacecraft – and this event is suitably monumental to make humanity wake up and take notice.  I feel that the countdown could have been more dynamic whilst humanity makes its decision though.

Kill the Moon Lundvik Clara Doctor

The story ultimately hinges on the relationship between the Doctor and Clara, which is helped greatly by the chemistry shared by Peter Capaldi and Jenna Coleman. The Doctor deciding to put the decision into the hands of Clara, Lundvik and Courtney is shocking and it is difficult to imagine any of the other Doctors ever doing this.  Capaldi’s Doctor puts his faith in humanity and more specifically Clara, which ultimately leads to the breakdown of their relationship in the conclusion.  We completely buy Clara’s anger and her feeling that her best friend has abandoned her and we are on her side when she storms out of the TARDIS at the end of the story.  Equally, this arguably marks a turning point in the Twelfth Doctor’s run, as he does begin to soften from this point onwards.  I think that Hermione Norris puts in a decent performance as the jaded astronaut Lundvik as well, and she acted well as a counter to Clara when they are trying to make a decision about how to proceed.

Verdict

Cast: Peter Capaldi (The Doctor), Jenna Coleman (Clara Oswald), Samuel Anderson (Danny Pink), Ellis George (Courtney Woods), Hermione Norris (Lundvik), Tony Osoba (Duke), Phil Nice (Henry) & Christopher Dane (McKean).

Writer: Peter Harness

Director: Paul Wilmshurst

Behind the Scenes

  • Peter Harness originally wrote this story in 2011, so it had to be adapted for a new Doctor.
  • Kill the Moon was the first time since Planet of Fire that the show had filmed in Lanzarote.

Cast Notes

  • Tony Osoba previously appeared in Destiny of the Daleks and Dragonfire.

Best Moment

The argument between the Doctor and Clara at the end of the episode is a really powerful moment between the two actors, punctuated by a lack of score for the most part.

Best Quote

Don’t you ever tell me to mind my language, don’t you ever tell me to take the stablilisers off my bike, and don’t you dare lump me in with the rest of all the little humans you think are so tiny and silly and predictable.  You walk our Earth, Doctor.  You breathe our air.  You make us your friend and that is your Moon too.  And you can damned well help us when we need it.

I was helping.

What, by clearing off?

Yes.

Yeah, well clear off!  Go on!  You can clear off.  Get back in your lonely…your lonely bloody TARDIS and you don’t come back.

Clara.  Clara!

You go away. Okay?  You go a long way away.

Clara Oswald and the Doctor

The Caretaker

One thing Clara. I’m a soldier, guilty as charged. You see him? He’s an officer.

I am not an officer!

I’m the one who carries you out of the fire. He’s the one who lights it.

Danny Pink and the Twelfth Doctor

Preamble

Gareth Roberts is a deeply problematic individual in Doctor Who currently. Earlier this year, Roberts was dropped from The Target Collection, a collection of short stories, after transphobic and racist tweets came to light. I want to make it absolutely clear that I in no way condone Roberts’ views personally, but my review below won’t take my opinion of his remarks into account.

To be clear, I find the views he expressed to be abhorrent but I feel that it is important to view and evaluate his work separately.

Synopsis

Clara’s personal life and life with the Doctor collide when the Doctor plans to use Coal Hill School as a trap for the Skovox Blitzer.

Review

There comes a time in every series of the revived Doctor Who in which it feels as though the frenetic pace from the opening drops, ahead of tensions being ramped up for the finale. In Capaldi’s debut series, The Caretaker feels like a moment of calm before a storm approaches breaking point in the following episode. Like The Vampires of Venice before it, this feels like it would be more place in the RTD era with the domesticity angle.

The strength of this episode is the trio of performance at its heart. Peter Capaldi, Jenna Coleman and Samuel Anderson turn in fantastic performances, which provide some fantastic moments, with the confrontation in the TARDIS between the trio being one of the standouts. Capaldi’s little look and muttered ‘interesting’ when he realises that Clara is lying to him is great, whilst the confrontation between him and Danny is really well done. The underlying central conflict between Danny and the Doctor is different to anything that we have seen previously – we have previously had romantic triangles with the Doctor, Rose and Mickey and Amy and Rory, but this, due to the age of the lead actor is substantially different. There is almost an overly protective paternal vibe around the 12th Doctor when confronted with the fact that Danny is actually Clara’s boyfriend, rather than Adrian, who looks like his previous self. This story also seems to approach the Doctor dealing with his acceptance of the War Doctor following The Day of the Doctor, however, this means that the reason he has a problem with Danny Pink is not solely because he is a soldier, but because the Doctor recognises those same characteristics in himself as well. Meanwhile, Danny is inherently distrusting of the Doctor due to him perceiving the Doctor as someone of social standing and therefore an officer. This relationship is interesting as, under other circumstances, Danny may seem like a ready made hero and companion, however, this potential is snuffed out through a fundamental but unreconcilable perspective on both sides.

With jointly written stories such as this one, it is difficult to attribute credit accordingly, but it is safe to say that some of the strongest moments of the writing are the moments of comedy. The idea of the Doctor making such little effort to actually go undercover, and being astonished when Clara is able to see through it is such a nice moment, and equally the Doctor’s interaction with Courtney Woods is particularly strong, and Courtney seems to really intrigue this incarnation of the Doctor. It’s always interesting seeing the Doctor interacting with children, and this Doctor might seem less child-friendly than his predecessor for instance. However, Courtney has something different and the fact that she readily identifies herself as a disruptive influence seems to appeal to the punk rock aspect of this Doctor. A moment that always makes me smile is when Danny speaks to her parents at parents evening, where they try and take the positive that Courtney has been downgraded from a very disruptive influence to just plain disruptive.

Can’t you read?

Course I can read. Read what?

The door. It says “Keep Out.”

No, it says “Go away humans”

Oh, so it does. Never lose your temper in the middle of a door sign.

The Twelfth Doctor and Courtney Woods

With the focus of the story focussing more on character development and comedy, perhaps the weakest elements involve the villain of the piece, the Skovox Blitzer. This robotic antagonist seems to have potentially leapt up a band from The Sarah Jane Adventures, and it never really feels as though Skovox Blitzer as the Doctor would have us believe. The character design is pretty impressive, however, that’s as much as I can say positively about it. It feels like a very generic villain, but, arguably, the focus of the episode was never really on it in the first place. I do enjoy the stinger on the end of the story, however, with Seb and Missy, which does feel quite ominous.

Verdict: An interesting character piece which slows the pace of Capaldi’s first series down a bit, and the story does lack a decent antagonist. 7/10

Cast: Peter Capaldi (The Doctor), Jenna Coleman (Clara Oswald), Samuel Anderson (Danny Pink), Ellis George (Courtney Woods), Edward Harrison (Adrian), Nigel Betts (Mr. Armitage), Andy Gillies (CSO Matthew), Nanya Campbell (Noah), Joshua Warner-Campbell (Yashe), Oliver Barry-Brook (Kelvin), Ramone Morgan (Tobias), Winston Ellis (Mr Woods), Gracy Goldman (Mrs Woods), Diana Katis (Mrs Christopholou), Jimmy Vee (Skovox Blitzer), Chris Addison (Seb) & Michelle Gomez (Missy).

Writer: Gareth Roberts and Steven Moffat

Director: Paul Murphy

Behind the Scenes

  • Gareth Roberts and Steven Moffatt wanted to match the threat of The Lodger rather than that of Closing Time.

Best Moment

The confrontation between the Doctor and Danny in the TARDIS is fantastically performed.

Honourable mention for this though – The Doctor whistling ‘Another Brick in the Wall’ by Pink Floyd (all together now) – HEY! TEACHER! Leave them kids alone!

Best Quote

Jane Austen wrote Pride and Prejudice in 1796.

This is Mr. Smith, the temporary caretaker, and he’s a bit confused.

Not in 1797, because she didn’t have the time. She was so busy doing all the –

Oh, what? And I suppose, what, she was your bezzie mate, was she? And you went on holidays together and then you got kidnapped by boggons from space and then you all formed a band and met Buddy Holly!

No, I read the book. There’s a bio at the back.

Get down.

Boggons?

Go!

The Twelfth Doctor and Clara Oswald