This is a full plot synopsis and review of Doctor Who S8′s “The Care Taker.” If you have not yet seen the episode, this article contains episode spoilers. Please proceed with caution!!!!
“The Care Taker” penned by Gareth Roberts and Steven Moffat, starts strong with The Doctor (Peter Capaldi) and Clara (Jenna Coleman) going through several adventures that we get small glimpses of. It is not only fun to see the different types of adventures the TARDIS crew has when it is not a Saturday night, but it also lets us see exactly how hard it is for Clara to juggle her real life and her “Doctor life.” During one of these brief glimpses, our two protagonists are being shot at, and The Doctor screams that he HATES soldiers, and asks Clara if she feels the same, with Clara agreeing (despite knowing her current boyfriend is a former soldier). When the glimpses slow down, Clara tells herself in a mirror she can absolutely handle everything. We next see the pair on the TARDIS where The Doctor is being a little too nice. When Clara asks why he is being so nice, The Doctor explains that it works on her, thus he’s trying that tactic. He tells Clara that he is going deep undercover, and she should not ask questions nor try to look where he is scheduled to go. A funny scene where each snap their fingers to get the TARDIS doors open or shut while fighting about The Doctor’s secret mission, The Doctor tells Clara to go, and that he will see her when he does. She slowly walks out, and suddenly comes back in to try to catch The Doctor and see what he’s doing. The Doctor notices and she motions that she is watching him, because she understands the only reason not to tell her what he was doing would be if it was something she disapproved of, and she knows he is doing something sneaky.
The scene cuts to Coal Hill School, where Danny (Samuel Anderson) and Clara try to say good morning to each other with the students teasing them. Clara asks if the children know they are dating, and Danny says he believes so but children are prone to using their imaginations so it could be anything. They are called into the morning teacher’s assembly where they are informed the current care taker is ill, and will be replaced by…. You guessed it, The Doctor. He presents himself as the “New Caretaker” whose name is John Smith, but most people just call him “The Doctor” as he winks at Clara. Danny is the first to step up and try to shake his hand and greet him, but The Doctor walks away abruptly. Clara tells Danny she will catch him later, and runs back in the caretaker’s room to confront The Doctor. She asks him why he is “deep under cover” in her school. He brushes her off asking how she knew it was him; with her pointing out in a highly annoyed manner, he had only changed his. While it seems as though the two will continue to argue, The Doctor tells her “look I’ve got a brush” and explains he has caretaking duties that he must attend to, so she must go. Clara protests that he will not be able to fit in at the school, or really anywhere. The Doctor tells her that he once lived with Otters for a month because he and River had a fight; Clara says the school is populated by humans, not otters, and The Doctor responds with that’ll make his job even easier. He explains he is undercover because no one is safe, but when he is through, everyone will be safe. She screams that she hates him, and he quickly responds with, “that’s fine, it’s a perfectly normal reaction” as she leaves the room.
Meanwhile a local police officer sends a few children loitering by an abandoned building back to the school. The officer hears something in the abandoned building. He walks into the building, and sees, amongst many other things, mannequins (which brought the Nestine Consciousness to my mind immediately), and finds a new alien robot that we have yet to see, the Slovox Blitzer. The alien declares, “problem, solution, destroy” and murders the police officer. We then flash back to Coal Hill School.
Clara is teaching her English class about a 1797 Jane Austin novel, and we see The Doctor on a ladder peering in. The Doctor calls Clara out and says the novel was actually written in 1786. She gets on a chair to be eye to eye with him, telling him to be quiet and telling the class he is just a crazy old caretaker. But The Doctor continues protesting, and Clara snaps, rambling about how she knows he will tell her he helped write it or was there and it’s secretly written by aliens, or any of the other typical reasons The Doctor would have for knowing history so well. As she goes to shut him out once more, he tells her he’s not sure what she’s on about, but he’s read the book, and on the back cover it states what date the book was written, then cleans the window as if nothing happened. The entire class is staring at Clara’s outburst and the bell rings and she rushes out of the classroom.
The Doctor continues his work and has moved on to an electrical box where he meets Danny Pink and Adrian (Edward Harrison) in a more in depth conversation. He is convinced Danny is a P.E. teacher and cannot figure out what he’s even doing talking to him. Clara sees them and is rushing to get there, while dismissively and simultaneously agreeing to the things the people are saying in front of her to move past them. The Doctor remains confused as to why a Sergeant thinks he is a maths teacher and continues arguing that Danny clearly is the P.E. teacher, wondering where the math students get answers to their questions since Danny teaches P.E. As Danny walks away, Clara asks The Doctor if the name Pink reminds him of anyone, and he says it reminds him of the color. She points out they had met Colonel Orson Pink, and The Doctor acknowledges the had met him, but he looks nothing like anyone he knows. The third party there, an English teacher called Adrian, who looks quite similar to Matt Smith’s Doctor, asks Clara for a side discussion about some of the school work, and she agrees. The two walk off and The Doctor looks at her happily talking with the bow-tied teacher, and says “Ohhhh, Clara” smiling and letting out a small laugh of glee, believing this to be her boyfriend, with Danny never crossing his mind.
He moves on with his duties and finds graffiti in the window that says “Ossy loves the squatty” and he assumes it’s some sort of weird graffiti the children have randomly chosen as he wipes it off. He continues with placing, at this moment, unknown items around the school. On his way into the Caretaker’s office, puts one more in the flower pot, for good luck. He decides it’s time to analyze the school to see what’s going on, but a child, Courtney Woods (Ellis George) walks into the office needing paper towels for a spill in her classroom. She sees the TARDIS with its doors open and a flash of light. He yells at her to leave and tells her to read his “Keep out sign” only for the girl to turn the sign around and ask if he meant the one she was holding, the one that read “Go away humans.” The Doctor admits she is correct and should never lose her temper “in the middle of a door sign.” Courtney asks what is in the TARDIS and what the light was. He claims it is his caretakers box and it has a police officer with a death ray in it. He tells her to get out, and Clara walks in.
Clara walks in and asks what precisely The Doctor is doing. He is hunting one of the most dangerous creatures in the Universe, the Scovox Blitzer, created to kill, set off by Artron energy. But his watch is actually a cloaking device and he has put Chromodine generators (time mines) precisely around the perimeter of the school, which will send the creature back into the Vortex, billions of years in the future. He has planned it so no one will be in the school at the time and no one can get hurt. Clara tells him he won’t be doing it without her, and he snaps, “Go! We’ll hang out later” further saying she should go canoodle with her boyfriend, still believing it to be Adrian, the Matt Smith look alike. Clara is shocked that he approves, but is also happily and relieved to hear The Doctor is all right with it.
She leaves the cupboard and runs into Danny who says she has that frown on that she uses when she is about to cancel. Clara is confused and mutters, “there’s a specific frown for that?” Danny says not to worry, he has a thing later. Clara wants to know what “thing” he has and he blows her question off saying they’ll spend the following day together. He mentions he thinks that the Caretaker is weird, and she says that The Doctor speaks very highly of him (not realizing The Doctor does not know her boyfriend is Danny yet).
Night falls, and The Doctor starts scanning with his sonic, as it goes off. Meanwhile Danny is checking the halls looking to see what the Caretaker is up to, and finds a chromodine generator, taking it off the bottom of a fire alarm bell, and thus leaving the school unprotected. As Danny continues to try to discover what the Caretaker may be up to, Clara continues to look for The Doctor, unable to locate him precisely since he is invisible and several steps ahead of her. Danny goes to knock on the Caretakers door, and finds the “good luck” Chromodine generator in the plant takes it and continues to look around. The Doctor is found by the deadly alien after telling it to chase him, leading it towards the trap. The Scovox gets a lock on The Doctor despite his invisibility and begins pursuit of the unseen Doctor. As The Doctor lures the creature to where he wants it, Danny continues to follow. The Doctor reappears just in time to suck the creature back into the vortex, but realizes something is not going right, his time bombs are flashing red rather than green. Danny bursts into the room, gets shot at, and one of the generators falls from his hand as he dives out of the way. The Doctor uses his sonic to boost the signal, and Clara comes in and holds Danny back from the Vortex and creature to protect him. This succeeds in pulling the creature into the vortex but a VERY angry Doctor tells Danny that he has royally screwed up and now instead of having billions of years to deal with the creature it will re-appear in approximately 72 hours. It now knows the original plan so he must think of something new and he barely even registers the fact that Danny is a human and is confused as to what he has just seen.
Clara asks Danny what he is doing there and he tells her he’s been checking up on the Caretaker. He realizes he has just witnessed Clara with The Doctor and other alien, Danny yells out that Clara is a space woman. She tries to protest, but he continues saying The Doctor must be her “space dad” and is furious about the lying. The Doctor, being equally furious about his plan being ruined, starts to lecture Danny about having put every human in danger by his actions, and Clara trying to create excuses tells Danny it’s just a play that they’re practicing. He tells her to stop lying and The Doctor agrees, saying that he will have to wipe Danny’s memory. Clara stands in front of Danny claiming he is her boyfriend and on the third try she yells she loves Danny. The Doctor cannot come to grips with this and asks about Adrian only to be told he was mistaken, but The Doctor still believes it is Clara who has made the mistake, or a “boyfriend error.” He explains that Clara would never date a P.E. teacher, and Danny reiterates that he is a maths teacher. Focused solely on Clara, The Doctor points out, nevermind what he teaches, she wouldn’t date a soldier, why would she date a soldier? His brain simply cannot wrap around the concept. And Clara reiterates that she is in fact dating Danny, and thought he knew. The Doctor looks truly hurt, and Clara explains to Danny that The Doctor is an alien, but she is human and they travel through space and time together. The Doctor moves on and reveals the TARDIS to help Clara’s explanation. Danny asks about the Skovox and upon hearing how deadly it is wants to call the army in, which is precisely what The Doctor does not need or want. He tells Clara to get Danny out of there to shut him up or down, either will do in The Doctor’s mind. Clara reassures Danny everything will be okay and she will explain everything to him as they begin to walk away. The Doctor demands to Clara “and when you get back you can finish.” Clara is confused and asks what she needs to finish, and The Doctor responds with “well, you’ve explained me to him, but you haven’t explained him to me” with an angry and hurt expression. It seems the one thing both men in Clara’s life agree upon is that lying helps nothing and honesty is more valuable.
Danny and Clara go off and are in Danny’s flat, he asks if she loves The Doctor, and she says no, “Not in that way.” Danny tells her that he’s had enough of the lying. He then asks her why he would elope with someone else through time and space when he’s not looking. She begins to tell him that the adventures are “amazing and wondrous” and she can’t give them up. Danny explains one can tell a lot about a person by what they choose to hide and what they choose to share, and if the travels are full of wonder, why would she keep all those beautiful things to herself and away from him. He tells her he just wants to know who she is. When she is away, and what she is like when she is not around him. Danny asks how he could ever know that Clara is being truthful, that she really is the same person in front of him as she is on the TARDIS.
Clara points out he still has the watch, so he can secretly observe Clara with The Doctor. They enter the TARDIS, and The Doctor greets Clara dismissively. He asks her to begin handing him stuff, and she inquires what he is doing. He explains he thinks this will work, but will take at least 24 hours to get right, shooing her off to go bother “P.E.” She explains he is a maths teacher and not a soldier any longer. The Doctor claims he is bored and wants to go somewhere. He begins to ask her to go away on all sorts of fun adventures, with her stopping the TARDIS from taking off, and making excuses. He points out that since it is a time machine, they can get back in plenty of time to deal with the Scovox Blitzer, only a mere second later than when they left.
Danny turns off the watch, appears and says to give it up, The Doctor is already aware of his presence or he wouldn’t be acting that way. The Doctor addresses Clara and reminds her he is a Time Lord, and he would naturally notice something or someone else on his ship, and easily detect the cloaking mechanism. “Time Lord” catches Danny’s ear and he starts being very sarcastic at our Doctor. He claims to know men like The Doctor, the aristocracy sitting on high, giving dangerous missions out to lower soldiers, and believing they are better than everyone else. He hits a nerve with The Doctor and The Doctor demands he leave, which eggs Danny on to begin to salute and call The Doctor “sir.” Danny tells Clara he may be a soldier but The Doctor is an officer, while Clara pleas with both of the men to stop the fighting. Danny storms out, The Doctor says he believes all things considered it went well, and Clara is left to slowly leave and chase Danny. Courtney, the young girl, enters the room and asks The Doctor what is really in the box as she knows it can’t be a policeman. He tells the girl openly that it is a ship that goes throughout time and space, usually containing a man who just wants to help save the world. She asks if she can join him, and he tells her not then, but he may have a vacancy coming up very soon. He tells himself with two days, he can save the Earth again.
The creature returns while The Doctor is on the TARDIS and an alarm goes off, alerting him to the Scovox’s presence. It is also parent-teacher night and the teachers are sitting down with the student’s parents. The Caretaker begins motioning for Clara to join him outside; both Danny and Clara excuse themselves believing they are being summoned. Courtney’s parents make a comment about the children having been right about the two all along. And Danny and Clara enter the hallway and The Doctor tells Danny to go away, especially since it was his screw up that needs fixing, he only needs Clara. Turns out the Scovox is returning right then, rather than in 72 hours. While Danny protests, The Doctor tells him to shut up and leave them alone. Clara runs off with the sonic to do her part of the mission, as Danny walks away but sees Clara actually being the decoy and secretly follows her. Clara is instructed to blast the sonic screwdriver for no more than three seconds at a time in random points to throw the creature off the scent and to proceed straight into the TARDIS when she gets back. As she does this, she winds her way throughout the school and she runs into the Caretaker’s office and tells The Doctor he had best be ready. The monster begins to close in, and The Doctor gives it orders wearing a Ghostbusters looking backpack, and tricks it into believing he is its general. This initiates the self destruct sequence and The Doctor must find the proper command to stop it. Clara is told to distract it for one more minute and she cannot think of how. Suddenly Danny, still wearing the cloaking watch becomes visible and does an amazing flip over the alien to draw its fire to protect Clara and give The Doctor the time he needs to send it away. Danny and Clara embrace and The Doctor successfully gets the robot to shut down. As Clara sings Danny’s praises, The Doctor turns around looking quite upset despite the plan working. Danny realizes and shares with Clara that it doesn’t matter what The Doctor thinks of him, that he has just one thing he needs to do to get The Doctor to accept him. He knows that The Doctor will never approve of anyone Clara attempts to date until the person has proven his worth and gained The Doctor’s trust in the ability to take care of her properly. Until then he will be angry. Both men acknowledge that this is the issue and The Doctor acknowledges Danny has begun with a good start by helping defeat the Scovox.
The Doctor takes Courtney with him to dispose of the Scovox, and she feels ill from the wonders and runs in and vomits. The Doctor simply says, “another spillage” and moves on. Meanwhile, Danny and Clara are back in the apartment and Danny explains he doesn’t think that the friendship between her and The Doctor is dangerous, but he saw Clara doing things that should have scared her, that should have made her think twice, and she blindly followed The Doctor’s orders with no fear or second thoughts. He makes her promise that if things get out of hand or if she’s put in a position she is uncomfortable with, no more lies, she needs to come straight to him as it’s the only way for him to be able to protect her. He will not accept her making a simple deal, but she must promise, and if she breaks her promise, he will leave her. He feels that if he can’t keep her safe, hecertainly wouldn’t be able to stand not being able to help her. She promises, and they cuddle up to watch a movie, as Clara stares off into the distance.
Suddenly, the police officer from the beginning of the episode who was destroyed by the new alien, is standing in a sterile, white hallway that is quite long. A new character named Seb (Chris Anderson) is speaking with him, and the police officer is recounting the incident in the abandoned building. Seb says it sounds like a Scovox Blitzer and explains they’ve had quite a few people admitted there due to that species. Slowly the officer realizes he cannot figure out how he survived or got to Seb, who explains, he had not survived, but he was now in the “afterlife” or as he is partial to, “The Nethersphere.” The Officer looks out the window, and seems shocked at what he sees. Missy walks out and gives Seb a look, as he tells the officer that he is sorry but the gatekeeper is quite busy that day and cannot welcome him in person. We see the mysterious Missy (Michelle Gomez) walk out of a door way, nod to the gentlemen and hurry off to whatever she is busy with, as the officer is admitted to The Nethersphere and the episode ends.
Interestingly, this is the full human who has not willingly sacrificed for The Doctor we see entering the Nethersphere. It brings to question whether or not the “it being a place for half man/half machines or people who have willingly and knowingly sacrificed for The Doctor” theories hold any weight. It also brings a new dimension to the Nethersphere showing that there are assistants and a number of rooms from which Missy comes and goes through. I particularly liked the “afterlife” line, as it still lines up with Tasha Lem whose church (which protects you in this life, and the next) lets people know that if they die, the relative “afterlife” will be notified. Having a person whose death is unrelated to The Doctor, also brings to mind Tasha’s claim that none of protecting Christmas the town had been about anything other than protecting the peace; even to the point where she calls The Doctor a fatuous egotist for believing any of it had been done for him. It leaves us with more, but also less information as to who Missy is and what her purpose may be, as well as much more speculation.
Overall this may be one of my favorite episodes of this series. While I do wish we had seen more of the alien and this episode had aired earlier in the series, it was still a smashing success. Even with the references to Matt Smith and Danny Pink’s earlier adventures, this episode can still stand on its own without needing to know everything about the show or even this series. I feel like things are finally being put into motion that will enhance character development and make for some amazing scenes and dialogues. The introduction of a younger child to the TARDIS, whether it was a onetime thing or will recur is still a refreshing change to the New-Who typical girl with boyfriend or dead end life (so those companions seemed to think). While drawing on material that has been set up during the prior episodes, it was not reliant upon those episodes to make sense. The tie up was very quick, but that tends to be Moffat’s style, and worked as it was a more character driven piece. All in all, I think this episode stood out because it was the first real displays of deeply ingrained emotions from the main characters. While I personally enjoyed this episode I’ll be very interested to see how the relationship between The Doctor and Danny Pink will progress, nevermind Clara’s relationship with both gentlemen.