To accompany the consistently stylish visual approach to the 12th Doctor’s adventures, we’re getting a very varied tone – going from the slapstick of Robot of Sherwood to the darkness of Listen. Gareth Roberts and Steven Moffat’s script for The Caretaker mixes things up within the episode itself, in much the same way that Roberts’ previous stories for the series have, demonstrating an ability to change from comedy to drama and back again effortlessly. This makes a moderately simple linear story about the Doctor dealing with an alien at the school into a tale that gives us a much deeper understanding of Clara, Danny Pink and the Time Lord himself.
This incarnation’s prejudice against soldiers is central to the episode, and much of both its serious and humorous sides derive from the interaction between the Doctor and Danny. This Doctor’s inability to empathise with humans also comes to the fore, which makes his undercover work not exactly go according to plan… And as for Clara – well, this is the episode that shows what happens when the Doctor pops in and out of your life and you try to maintain some form of normality when he’s not there.
There’s some great dialogue throughout the episode, and Peter Capaldi, Jemma Coleman and Samuel Anderson rise to the challenge. School Reunion may have been “the missus meeting the ex” but this goes much deeper, as both the Doctor and Clara are forced into examining their relationships – not just now but in many ways from the start, particularly given one of the Doctor’s (many) misunderstandings in this episode.
Verdict: A highly enjoyable blend of character, comedy and drama. 8/10