This was a complicated episode with a tremendous amount of subtext, despite the relative simplicity of the main storyline. A storyline, BTW, that appears to be a complete excuse for the Doctor to put Danny Pink through the wringer and see what happens. The Caretaker consisted of one long, manipulative ploy on the part of the Doctor to get Danny to respond to Clara being in danger. Beginning with hiding the Coal Hill plan from Clara, to pretending to believe that she had fallen for the Eleven look-alike, I don’t think he had an honest moment until the end when he told Danny, “it was a good start.” From the Doctor’s point of view, this charade admirably served to take care of Clara and her future by susses out Danny, testing his metal, and arousing his protective impulses, thereby strengthening his relationship with Clara and determining if he is a suitable partner for her.
Continuing on with the theory I’ve discussed in previous posts, I believe that Moffat is using each episode to explore various aspects of the Doctor’s personality. I find continued support with this episode. Here we see the Doctor as the Caretaker, albeit more calculating and manipulative than I normally associate with that designation. We also see some powerful scenes between Danny and the Doctor exposing the Doctor’s often indulged righteous, aristocratic manner. The final scenes between Danny and Clara echoed another trait of the doctor from the Ponds era-carelessness with the lives of his companions. In The Caretaker, we are reminded of the Doctor’s darker, less attractive side. However, Moffat (and Gareth Roberts) strikes again by brilliantly pairing this less than inspiring side of the Doctor with the best of motives and intentions, to take care of a person he loves. Awesome.
Of course, despite the Doctor’s fat-headed, I’ll save the universe all by myself (again!) plan, Clara really doesn’t need to be taken care of by either Danny or the Doctor.
Moving on, this episode focused tightly upon exploring Clara’s personality. Let’s face it, for all of Season 7b the point of Clara was to be an enigma to the Doctor; the story arc demanded it. As a result, we had few glimpses into Clara’s true character. (Though she had an awesome and moving monologue in Rings of Akhaten. One of the few times we did see the strength of her character in that series. Come on people, that was a great episode! I digress…)
Did you notice the moment of reflection while Clara was standing at the window, trying to get Danny to forgive her for not disclosing her relationship with the Doctor? It was very similar to the Doctor’s reflection in the silver serving dish during Deep Breath. During both scenes, the topic of the moment is, “Who are you?” Not only is Danny trying figure out Clara, Clara is trying to figure out Clara. If the point is to “unenigma” her, we have to spend time getting to know her. She has been doing a lot of lying and secret keeping is season (which, strangely, is very Time Lordish. Significant?) Is she a regular human or not? Does she want a normal life or not? Does she trust Danny or not? Can she live without the Doctor or not?
In terms of subtext, I am beginning to believe that one arc of this season is to separate the Doctor and Clara. While I have not yet watched all 34 seasons of Doctor Who, from what I know no other companion in the history of the show has been as tightly woven into the Doctor’s life as Clara (except perhaps for River, who isn’t relevent for this argument). How to unweave her? A love interest like Danny gives Clara something/someone to move towards, away from the Doctor.
This is actually a normal, essential psychological process. The Doctor and Clara became very symbiotic, (operating as one) during 7b. Both needed the other to survive as Clara became an integral part of the Doctor’s timeline. That kind of intensity can’t last, on TV or in real-life. In normal human relationships, after the period of intense bonding (symbiosis) comes a time of separating and finding oneself again; the psychobabble term for this is differentiation. Both Clara and the Doctor have to move on, become less a part of each other and more themselves. A third person, such as Danny, is needed to help them separate.
Does this mean Clara will be leaving at the end of Season 8? Not necessarily. By it’s very nature, symbiosis reduces conflict, in turn reducing interesting story plots. It may be that the Doctor and Clara need to have a less entwined relationship because it will stir things up. Or, Clara may be leaving. While the Doctor is clearly not ready to let her go, I did get a whiff of preparing her for life without him.
As an aside, I am wondering if Danny Pink is way more than a Maths teacher. Secret Agent, anyone? Anyone else maybe not liking him as much after this episode?
Totally Superflous Question to Create the Appearance that this Blog Has Real Value: How calculating are you willing to be to take care of the people you love? Do the ends justify the means? Is there a relationship in your life in which you need to put a little bit more/less of yourself into it? Discuss.