If there was still anyone hoping that Twelve and Clara were somehow going to end up in yet another romance, that ship is sure to have sailed after tonight’s episode. The era of the romantic Doctor is gone, replaced by the era of the Dad Doctor. We’ve seen glimpses of the Doctor taking on a fatherly role with various others throughout the season but “The Caretaker” hammers that image in until all we have left is the image of the Doctor as the begrudging father who is slowly starting to accept his daughter’s boyfriend.
It’s no surprise that this comes to us care of Gareth Roberts (alongside Steven Moffat), the same writer as the hilarious episodes “The Lodger” and “Closing Time,” both of which throw the Doctor into mundane settings to explore how awkwardly the Doctor fits into regular life. But those episodes were with Eleven, so who better to turn to for an episode where we get to see Twelve try to dance with normalcy?
Of course, in Twelve’s usual disinterested fashion, he doesn’t even bother trying to fit in. He’s alien, and he knows it. The Doctor’s never been a perfect hider, so why hide it at all? The episode begins with a nicely edited montage of Clara trying to balance her life between adventures with the Doctor and romantic evenings with Danny while hiding the men from each other. Not for any malicious reason, mind you, but only because the Doctor doesn’t really care and Danny’s a normal person, i.e. won’t easily believe being told that his girlfriend runs around all of time and space with an alien. Oh, and somewhere in there the Doctor reasserts his hatred for soldiers. That might be important.
And then one day the Doctor says he doesn’t have any adventures for Clara that day, so she should be on her way. She reluctantly, and disbelievingly, does so and goes to her job at the school where she tells Danny that she will make the next few days all about him as an apology for always being so rushed. And that’s when they meet their new temporary caretaker: John Smith. Though he prefers to be called the Doctor.
Clara is, of course, slightly curious about what’s going on. But the Doctor reassures her that the children are in danger and so is the entire planet; he says she should get back to pretending she doesn’t know him so that he can fix it. Which she actually does without (much) question, surprisingly. The scene shifts to an X-Files sort of sequence where we see the threat the Doctor is facing this episode when a policeman comes to the wrong end of an alien battle robot’s arm cannon in a nearby abandoned building.
Clara tries to remain out of the Doctor’s way until he winds up in her business when Danny strikes up a conversation with him. Thanks to Danny being introduced as a soldier, things do not go well at all given the Doctor’s unexplained hatred for soldiers. He literally cannot believe that Danny is a math teacher and has it permanently fixed in his mind that Danny, because he is a soldier, must be a gym teacher because, as a soldier, he must be stupid. Basically, the Doctor does not like Danny.
NEXT: Doctoring, daddying, and bow ties