177 – Doctor Who – The Caretaker

The Doctor has to do a thing.  So do we – and what we have to do is unpleasant.

After some inclement weather delays, Ben and Eugene discuss The Caretaker.

5 thoughts on “177 – Doctor Who – The Caretaker”

  1. Bit late on this one, but here’s my comment. The conversation about Clara clinging on to maintaining two lives – this actually made me re-evaluate the episode, which I hadn’t cared for. It make much more sense now, because you reminded me of Clara’s dual existence as bartender and governess in the Snowmen. That is actually a common thread right back to start of last year. The episode is better than I thought – thanks!

    I don’t think I agree that title of The Caretaker could also be applied to the showrunner, just respecting the show’s history and acting as a custodian, as if it has a life of its own. Moffat, and RTD and all the other producers before have been the creative drivers behind the show. So I’d consider it a loss if any lead writer thought they couldn’t say “Doctor Who is not about gender politics, it doesn’t work” because Doctor Who, more than any other show, can regenerate. Sometimes it’s good and sometimes it’s bad, but that’s never about what it’s tried to be, just whether it has succeeded.

    Similarly, I don’t think that the show’s history should ever become a millstone – say, to prohibit a story about soldiering being told in 2014 because of an attitude the Doctor had in, say, 1974. Though actually I don’t anyway agree that the Doctor used to admire soldiers (my recollection is that he held the military mind in contempt, and always had to be won over).

    1. Let’s do the soldier thing first… Perhaps I was unsuccessful in trying to draw the distinction between the “military mind” and the “military man.”

      The Doctor has pretty much always been very unsympathetic to the military way of thinking. This peaked during the Pertwee/Baker years with a spike during Tennant’s time, but has consistently been there. In the past, however, the Doctor has been willing to see the person based on their current actions not just on the decision that they once made (maybe or maybe not voluntarily) to join the military. He can respect the person, not the job. (And at times, embraces the need for the job, too.)

      This year’s hatred of soldier is blind to the person. Journey Blue demonstrated to him that she could rise above the limitations of the military mind – as did many of the Doctor’s friends in UNIT – and he could accept them. In her case, it was a blanket rejection – once a soldier, always unacceptable. Sad that it cannot happen, but I’d love to see Capaldi’s Doctor interact with Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart. How would he react to an old friend in this most-hated category?

      Similarly, Danny Pink never actually did anything military whatsoever, not even wear the uniform in front of the Doctor, nonetheless, he dismisses him out-of-hand. Surely a man who voluntarily left the military should at least deserve a moments consideration. Perhaps he left for all the reasons the Doctor hates the military? He never had a moment to find out.

      (Unless, the Doctor knows far more about Danny Pink than any of us, which is possible. It does feel like the Doctor is setting Clara up somehow. Perhaps Missy arranged Clara to join the Doctor for some nefarious plan against the Doctor and the Doctor arranged Danny Pink to meet Clara as a counter-measure? The whole Cole Hill School thing and dual life doesn’t make much sense, but talk about a millstone!)

      I’m wonder if this is part of War Doctor story? Is the Doctor’s unreasoning hatred a reflection on his own conscious choice to regenerate into a soldier model?

      …and to millstones.

      History is, by fact and by nature, a millstone about all our necks. Cause and Effect at inextricably linked to our existence. We must acknowledge what has happened before. (Or be condemned to repeat its mistakes.)

      Continuity is a millstone but it is an unavoidable one.

      Yes, the cause and destruction of Atlantis has been recounted more than once with conflicting events in the course of Doctor Who. They exist, there’s nothing we can do about them, but they were mistakes nonetheless. Having a great story about Atlantis is not sufficient to ignore what has been committed to history before within the context of Doctor Who. The writers are making this up out of whole cloth, they could have employed any number of alternate ways – For example, why couldn’t one of them been Lemuria instead of Atlantis? Problem solved with the change of a single word.

      (Yes, of course, there are 51 years of Doctor Who and mistakes will be made. Like our bodies, there are replication errors as we age. In people, that can be cancer. It can be no less destructive to a TV show.)

      But consider, at what point do we stop paying attention to the continuity? Is an Unearthly Child far enough back to forget? Planet of the Spiders? The TV Movie? The Christmas Invasion? Time Heist? How about the first 15 minutes of the current episode? If continuity is a burden, why not just chuck in the bin halfway through the episode? Some stories are so incoherent I think that’s exactly what the writers did. I maintain those are errors.

      I go so far to say that the writers owe some level of continuity to the viewers. (If nothing else for truth in advertising purposes.)

      I’m using specific continuity examples here to be lay the groundwork, but tone, content even message are also facets of continuity. These are obviously more nebulous concepts and, like plot continuity problems, the show has gone through these types of changes since the show began, too. Many of them were mistakes, just like the Atlantis thing. The Tom Baker Comedy Hour year, for example. The equally dire Tom Baker is a resigned, tired, dour Doctor year that followed it.

      Talk about millstones around the show’s neck! Those were the millstones – producers with an idea to differentiate themselves from their predecessors or the show from itself.

      The complaint expressed about too much of it being about gender politics is that when someone decides to enforce a new direction on top of the old, there’s a very fine line between it being a harness, a yolk or a millstone. And in this ham-fisted case, it’s a millstone, dragging things down.

      1. I don’t disagree with your take on the soldiering thing except in one respect. I think it takes longer to win the Doctor over. Longer than the one episode with Journey Blue or the few minutes spent with Danny Pink. We’re seeing the same contempt that’s always been there, before he’s been won over (if he gets won over) by folk like AL-S.

        I’m wonder if this is part of War Doctor story? Is the Doctor’s unreasoning hatred a reflection on his own conscious choice to regenerate into a soldier model?

        Or a reaction to the Doctor as Warrior thing that culminated at Demon’s Run.

        But consider, at what point do we stop paying attention to the continuity?

        At the point where it starts making the story the writer wants to tell into a less good story.

        To be sure, trying to differentiate the show from what it’s been for the sake of it is just as bad. It’s letting the history of the show become the millstone in both cases.

        If there’s another great story to be told about the origins of Atlantis, I hope they make it. Maybe a throwaway line to explain why there are so many Atlantises would be nice, but I hope they don’t bin the whole concept just because it would disappoint the handful of hardcore fans who have seen the previous versions and feel owed continuity. Otherwise Doctor Who becomes a show where there are stories you just can’t tell anymore, and writers with those great ideas just have to go work on some new fresh show that isn’t carrying 51 years of baggage. But that doesn’t happen, or Doctor Who wouldn’t be 51 years old.

        1. There are limits: You cannot tell every story within the confines of a single TV Program. There are limitations inherent in any format once established.

          Writers only have complete freedom when they construct the entire universe themselves (say in their novel.) It is intrinsic to the craft of writing that you work within certain boundaries that are established by the medium.

          If a writer has the most fantastic story ever to be told about Atlantis and it directly conflicts with what’s already been established within the framework, the writer needs to ask himself, “Is it my idea that makes this story awesome, or is it the fact that it must be set in Atlantis? Is ‘Atlantis’ just a shortcut to save myself some explaining to the viewer?”

          1. “Is it my idea that makes this story awesome, or is it the fact that it must be set in Atlantis? Is ‘Atlantis’ just a shortcut to save myself some explaining to the viewer?”

            Fair point. True when we’re talking about some concrete plot point – you picked Atlantis because you could show and incontrovertible contradiction. But if we’re talking about it – as I think we are – as a proxy for less tangible themes, such as the morality of taking up arms or the treatment of gender politics (where continuity or lack of it is more ambiguous, and open to argument), well, then these are the things that lie at the heart of the stories. These are the things that writers and showrunners have wanted to tell stories about, and Doctor Who is a show that has very few inherent limitations. For a lot of us, that’s why we love it.

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