Doctor Who: Teacher Aides Rude Doctor In School-Save

I think I’ve finally worked out what I like so much about Samuel Anderson. Tonight gave me the chance to get a really good look at him as Danny Pink, and the one thing that struck me about him was his eyes. They’re almost black to look at straight on, and they have a sadness to them that brings a doe-eyed vulnerability to what could be (and indeed has been) a cheesy, cut-out role.

But it wasn’t just his eyes I noticed in this week’s entertaining romp, The Caretaker (and I’m not talking about the head-tilt and slow nod when the camera lingered on his very agreeable buttocks at the end of a scene). It was a fun episode in terms of superficial story, and an insane amount seemed to happen in those three-quarters of an hour- indeed, the first twenty minutes had enough plot and banter to fill out a whole episode satisfactorily. The plot, which involved the Doctor masquerading as a school janitor while he stalked some sort of deadly war machine thing (which looked like a repurposed Ref Bot from Robot Wars, but I digress), was a puff of air, and the real conflict came from the characters.

Danny Pink was put at the front of this episode, and it paid off. I’m swiftly falling in love with this character and the performance, and I really can’t stress enough just how lucky the creator’s got with Samuel Anderson- he’s likeable without being a pushover, and treats Clara, now his girlfriend, well without unquestioningly allowing her to put herself in danger. He’s placed at odds with the Doctor throughout the episode, and Clara finds herself trapped between the two men she loves in very different ways. The Doctor hates Danny because Danny is a soldier, and Danny hates the Doctor because the Doctor is an officer. This idea- of the Doctor being a very different kind of war-mongerer-is one that is given the proper dramatic weight that it deserves, and the nasty, scratchy atmosphere between the two adds a vital layer to what could have been a throwaway episode. I could have done without Danny front-flipping over the alien war machine at the climax of the plot, but we all knew he was going to save the day somehow, and this at least looked fucking excellent. A quip-tacular Doctor sealed the deal, with Peter Capaldi never funnier that when he’s harried.

A few seeds were sown for later episodes as well, which I enjoyed in so much as I enjoy someone repeatedly pinching me so they can inform me that I’m about to get hit by a train. Sure, I appreciate it and am broadly glad that it’s there, but it doesn’t mean that I don’t roll my eyes a tiny bit an wish for just one, straight episode. We were formally introduced to Courtney Woods, the schoolgirl at Clara’s classes who very clearly has something to do with a bigger arc because MOFFAT (I think she’s the younger version of the next assistant, because that’s the kind of shit he just loves to pull). And, more thrillingly, we saw a virtual Thick of It reunion as Chris Addison rolled up at the end of the episode to introduce a hapless policeman, who bought it at the hands of evil war machine thing earlier in the episode and was promptly forgotten about, into the afterlife. I couldn’t here much over my boyfriend’s excited mewing (like a six foot kitten, he was), but I imagine the message boards are already exploding with theories regarding his cameo. I certainly am.

Overall, the episode was a good ‘un. It was slightly forgettable, in the sense that I will not remember the story at all, but had enough great moments that will stick in my brain- the flicker of sadness over the Doctor’s face as Clara announces that she’s in love with Danny, for example. It was an episode of stellar performances, and credit must go to Samuel Anderson, who is exquisitely excellent and one of the most instantly likeable and original introductions to the series in years, for his continually stellar¬†work.¬†How long till you kill him off, then? I’ll have you yet, Moffar.