Steven Moffat has gone on about how The Caretaker is a return to the ideas of The Lodger, because The Doctor. Whatevs. This episode had more likenesses with Vampires of Venice, Amy’s Choice, The Big Bang and A Good Man Goes to War with Amy and Rory and with Rose and Mickey with Rose, Father’s Day and The Age of Steel. Because Danny. We also know this episode is about relationships because The Doctor mentions River.
The new Rory
Danny Pink is the new Rory. He comes complete with recent military service, only with, I assume, the British Defence Force rather than as a Legionary in Provincia Britannia. Like Rory, he is a quick study in motive and personality, seeing in The Doctor the kind of military leaders he served under. Those he notes, were the men who lit the fire he rescued people from. He, like Rory, sees how people are inspired to be and do more because of The Doctor. He also, like Rory, sees the danger this poses. However, unlike Rory it is not because of his association with The Doctor or because he existed 2000 years as plastic, but because he has lived that kind of life before, as a soldier.
RORY WILLIAMS: You know what it’s dangerous about you? It’s not that you make people take risks, it’s that you make them want to impress you. You make it so they don’t want to let you down. You have no idea how dangerous you make people to themselves when you’re around.
It’s partly due to the pace of the story telling and the age at when Danny is introduced. He is more confident about himself and about Clara, more mature and upfront in his expectations (like for honesty) than Rory – at least at the start. Danny in The Caretaker is a nice contrast to earlier episodes when Clara and Danny suffer through their first tentative conversations.
Danny not Mickey
Danny is a little reminiscent of Mickey Smith, but without the fear and the need to overcome the belief he is Mickey the Idiot, because Danny knows already that he is not useless. Mickey only learned that during his story arc. However, like Mickey, Danny sees the potential for hurt as Clara is pulled between the two lives she leads. He too risks being abandoned because he is unable to compete with The Doctor and the entire universe. But I suspect that won’t be the case.
Where are the parents?
We see how Danny (as Rupert) is again a parent-less child, like Mickey, and can surmise how this drives his desire to do good: serve in the armed forces to dig wells, to teach. We know that Clara has seen him at his most vulnerable and lonely in an entirely different way to how Rose grew up with and took Mickey for granted.
The invisibility watch may indicate Danny isn’t going on every trip. Perhaps he will inform Clara’s actions and choices with The Doctor from afar – in invisible ways. Perhaps he will centre her, or even ground her, at school, in the day to day-ness of life. Perhaps other things entirely are in store because he is not without useful skills. Those coupled with his antagonism towards The Doctor could make interesting journeys.
It seems too Danny is the man of action and this is balanced with Clara’s super power of finding the right words. Maybe together it’ll work.
She cares so we have to
The title also is a double take. We are told this explicitly by Danny he wants to take care of Clara. We know too that Clara is the carer for The Doctor, and Danny sees how The Doctor cares for Clara. If she can’t keep her lives separate, she must be honest, with Danny, but also with The Doctor, because both can be hurt.
Speaking about caring. I wonder about friendships. Can any companion really have friends that are not in the know? Because people usually have at least one confidant. Does Clara have a friend? In fact does any companion?
So the Boy friend Role, or the Companion to the Companion role, is about adding a further perspective to how The Doctor and his life should be viewed. Where companions see fun and adventure, the Boy friend sees the danger and questions how it fits with the rest of their lives and they must point this out to The Doctor and us. This occurs again, because the set up of the entire program can be seen as the tension between the universe and Earth. The Doctor and the world, or if you like, fantasy and life. The companions have a doctor, but their boyfriends provide a dose of reality.
The challenge for the writer is to make each new character different from previous characters in similar situations. Man meets alien, must cope with the news and the truth of the life of his girlfriend, deal with inexplicable new dangers and generally run around and either fail entirely (like in Dalek in 2005) or be completely involved, like Rory, or won over eventually, like Mickey. Maybe there is a different way for Danny. The differences will be found in writing the personality and in how the actor plays it.
Forget entirely the ready-made CBBC robot toy MacGuffin. It wasn’t the point. The point was it gave an opportunity for Danny, Champion of the World, to prove his worth, not to The Doctor or to Clara, but to us.
And it did one other thing. It provided another lead to the long-term arc. Missy, it was intimated, is god. If there is an afterlife and it turns out to be bunches of aseptic white offices, I’m gonna want my money back. So no not sure where this is, but it’ll be interesting to find out.