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Mooning: The Caretaker


Previous Entry Mooning: The Caretaker Sep. 27th, 2014 @ 09:53 pm Next Entry
This week, the writer who brought us "The Lodger" and "Closing Time" brings us... "The Lodger" and "Closing Time"

Before we start, let me take a moment to talk about a trope called the "Idiot Plot". The Idiot Plot occurs when the conflict of the story is only maintained because everyone in the story is an idiot. The most common way this happens is by making sure the characters are tight-lipped about any important information necessary to resolving the conflict for no logical reason other than because the conflict would be resolved too soon if they told anyone. The other way is to just make the characters selectively stupid when it comes to obvious information or methodology that could be utilized to solve the problem.

This episode manages to pull off FOUR concurrent Idiot Plots simultaneously. So let's get into it.

Remember the opening to "The Power of Three"? Just copy/paste that here and stretch it out to about twice as long, and that's the intro to this episode.

After that bit of recycled material is out of the way, the Doctor informs Clara that there will be no trip today because he's going to be mysterious and do "stuff" while undercover. He can't tell her what he's doing for important reasons that will be revealed later. We'll call the Doctor's plot "Idiot Plot #1". Clara relents, and steals Korra's exit.

Clara goes to school and continues to lie her ass off to Mister Pink because they're in a healthy stable relationship now and that means they don't talk to each other truthfully about anything. Let's call this "Idiot Plot #2".

At the staff meeting, the superintendent introduces the new caretaker, who is, of course, the Doctor. Mister Pink welcomes him to... Clover? Culver? No matter how many times I repeat his line, I can't honestly get "Coal Hill" out of those syllables. The Doctor says he's called John Smith, but everyone calls him Doctor.

It's here we finally get the opening credits, nearly four and a half minutes into the episode. Half of that time being taken up by that recycled "OMG TIME TRAVEL! OMG REAL LIFE!" intro that really did not need to go as long as it did.

The Doctor shoos everyone away and Clara continues to unconvincingly lie her ass off in a very "I am lying my ass off" sort of way. She returns to the Doctor and worries that his presence means that aliens have invaded her school. But since we already did that episode back in Series 2, he says no, and that the less she knows the better, just let him do his thing. The reason for this necessary secrecy will become apparent soon.

Meanwhile, a cop shoos away some kids pretending to be punks through some unconvincing acting. The cop enters a building looking for more truant kids, but instead finds a robot that fries him instead. Well, finally at least something in this episode has to do with aliens.

But since we can't have too many aliens in this episode, it quickly cuts back to the Doctor peeping in Clara's classroom window and debating her over the publication date of "Pride and Prejudice". Clara tells him to shut it since it isn't his field of expertise, but really, up until the end of Series 7 there was no reason to think it was her area of expertise, either, until she just randomly started teaching at the school in a subject she'd never displayed any training or proficiency in prior. Either way... what was the point of this scene?

Clara leaves the classroom to go hunt down the doctor with "zany frantic" music playing in the background even though the editing and direction of the scene doesn't make it feel visually particularly frantic. The Doctor and Mister Pink have met, and the Doctor's bigotry towards soldiers that was introduced in "Into the Dalek" comes out in full force.

But I have to ask where this came from. The Doctor got along with the Brigadier, Jack Harkness, Adelaide Brooke, and Kate Stewart without issue. There was no unsavory encounter with the military immediately prior to his regeneration that would have changed his opinion. Not to mention bigotry is a symptom of rigid narrow-mindedness that seems at odds with what the Doctor should be. To top it off, this attitude seems to only exist in order to drive conflict between him and Mister Pink -- now called Idiot Plot #3 -- and for no other reason. Is it really THAT important for them to hate each other for this specific reason that it was necessary to endow the Doctor with this otherwise baseless and unsavory character trait?

Clara tries to remind the Doctor of Awesome Pink from two episodes ago, but he conveniently can't remember him or what he looked like. The reason he can't do this was because if he did, it would leave no room for Idiot Plot #4 to occur: the Doctor not getting that Mister Pink is Clara's boyfriend, and instead believing it to be some other guy who is suspiciously dressed like Matt Smith. He wholeheartedly approves and is in fact rather giddy about the prospect of her being in love with someone who looks like a younger version of himself because THAT'S not creepy.

The Doctor goes around placing devices around the school, then returns to the TARDIS in the storeroom. He conveniently leaves the door to the TARDIS open so that a curious student can wonder what he's up to. He gives her some paper towels, then for some reason steals them back from her between cuts.

Clara questions the Doctor again about what he's doing, and he again says he won't tell her because he still has to maintain Idiot Plot #1. Clara says that the only reason he's not telling her is because it's something that would endanger the school and she wouldn't approve. So now he does decide to tell her. See, was that too hard?

So, there's some kind of alien death robot thing on earth and the Doctor is afraid that if the military finds it they'll attack it. The Doctor's plan is to lure it to the school, because it's "suitably empty" (?!), then use all the devices he set out to send it far enough into the future that there will be no one left to harm.

The Doctor says he doesn't need Clara for this plan and tells her to go hang out with her boyfriend instead. They have a contrived conversation to make sure that Idiot Plot #4 still can't be solved, and Clara leaves the Doctor alone. She runs into Mister Pink, who tells her he has to cancel plans for tonight because of a "thing", thus ensuring the continuation of Idiot Plot #2.

That night, the Doctor goes out to track down the alien death robot, while Mister Pink snoops around the school. He finds the devices that the Doctor laid out and removes them, thanks to a culmination of Idiot Plots #1 and #2 where the Doctor refused to tell Clara about the devices, and even once he had, there was the extra layer of idiot where Clara wouldn't have informed Mister Pink of them, anyway. This ensures that the episode can't just end here because we're only halfway through.

Sure enough, Mister Pink's meddling due solely to several layers of Idiot Plots ensuring he didn't know what was going on disrupts the Doctor's plan and only sends the alien death robot a few days into the future instead of a few billion years.

Idiot Plot #3 ensures that the Doctor blames Mister Pink for confiscating and deactivating the unknown suspicious devices hidden around the school that no one told him weren't bombs.

Clara, desperate to maintain Idiot Plot #2 for as long as possible, tells Mister Pink that everything was a play and the alien death robot was just a kid in a costume. She proceeds to become more and more idiotic until Mister Pink takes this moment to shed his idiocy and calls her bluff, saying that the Doctor is her Space Dad.

I can see the resemblance. Poofy white hair, rectangular face, prominent eyebrows, sparkly sweater, disguise watch, and an accent that renders them incomprehensible.

The culmination of Idiot Plots #3 and #4 lead the Doctor to lash out at Clara for having a soldier for a boyfriend when he previously thought she had the hots for someone who reminded her of Eleven. Clara insists that she loves him, and the Doctor questions as to why. You know, that is an actual valid question at this point because she obviously doesn't trust him and they have yet to be depicted in anything resembling a loving relationship, so it's difficult to see how she could love him, but of course we're not going to get an answer.

Seeing as even the most idiotic of idiots could no longer prolong Idiot Plot #2 any further, Clara relents and explains to Mister Pink that the Doctor is an alien and they travel time and space together in the TARDIS. And despite hating him, the Doctor for some reason has no problem showing him around the inside of his ship.

Mister Pink says that if the alien death robot is coming back in a few days that they need to evacuate the school and call the army, and the Doctor tells him not to and resurrects Idiot Plot #1 by refusing to explain to him why not.

Clara and Mister Pink go home and continue to have a dysfunctional relationship by continuing to not communicate by assuming the other already knows what they're thinking. Mister Pink accuses her of being in love with the Doctor because he can't fathom any other reason someone would want to travel through time and space. Clara says she goes along with him because it's cool, and apparently he never thought of that. He calls her out on Idiot Plot #2 and wonders what she must think of him if she never bothered to tell him any of this. Clara sees this as an opportunity to resurrect Idiot Plot #2 and dodges the question by asking him to tell her what she needs to do in order for him to like her again (except for being honest with him). Yes, this is truly an ideal relationship.

She uses the Doctor's invisibility watch to have Mister Pink sneak onto the TARDIS with her so he can see her interact with the Doctor one-on-one. The Doctor is coming up with a new device to trap the alien death robot and is fretting about how little time he has to develop it. You have a TIME MACHINE. If you need more time, go to the year 1200, spend however long you need to build your machine, then come back to five minutes later. I'd call this Idiot Plot #5, but his time crunch really doesn't play into anything outside of this conversation.

The Doctor notices that Mister Pink is there and he reveals himself. Mister Pink intentionally antagonizes Clara's best friend so that he can smugly point out to her what a jerkass he is and how much better he is than the Doctor. Boyfriend material right there, I tell ya.

The kid from before wanders back in and wonders if she can go into space in the time machine, and the Doctor says he may soon have a vacancy. Oh dear lord, please no. We already had the two kids from last season who mysteriously vanished from the face of the series immediately afterwards for being so insufferable.

Unfortunately, the time vortex that sucked up the alien death robot spits it back out right then, and the Doctor grabs his Ghostbusters power pack and goes to fetch Clara (and Mister Pink who tags along). The Doctor tells Clara to go distract the alien death robot for a bit, and tells Mister Pink to take a hike. Clara lures the alien death robot back to the TARDIS, where the Doctor executes his brilliant new plan: just telling it to stop. And stupidly enough, it almost works except the final code was wrong.

Enter Mister Pink flying in with a graceful flip over the robot to distract it for two seconds while the Doctor adjusts the code and tells the alien death robot to stop again. This time it works and it simply turns itself off. If he could just tell it to turn itself off, and could execute that plan in even less time that it took him to do the original one, why did he even bother with the whole caretaker thing in the first place?

Clara congratulates Mister Pink for saving the world with a front flip, and Mister Pink admits that the real reason the Doctor hates him is that he doesn't think he's good enough for Clara. Or it could be because they have absolutely zero chemistry, atrocious communication skills, and have no faith in each other.

The Doctor drops the deactivated alien death robot into space, along with the kid from before who he's taken for a ride. The kid gets airsick (spacesick?), though, and barfs in the TARDIS, leading to the Doctor making a quip about needing to clean up. ... Seriously? The entire point of having this kid through the entire episode was JUST to make that joke at the end?

Back at Mister Pink's place, Clara nags him to tell him what he's thinking because the only way for anyone to talk in this relationship is for the other one to prompt them to do it. He tells her that if the Doctor ever tries to make her do something she doesn't want to do, that she should come to him, otherwise their relationship is over. Ultimatums, they make everything more romantic!

But wait, we're not done yet! The hapless cop that got vaporized earlier in the episode is in the magical afterlife place, but he doesn't get to talk to Moffat Female Character Prototype #1, he just gets some random guy.

Next time, headcrabs!

This episode felt like... a scene of Danny finding out about the Doctor surrounded by 44 minutes of padding. All of the conflicts were unnecessarily drawn out by characters being progressively stupider. Other scenes served absolutely no purpose other than to fill time. And it felt like the episode was supposed to be funny, but it was so mean-spirited it was difficult to find any humor in it. It wasn't a comedy of errors, it was a tragedy of blunders.

Other than that, I really don't have much else to say about this episode. Because it was 45 minutes of treading water, there really wasn't much to analyze other than "it was dull and everyone was a moron".
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Date:September 28th, 2014 02:15 am (UTC)
I so totally agree.

And this, "it was so mean-spirited it was difficult to find any humor in it" is one reason why I'm having a really hard time with this season.

This new Doctor, played by a wonderful gentlemanly human being, who is playing the Doctor, who is a wonderfully gentlemanly alien, is having to go about it in such a narrowminded and meanspirited way that I not only can't see him as the Doctor. I don't want him anywhere near the Doctor.

It's been six episodes now, half the series, and I don't think I've ever been as disappointed in an incarnation of the Doctor before (or a run of stories), and this is Peter Capaldi.

It's like they are trying to create an incarnation of the Doctor that is the exact opposite of all the Doctor stands for.

I sort of feel sorry for Peter Capaldi. He waits his whole life to get to play the Doctor, these are the scripts he gets.

Yeah, and Idiot Plots, and "Forced characterization" have been rife this season. Lots of things we are told, but that don't hold up to any kind of scrutiny because they are just there "because."

And frankly, while the Doctor has become a bit of a bastard, Danny has become downright creepy, and Clara is left to flounder between them as a bit of a shrew.

And these are people we are supposed to be liking?

Oy vey!

Great post as always, I always look for your reviews first thing after an episode. I love them. Nice to see someone who actually is willing to point out when the show is being less than smart. Without the need to pour the butter boat over it just because it's Doctor Who.

Edited at 2014-09-28 02:17 am (UTC)
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Date:September 28th, 2014 12:11 pm (UTC)
I still like Capaldi better than Smith, but their characters are both still controlling psychopaths. I guess Smith's character was just creepier because he hid his selfish motives under a guise of suave friendliness, like a guy who chats you up in a bar while he secretly drugs your drink. At least Capaldi's character is more overt with it, so he's not trying to hide that he's an asshole.

I liked Capaldi in "Robot of Sherwood" because his jerkass behavior was effectively framed as wrong-headed, so it ended up being funny. I think that might have been the intent in this episode, too, but he was just SO mean and SO stubborn that it was too uncomfortable to be funny.

Clara was just too stupid to live in this episode. "It's... a play!" Seriously?

And my previous reviews have all touched on the complete unbelievability of the Danny/Clara relationship, from the "Hey I just met you and made you feel uncomfortable. Let's date" introduction, to the "We can't find anything to talk about and are constantly questioning each other's intents" dating, to the "Look, they're an item now and totally in love even though they don't act like it so just trust us on this" relationship. Coupled now with Danny's increasingly possessive and controlling behavior by constantly making threats at Clara, and this relationship is becoming even more uncomfortable than Amy/Rory. Yeah, Amy only seemed to give a damn about Rory when the plot called for it while their casual interactions with each other made them come across as strangers, but at least they didn't threaten each other.
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Date:September 28th, 2014 02:34 am (UTC)
I agree one million percent with everything you said except (adding?) one thing - while Courtney Woods was obviously only threaded through the episode to justify that vomit joke, she happened to be the only consistent and suitably developed character in the whole episode (possibly the whole season so far).

Also, can we just have an episode with a freaking alien?!?!? Not a scavenging robot alien. Not a mass-murdering dalek alien. Not a possibly, totally imaginary alien. Just a plain, old, other-life form alien. I'd like to believe that all of the galaxies in all of time and space are made up of other things besides robots. Since this episode hinged on a vomit joke, I would have preferred a Slitheen over a robot. I'm just really over robots now.

Edited at 2014-09-28 02:34 am (UTC)
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Date:September 28th, 2014 11:53 am (UTC)
Well, we had the Teller in the last episode. That was an alien.

But, yeah, for some reason every other monster in this season so far has been a robot. And the one alien we did get may has well have been a robot since all it did was wander mindlessly after them.

Have the writers just gotten to the point where they can no longer figure out any way for the characters to actually outwit an opponent who shows any degree of sentience, and have settled on making everything an automaton that's defeated by taking advantage of the fact it's an automaton?

I miss the days when the monsters were actually characters in their own rights who had motives and capabilities beyond "SEEK. DESTROY." Say what you want about the Slitheen, at least they had personality.
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Date:September 28th, 2014 04:01 am (UTC)
"He gives her some paper towels, then for some reason steals them back from her between cuts."

Moffat Who is full of hey-wait-a-minute glitches like this, all the way back to "Silence In The Library". He's probably up to something...but the Eight Deadly Words trump cleverness every time.
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Date:September 28th, 2014 11:46 am (UTC)
The paper towels thing just confused me, because he gets out one package of paper towels and hands them to her, then when the camera cuts to him he's holding them again. At first I thought this was simply an editing error, but he hangs onto them for the rest of the scene, the girl leaves without them, and when Clara comes in asking what was up, he shows her the package and says "paper towels". So it seems to have been intended for him to finish the scene holding them, but I can't wrap my mind around the logic as to why.

There's another scene later after they zap the robot away the first time and Danny starts freaking out, where the Doctor sits down and starts writing in a book for no explained reason. I'm wondering if this scene was like the one in "New Earth" where one of the cat nuns is suddenly holding a calculator, and the commentary said something was cut in the middle there to explain why she's holding a calculator. But in the case of this episode, they're already straining so much for content it's hard to imagine that there was even MORE that ended up edited out. Especially actual necessary explanatory stuff like "why is he suddenly writing in this book?", but they kept in the whole pointless "Pride and Prejudice" scene.
Date:September 28th, 2014 04:13 pm (UTC)
"There was no unsavory encounter with the military immediately prior to his regeneration that would have changed his opinion."

I really disagree - RTD's Doctor is defined by the Time War. The Daleks threatened the entire universe, but the conflict corrupted the Time Lords, until the only path to peace was Mutually Assured Destruction. The Doctor is traumatised by this, and it shapes his every decision: he chooses "coward" over "killer"; he topples Harriet Jones for destroying the Sycorax; he hides from the Family of Blood so he does not have to fight them.
In "The Sontaran Stratagem", his relationship with UNIT is strained, and he finds guns and salutes distasteful. He also insists on offering General Staal the choice to leave, even at the cost of his own life.

Compare that with Moffat's tenure as writer, who thinks war is wonderful and exciting. The Doctor keeps on visiting WW2, to fawn over Churchill and fighter pilots. Bishops and Clerics are now soldiers. The Moon Landing is hijacked, to force mankind to kill the Silence on sight. The Doctor's tomb at Trenzalore is the site of a 3-centuries-long battle!

Just food for thought.
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Date:September 28th, 2014 10:18 pm (UTC)
I'm not really sure how Eleven's tenure depicting war as wonderful and exciting really explains why Twelve suddenly has such a passionate, absolute disdain for soldiers.
Me Again! - (Anonymous) Expand
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Date:September 28th, 2014 07:15 pm (UTC)
I often tell people that modern Dr who often makes me cringe like hell, and this episode really defined that for me - The Cringe Meter was so high it actually broke.

I just hope next weeks is good and isn't full of stupid arachnophobic comments as is normally the case when a monster is based on a spider type design.

Capaldi deserves better :(
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Date:September 28th, 2014 08:03 pm (UTC)
Aaaaaaaall of this. ALL OF IT.
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Date:September 28th, 2014 09:41 pm (UTC)
Hell yes to all of this!

Watched this with a bunch of 13 year olds, one of whom said afterwards that Moffat has run out of story ideas, me and the 9 year old agreed.

(Plus I watched all 5 seasons of Merlin, which was bad, I know, and Doctor Who is giving me flashbacks to the idiot tropes, the forced characterisations and plot contrivances, someone make it stop... please!)
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Date:September 29th, 2014 02:51 am (UTC)

So much for my review ...

I've made it a policy to save your reviews for after I've written mine.

Good policy. Think I'll go back to it. (Or maybe just the gig over to you and be done with it.)

Anyway, unless you object, I'll be linking to this in place of writing my own, unless I think of something terribly original to say about this rattle-trap story. All I have to do now is write a mea culpa for my slurry of enthusiastic tweets posted last night.
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Date:September 29th, 2014 02:12 pm (UTC)

Re: So much for my review ...

Oh no! Please write yours.
(Deleted comment)
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Date:September 29th, 2014 09:41 am (UTC)
Just so you know, your suspicion about 'Coupling' is totally justified. I watched it back in my teen years, when I was in my starry-eyed phase of believing that ALL British comedies MUST be more sophisticated than their American counterparts, and it was the show that finally shattered that illusion. I gave it up after a handful of episodes, because I remember thinking to myself that it was the most brainless, puerile, adolescent-boyish nonsense I'd ever seen. I would have been terrified of the man who wrote that being in charge of Doctor Who if I'd have known, but I didn't find out until mid season 6, and then I was like "well no wonder!!" I could have predicted the stupid and the crappy relationship writing much earlier with that knowledge, and it really makes me wonder if they've just got trained monkeys running the BBC, because how they could think running Coupling could qualify anyone to run Doctor Who, I don't know!
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Date:September 29th, 2014 09:27 am (UTC)

You've totally hit the nail on the head.

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Date:September 30th, 2014 05:09 am (UTC)
I finally got around to watching this ep. Sometimes reviews (in general, not specifically yours) rub me the wrong way, but I agree with most of what you said here. It took about 3 minutes into the ep before my jaw dropped at something rude the Doctor said. About halfway through, I had to pause and walk away because the Doctor was again making me angry.

Please, please, please, someone rescue this show from Moffat's destroying influence. I have not felt that way until now.
Date:October 1st, 2014 11:48 pm (UTC)
I am now to the "Only watch it if I'm at someone's house who has it on" phase in my DW relationship. I was invited in with the promise of adventures in space and time, what I got was a bad 80s sitcom, with an occasional killer robot. I was hoping that Peter Capaldi would have some redeeming effect on the show, but I get no sense of enjoyment from anyone there. Why do they even bother to travel, much less together? Thanks for reviewing.
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Date:October 2nd, 2014 05:46 pm (UTC)
At this point I think the only thing that will make Moffat move on is when he casts himself as the Doctor for next season.

But even then, he'll still want to write his own stories.

Doctor Who And The Planet Of Hot Amazon Women Who All Fall In Love With Him Because He's Awesome.

Anyway, yes. Thank you for being more articulate than me. I just went with 'Ugh' and something about how this was the worst episode of New Who I've seen yet.
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Date:October 4th, 2014 01:39 pm (UTC)
The only positive thing that I can say about Steven Moffat is that I'm very grateful that he doesn't write game of thrones :/
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