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".