SPOILER ALERT: Don't read ahead if you haven't watched Doctor Who series 8, episode 6: The Caretaker
In 'The Caretaker' The Doctor goes under "deep cover" at Coal Hill School in order to prevent planet earth from blowing up as usual. 'The Caretaker' is a fitting title for the newest "Doctor Who" episode in that it doesn't just call out The Doctor's disguise but also shows us an emotional side of the Time Lord we haven't properly seen since the regeneration.
One of the biggest strength of "Doctor Who" is in the emotional bonds that the Doctor builds with his companions. While classic "Who" is known for nonchalant partings, Doctor Who of recent years capitalized on the emotional ties. Doctor's ability to forge familial relationships with his companions, make companions' departures and Doctor's regenerations into emotional anchors that keeps fans coming back to the show.
There's been a lot of criticism surrounding series 8, specifically Doctor's personality. That criticism is generally rooted in the fans' inability to relate to this iteration of the Timelord: a grumpy old man who is acting like a complete jerk, with little concern for others, so cynical that his eyebrows are in a constant state of elitist judgment. However 'The Caretaker' revives the sentimentality which the season has been consistently lacking.
Clara has been juggling her personal life with her life in the Tardis pretty successfully until the Doctor decides to crash into her workplace on a clean up mission for a mess of his own making. While explaining the presence of Skovox Blitzer at Coal Hill, The Doctor casually mentions the creature's attraction to Artron emissions. As we learned in 'The Doctor's Wife' Tardis runs on Artron, which is why House lured Amy, Rory and The Doctor into the bubble universe in an attempt to feed on that energy. This implies that The Doctor feels a level of responsibility for the robot warrior's threat to Coal Hill. His guilt is subtle and downplayed, he even denies his guilt when Danny Pink asks if he brought the Blitzer to the school.
Which brings us to Danny Pink. Danny is a fascinating character not only in that he has a complex backstory which has yet to be revealed, but in that he sees right through The Doctor. Danny's presence reveals multiple levels of Doctor's prejudice. While it's easy to compare Danny's dynamic with The Doctor to that of Mickey Smith, it is unlike any other male companion's. The Doctor is threatened by Danny. Danny is someone constantly struggling to break away from the labels, which forces The Doctor into an uncomfortable position of reexamining his bias.
This episode surfaces emotional bonds in the Danny, Clara, Doctor triangle. The writers are giving us two perspectives of one relationship. From the beginning of the season Clara has been reiterating that her affection for The Doctor was not based on his appearance. Yet, the Doctor's behavior towards Clara has been that of a needy 5th grader crushing on a girl for the first time. Whether it's the name calling, demands of an explanations over Clara's personal life or the narcissistic presumptions over Clara's love interest's identity, The Doctor is acting like a love struck teenager.
And then there is Danny's perspective. Danny recognizes familiar concern and care that The Doctor has for Clara. He points out that The Doctor is angry because he doesn't think that Danny is good enough for Clara, an opinion he starts to change by helping to stop Skovox Blitzer.
Danny's presence in Clara's life is an interesting shift in her relationship with The Doctor. The Doctor has become more reckless, throughout the season we've seen his push the limits of Clara's faith in him. While she tells Danny that he has s never let her down, The Doctor has a history of failing his companions in one tragic way or another. As an outsider Danny recognizes the dangers of traveling with The Doctor, which Clara can no longer see. In last week's 'Time Heist' Psi similarly calls Clara out on making excuses for The Doctor since she's been traveling with him for so long.
All in all this Doctor is shaping up to be an extremely flawed hero, we'll have to wait and see how his bond with his companion will hold up to whatever is happening in the Nethersphere, since Missy has apparently been very busy. One thing is for sure, there has been a lot of robot activity on earth.
"Doctor Who" airs on Saturdays at 9:00 pm EDT on BBC America .