The Doctor goes undercover at Coalhill School when the world is threatened by a Skovox Blitzer.
For the first time we see more than glimpses of Clara’s ‘other life’, that of being a Coal Hill school English teacher and dating soldier-turned Maths pedagog Danny Pink. In class, she’s teaching Pride and Prejudice: a story about a young woman choosing both between two worlds and two men (one is aristocratic and the other a soldier). It represents the choice between two completely different lives that it looks like Clara will soon have to make.
It’s also a bit meta. Clara actress Jenna Coleman played Elizabeth’s sister Lydia in P D James’ Pride and Prejudice sequel Death Comes to Pemberley recently, and Matt Smith has just been cast as Mr Collins in Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.
It’s unlikely that Rory could ever have stopped Amy from travelling with the Doctor by telling her she couldn’t, but Danny is a much more controlling man, it seems. Clara is always the one apologising and excusing things. At the end of this episode, having finally rid herself of the lies she’s been telling, Danny puts her in a position where she’ll either have to keep things from Danny, or stop travelling with the Doctor.
The conflict between the Doctor and Danny, their similarities laid out in Listen, is made real with their meeting, and it makes me look forward to their next encounter. With Courtney having a taken a trip in the TARDIS, it seems like we could be building to a modern update of the ship’s original crew: the Doctor, two Coal Hill teachers and one of their pupils. It can only make Doctor Who stronger to have ongoing story about a coterie of characters. Some of the best TV around, like Breaking Bad, is how relationships develop over time between a small number of people, and their various and changing interests and conflicts.
The Skovox Blitzer is a nominal villain, existing as much to show the kind of soldier that the Doctor dislikes, as much as any meaningful scary menace. It’s the kind of ‘only following orders’ stereotype that is so dangerous. In Listen, the Doctor says, “I don’t take orders, Clara.” The resolution plays into this nicely, with this being the Blitzer’s undoing; while Pink disobeys the Doctor’s order to stay out of it and helps save the Earth, having given the Doctor the inspiration for the plan too.
Something I did wonder about was the Doctor having a deadline of two days to defeat the Skovoz Blitzer, but then points out he has a time machine. With total control of the TARDIS these days, he could obtain any weapon or tool and take as much time to prepare as he needs.
The Doctor’s repeated insistence that Danny must be a PE teacher, to the two teacher’s chagrin, is amusing, but he was teaching some PE in Into the Dalek was he not? His disdain for PE teachers is perhaps more relatable than his disdain for soldiers. Equally relatable is Clara keeping the Doctor separate and out of her work life; nobody at work knows I like Doctor Who at all, let alone the extremely nerdy level to which I like it.
It’s great to see a new take on the Doctor’s character too: an officer and a gentleman. In Listen we learn that as a youth he faced a choice between joining the army or enrolment in the Time Lord Academy. Presumably as the ruling elite the Time Lords command the Gallifreyan military. The War Doctor is portrayed along these lines in the BBC novel Engines of War, and in stories like A Good Man Goes to War, The Curse of Fenric and any number of UNIT missions he effortlessly assumes command of soldiers. He glibly deflects the question ‘who put you in charge?’ in Time Heist, and again in a preview clip I saw on Graham Norton for Kill the Moon. He’s in charge because he naturally assumes that position.
The aristocratic aspect of the name his race has taken hasn’t really been touched before in [Doctor Who](series:200668), but was previously in this series when linking the Doctor and Robin Hood’s backstories.
Some people seem surprised that the Doctor feels the way he does about Danny, when he should be aware the Brigadier, a career soldier, retired to teach mathematics too. But the Doctor’s memory started to go after he regenerated into the Eleventh Doctor. The Tenth Doctor could recall The Sensorites (Planet of the Ood), but his eleventh incarnation couldn’t remember The Abominable Snowmen or The Web of Fear (The Snowmen). To his twelfth persona, 800 years of Trenzalore being his freshest memory, the events of The Girl in the Fireplace are a mystery. Is it that likely he would remember the Mawdryn Undead? Gareth Roberts’ original script for The Lodger had the monster upstairs from Craig as Meglos, with the Doctor drawing a blank as to their previous meeting.
Originally published on my Doctor Who blog, Trap One.