I think this was the first conversation Clara and the Twelfth Doctor have had since they hugged at the end of "Deep Breath" that wasn't an argument. Well, even that hug was part of an affectionate argument. This moment, where the Doctor shows off his new gadget, was the first time I've seen Clara spontaneously smile in genuine delight because of something the Doctor did. In light of the fact that she talks about not being able to resist whenever the Doctor shows up to take her on an adventure, it makes their relationship seem like some kind of angry compulsion.
To-day's new episode, "The Caretaker", follows the Doctor's attempt to thwart an alien killer robot while posing as a caretaker at the school, Coal Hill, where Clara works as teacher, the same school where Ian and Barbara worked as teachers in the 1963 première.
The episode is also largely concerned with Clara's dull as dishwater boyfriend Danny, a soldier who's become a maths teacher, not unlike Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart in the Fifth Doctor story Mawdryn Undead. The fact that the Doctor and the Brigadier were great friends, something referenced not long ago in the 50th Anniversary episode, makes the Doctor's thorough hatred of Danny for being a soldier seem strange except for the fact that maybe Twelve's most distinctive feature is that he's angry a lot. There hasn't been a Doctor this irritable since Six, and before him Three and One.
Three's love/hate relationship with the Brigadier is of course one of the hallmarks of the Third's era. The Doctor has the added baggage of self-hatred now for his War Doctor self.
"The Caretaker" was written by Gareth Roberts and Steven Moffat--Moffat was also co-writer on last week's episode with Stephen Thompson, which is probably a good idea since Roberts and Thompson had written some of the worst episodes of the series--"Curse of the Black Spot" for Thompson and "The Lodger" for Roberts. Roberts seems to specialise in episodes that feel low stakes and geared directly for children, though not as badly as Mark Gatiss. But to-day's episode didn't feel rushed like last week and it was nice seeing the three actors playing the Doctor, Clara, and Danny having space even if it's pretty much wasted on the lobotomised Samuel Anderson who plays Danny.
There's also a new child character introduced, Courtney, who seems to be poised to become another companion of the granddaughter mould not seen since the Second Doctor. I don't like the idea of the show going that route but in contrast with the tedious relationship drama I found myself kind of digging Courtney, the misfit student, and the Doctor's irrepressible delight at showing off the TARDIS to someone new.
I did kind of like the scenes where the Doctor, Clara, and Danny confront one another, mainly for Capaldi working through the Doctor's confusion and buried anxiety over his role in Clara's life.
And yesterday we finally had the première of Star Wars: Rebels. Which is kind of momentous when you consider this is the first canon video media for Star Wars since Disney took over. So far, I like the show except for all the characters. Well, I like Zeb.
I like how he abandons Ezra to stormtroopers. He feels genuinely rough around the edges.
The centre of the show, though, seems to be another Jedi Master and apprentice relationship, perhaps so they can revamp some unused Clone Wars scripts. I can only hope Freddie Prinze, Jr's monotonously voiced character, Kanan, dies faster than Obi Wan in A New Hope. Kanan even gets Obi Wan's line about the Force binding the galaxy together, delivered to the show's resident Luke, Ezra.
I like that the show is focusing on young, awkward people though it's hard to compete with Luke, Han, and Leia when the voice actors sound so phoney. I watched A New Hope again recently and found myself marvelling at what those three actors did. Mark Hamill is infamously bad at first but with Ford and Fisher he completes a really amazing triad--I don't think it's the kind of thing Lucas or anyone could have completely planned, Hamill had just the right amount of shrill, Fisher speaks with a loudness that suggests a deep insecurity, and Ford is just so beautifully tangled, grasping for a simpler life out of a kind of need for security but stabbed in the back by his own conscience.
Everyone on Rebels is so blankly good so far. But it is nice to see TIE Fighters and people running around shooting stormtroopers. If they were going to insist on a having a Jedi on the show, they ought to have forgone the coyness and just given us Ahsoka Tano from the start. I think we all know she's going to show up eventually.