The Caretaker (TV story)

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The Caretaker was the sixth episode of series 8 of Doctor Who. It had the Doctor and Clara deal with an alien threat to Coal Hill School, leading to both Danny Pink and Courtney Woods meeting the Doctor and subsequently discovering his true nature. It contributed to the "Promised Land" arc by introducing an underling of Missy, and giving her location a new name, the Nethersphere.

Building on the experience of writing The Lodger and Closing Time, Roberts and Moffat tried to match the former for threat, feeling there was an excessive amount in Closing Time, which had included back-story for the antagonists at the expense of other themes. For this reason, it was decided that the first draft had the right amount of threat and that it would be unnecessary to add more later. (DWM 478)


The Doctor's decision to use Clara's school as the centre of a trap for a wild Skovox Blitzer results in revelations in her personal life. Meanwhile, the Doctor's mechanical quarry, which has enough firepower to decimate entire planets, is running amok in the halls of Coal Hill.


Clara and the Twelfth Doctor are chained to posts on a desert planet. He asks her for the vibro-cutters; however, Clara tells him that she left them in her other jacket. The Doctor is baffled, wondering why she has two jackets; is one of them malfunctioning? However, Clara then tells him that she couldn't have handed him the vibro-cutters since they are chained up. She worries about dying of dehydration, but the Doctor tells her that the Sand piranhas will get to them before that happens.

Somehow, the Doctor and Clara manage to free themselves. Clara gets back home just in time for a date with Danny, who notices the tan she's developed from being stuck on the planet for so long. She passes it off as the result of a tanning bed.

Later, Clara tries to leave for a date with Danny, only to find the Doctor waiting outside her bedroom. He offers to take her to see fish people; curious, she boards the TARDIS. Once the trip is over, Clara heads to meet the taxi Danny is waiting in. Danny comments on her wet dress (and seaweed in her hair), which Clara passes off as being due to a "freak shower".

On another adventure, the Doctor and Clara are running from hostile soldiers as they head back to the TARDIS. The Doctor once more voices his dislike of soldiers. The exhausted Clara is dropped off at home; however, much to her exasperation, it is also her day to go jogging with Danny. Once back home, Clara collapses, deciding that she can't continue this double life; however, she regains her spirit and decides she can't quit.

The next day, she enters the TARDIS, wondering where the Doctor will take her this time, but he informs her that there won't be a trip today. She notes that he's acting mysterious, which the Doctor says is because he's a man of mystery. However, Clara becomes serious, telling him that he must be up to something.

He finally relents, admitting that he's going under deep cover, which she doesn't need to be a part of. Laughing at the idea of the Doctor going undercover, Clara tells him he'd have a good chance with the Magic Circle. Accepting he doesn't need her help, Clara leaves. The Doctor starts fiddling with the controls as Clara sticks her head back in, giving him the "I'm watching you" gesture. Once she leaves again, the Doctor turns his attention to something the scanner found in East London.

Clara arrives at Coal Hill School, where she greets Danny formally in the parking lot to avoid mockery from the children. However, they all laugh the moment the two teachers are inside the school; they know about their relationship and have written graffiti mocking it throughout the school. Danny wonders what's up with Clara, noting she's usually in a rush or a state of anxiety before their dates; he even notes that she showed up in a space helmet once. Smiling, Clara tells him that she was busy with something all those times, but nothing odd will happen for the next few days - she's all his.

After a meeting in the teacher's lounge, Mr Armitage announces the caretaker Atif Basra is out sick; they have a new caretaker for the next week. The replacement walks into the room, and to Clara's shock it's the Doctor, introducing himself as John Smith; he winks at Clara. Everyone leaves for an assembly as the Doctor silently mouths to Clara that he's under deep cover. Danny wonders if Clara knows who "Smith" is, as he winked at her, but she denies knowing him. Pretending to have left her students' homework in the lounge, Clara heads back to confront the Doctor.

In the lounge, the Doctor sees Clara enter and hides a map he was studying. Clara points out that she recognised him; the only difference is he's wearing a worn-out brown coat. She demands to know where Atif is, and the Doctor explains he hypnotised him into thinking he was sick. He needed to investigate without being suspicious. When Clara says that the Doctor does a poor job at pretending to be human, he defends himself by pointing out that he was able to live among otters for a month while he was sulking after having a big fight with River. Clara yells that humans are not like otters; the Doctor says that's what makes it easier. The Doctor says he needs to get to work as "the walls need sponging, and there's a sinister puddle". Before he leaves, Clara demands to know if there is an alien in the school; the Doctor retorts there is, since he's there. Clara immediately deduces the Doctor is up to something involving the school but he dismisses her. Annoyed, she glares at him, causing him to raise his broom in defence. Pushing the broom away, Clara demands that the Doctor answer a single question - are the kids safe? The Doctor tells her no, but soon the answer will be "yes" if she leaves him be. He then leaves, telling Clara to go "sing with the otters". Clara loudly whispers that she hates him, which the Doctor says is a "perfectly normal reaction".

Meanwhile, CSO Matthew finds two kids from the school near an abandoned building. He tells them to get to school, with them retorting that it's free period. He threatens to take their names down, annoying the kids into leaving. Hearing a noise inside, Matthew heads in to see if another kid is in there. Hearing an electronic voice, Matthew thinks it's a game and tells the kid to shut it off and head to school. However, a robot reveals itself instead and reduces the officer to charred pieces.

During one of Clara's lessons, she is distracted by the Doctor outside the window. He tells her that she got the date on the autobiography of Jane Austen wrong; irritated, she asks if he knows this because he met Austen during some kind of ridiculous adventure. However, the Doctor explains that it's because he read the biography on the back of Pride and Prejudice. Clara tells the confused students that the Doctor is Mr Smith, the new caretaker. The Doctor resumes his caretaking duties, while placing small devices around the school.

Later, Clara catches sight of the Doctor working on a substation with Danny and Adrian talking to him. Worried, she walks over to him, but is stopped twice: first by a student named Tobias, and then by Armitage, who explains about needing someone to help with an upcoming fair; Clara, having not paid attention, agrees. She manages to get outside, only to be bothered by Courtney Woods, who she completely ignores, telling her to deal with her own problems. Courtney retorts "Ozzie loves the Squaddie", confusing Clara.

The Doctor mistakes Adrian for Clara's boyfriend.

The Doctor continues working on the substation, with Adrian leaving to deal with a student. Danny tells the Doctor about being a soldier before coming to work at the school, which makes the Doctor think that he is P.E. teacher instead of a Maths teacher. Once Danny is gone, Clara wonders if the Doctor noticed Danny looked like Orson Pink; he didn't, but asks if Clara's boyfriend is at the school. They are interrupted by Adrian, who needs help with class. The Doctor notices that Adrian looks like his last incarnation, and comes to the wrong conclusion that Clara is dating this man because of the resemblance.

Laughing to himself, the Doctor leaves the teachers to continue talking as he returns to the caretaker's storeroom, where he has parked the TARDIS. He is soon bothered by Courtney, who needs paper towels. The Doctor gives her the towels and sends her off after some snarky remarks are exchanged between them. Clara enters as Courtney leaves, wondering what the Doctor is up to. Relenting, the Doctor admits that he's scanned for dangerous elements around the area. Annoyed that he gave in to her pestering, the Doctor notes that he once had a teacher just like her; Clara retorts that he still does since she travels with him.

He activates a hologram, which shows a Skovox Blitzer, a machine that will kill without any concern as to whether its victims actually pose a threat; it was attracted by residual artron energy in the area. Knowing it will eventually destroy Earth, he aims to send it away; the military will just mess things up. They head inside the TARDIS, where Clara asks what the "insanely dangerous plan" is. The Doctor reveals that he'll use an invisibility watch to prevent the Blitzer scanning him and use the sonic screwdriver to lead it to trap, where the chronodyne generators will send it billions of years into the future through a vortex.

As he doesn't need her help this time, the Doctor tells Clara to go "conoodle" with her boyfriend, telling her that he did recognise him and has given his approval on their relationship. Clara smiles, not knowing the Doctor mistook Adrian for her boyfriend; she leaves the caretaker's storeroom, happy. Danny finds her, saying that he will find something else to do that evening, as she has a look that tells him she will be busy. The Doctor exits the storeroom, with Danny asking Clara's opinion of him as he seems shady; she retorts that the caretaker has nothing but nice things to say about him.

Once done with her work for the evening, Clara returns to the TARDIS, telling the Doctor that her plans were cancelled. Seeing no-one there, she wonders if the Doctor has turned invisible and is messing with her. Danny likewise is leaving for the evening, but notices one of the generators under a Fire Alarm lever; he examines it, thinking the Doctor is up to something. Clara leaves the storeroom, being missed by Danny who walks up to it with the generator in-hand; he notices another one in a flower basket and removes that one as well.

The Blitzer targets the Doctor.

Elsewhere, the Doctor finds the Blitzer's location. He turns invisible and uses the sonic screwdriver to lure it into his trap. Danny notices the Blitzer walking through the school hall. The Doctor arrives and de-cloaks, but finds to his horror that the generators have been deactivated due to Danny's interference. The Blitzer arrives, and the Doctor attempts to reason with it, but the machine refuses to listen and targets him. Danny enters to talk with the Doctor about the devices, catching the Blitzer's attention. He drops the generator he is holding and the devices turn back on. Clara enters, giving the Blitzer more confusion. Trying to hit any one of the trio, the Blizter fires a blast that burns a hole through two stacks of chairs. The Doctor dives for the control for the generators in the confusion.

The Doctor activates the generators, sucking the creature into the time vortex, along with some chairs. The tear closes and the Doctor rushing to scan it. Clara wonders if the Blitzer is gone and if Earth is safe; the Doctor tells her the scan revealed that it will come back in three days rather than a billion years time thanks to "P.E." ruining the precise positioning of the devices. This will force the Doctor to come up with a new plan as the machine will now kill him on sight since he has been scanned and pegged as a hostile target. Clara demands to know what Danny was doing there, to which he starts to explain; however, he then demands to know why Clara is there and why she is using alien words. To keep Danny in the dark about the secret part of her life, Clara tries passing off the events as a rehearsal for a play, but Danny immediately sees through her lie.

Coming to wrong conclusion that Clara is from space and that the Doctor is her dad, Danny earns annoyance from both of them. The Doctor wonders how Danny can mistake Clara for his daughter, commenting on how they look the same age. Clara points out that the Doctor has gotten their ages wrong (again), to which he says he was being kind (thinking she's the older one). The Doctor takes out the sonic, ready to erase the night's events from Danny's mind, promising Clara that he will try not to erase his mind entirely. However, Clara stops him, reminding the Doctor that Danny is her boyfriend. The Doctor is stunned, wondering about Adrian; Clara tells him that Adrian is just a friend and not her type.

Clara comes clean to Danny.

Danny asks Clara why she's never told him about the Doctor; Clara explains it's because he's an alien. When asked if she's one as well, Clara insists that she's a human from Blackpool. The Doctor walks up to the stage and pulls back the curtains to reveal the TARDIS, prompting Clara to explain they travel the universe in this time machine that's bigger on the inside; however, it's stuck looking like an old police telephone box. The Doctor opens the doors to show Danny the inside of the TARDIS.

Danny wonders if the Doctor brought the Blitzer to Earth. Annoyed, the Doctor tells him that he will protect Clara and him from it, and reminds him it's only coming back because Danny interfered with the plan, and therefore caused more danger. Danny wants to call in the military, but the Doctor tells him that is the worst idea. Clara takes Danny home to deal with the shock and the Doctor tells her to finish the job by explaining to him about Danny once the Blitzer has been taken care of.

At Clara's flat, she has finished telling Danny about her travels with the Doctor. Danny is silent, prompting her to ask him to speak. Danny recaps what Clara's told him: the Doctor used to resemble Adrian, but changed into a Scottish caretaker, and when Clara's not with him or teaching, she's off travelling throughout time with the Doctor. He asks her why she travels with him, which she attributes mostly to the wonders that she experiences. Danny struggles to accept whether or not Clara loves the Doctor romantically, which she denies.

Parents' evening arrives, and Clara gives Danny the invisibility watch. He turns invisible, and she takes him with her into the TARDIS so he can watch her interact with the Doctor, who has nearly finished building a device to fight the Blitzer. Clara tells him that she has explained to Danny and that he gets it. She to improve the Doctor's opinion of Danny, but to no avail. The Doctor mentions something is odd, suddenly suggesting that they go off, as he's bored. She reacts worriedly, and Danny realises that the Doctor knows he's there. He turns off the watch, becoming visible. The Doctor reveals that Time Lords can feel an invisibility shield when it's right next to them.

Seeing the Doctor's title as a Time Lord to be pompous, Danny mockingly responds to the Doctor's demand to leave the TARDIS, like a soldier taking an order. This brings out the militant side of the Doctor, and the two men trade insults in a heated confrontation. Clara and Danny leave the TARDIS; Clara reminds Danny that he can't go home as it's parents' evening. The Doctor lags at the door, wondering why he never seems to learn his lesson about humans. Courtney Woods enters the storeroom, asking the Doctor what's really in the police box, so he shows her. She asks if she can go with him, to which the Doctor says he might have a vacancy.

As the parents arrive at the school, the Blitzer unexpectedly returns from the vortex. Inside the TARDIS, the Doctor is putting away his tools when, much to his horror, the alarm goes off; it's way too soon. Grabbing his device, he summons Clara through the door, prompting her and Danny both to leave. Courtney's parents, who were talking to Danny, express that their daughter was right about the two teachers' relationship. Outside, the Doctor reveals that the Blitzer has returned and if reaches the hall everyone at parent's evening will be killed. Danny suggests they evacuate everyone, but the Doctor yells at him to shut up and let him decide the plan. The plan is for Clara to attract the Blitzer with the sonic screwdriver, taking it on a wild goose chase away from the civilians. She needs to keep it busy for a couple minutes while the Doctor finishes the device. Clara will then lead it to the caretaker's storeroom. He tells Danny to do one very important thing: keep out of their way.

The Doctor orders the Blitzer to shut down.

The plan seems to work. The Doctor speaks into his device and makes the Blitzer think he's a Skovox Artificer, its general. The Doctor tells the Blitzer that there is no conflict and to shut down. It obeys, pending a final authorisation code. Instead of deactivating, the Blitzer has begun a self-destruct count down. The Doctor tells Clara to distract it while he hurriedly tries to prepare the code, but she is unsure what to do. Just then, Danny yells out to the Blitzer. He runs and jumps over it as it fires its lasers at him. This distracts it long enough for the Doctor to give the final code, deactivating the Blitzer. Danny reveals to Clara he was following her with the watch and vows to protect her. He tells her that he only needs to do one thing, which the Doctor confirms: to prove he's worthy of Clara. This is the reason that the Doctor is so angry; he wants to make sure Danny is the right choice for his best friend.

The Doctor takes the Blitzer into space and ejects it from the TARDIS, taking Courtney on her first trip. Unfortunately, Courtney is unable to cope with the immensity of the universe and finds herself feeling rather ill — whereupon she rushes back inside and is sick. The Doctor is not too pleased that someone made a mess in his TARDIS.

Back on Earth, Clara and Danny watch television. Danny tells her that the Doctor reminds him of previous commanders he has known, who push their soldiers to get them to do more than they realised they were capable of. He points out that Clara obeyed the Doctor without being scared, and he worries that he might push her too far one day. He insists that Clara promises to tell him if that happens.

Seb welcomes the latest resident of the afterlife.

Elsewhere, CSO Matthew is in a long white office corridor with many doors on either side of the hallway. He is talking to a person named Seb at an information desk, not realising that he is now dead. Seb tries to break the news gently, having encountered many new patrons to the afterlife. He tells Matthew that the place has many names, including the Promised Land. Seb personally prefers to call it the "Nethersphere". They notice Missy appear from one of the doors. She gives a stone-faced glance. Seb tells Matthew that Missy is quite busy at the moment, before asking him if he has any questions about his new existence in the Nethersphere.


Uncredited cast[[edit]]


General production staff

Script department

Camera and lighting department

Art department

Costume department

Make-up and prosthetics



General post-production staff

Special and visual effects


Not every person who worked on this adventure was credited. The absence of a credit for a position doesn't necessarily mean the job wasn't required. The information above is based solely on observations of the actual end credits of the episodes as broadcast, and does not relay information from IMDB or other sources.

Uncredited crew[[edit]]

Millennium FX[[edit]]




  • The Eleventh Doctor spent a month living among otters after he and River Song had a fight that caused him to sulk.[5]
  • The Doctor likes the school subject maths, but doesn't respect PE.
  • Clara wonders if the Doctor's previous companions allowed him to do whatever he wanted.
  • Clara has become trained enough in the use of the sonic screwdriver to understand how to use specific settings.
  • The Doctor tries to show Courtney the Olveron Cluster.

Cultural references from the real world[[edit]]


Story notes[[edit]]

  • A banner hangs on the wall saying "A Spirit of Adventure". This is a nod back to the First Doctor story The Sensorites, in which the Doctor tells Barbara Wright and Ian Chesterton that their travels in the TARDIS with him and Susan Foreman turned out to be "a great spirit of adventure".
  • Oddly, the "Next Time" trailer for this episode also features footage from TV: Listen, specifically the moment where the Doctor asks Clara who she's having dinner with. No such scene plays out in The Caretaker, flashback or otherwise.
  • A few days after the broadcast of TV: The Time of the Doctor, Jenna Coleman had co-starred in the miniseries Death Comes to Pemberley, based upon a mystery-novel sequel to Pride and Prejudice. Coleman played Lydia Wickham; in this episode, Clara's students are heard reading a passage related to Lydia.
  • This episode takes place either the next calendar year or the next school year after the events of Into the Dalek. In the earlier story, Danny is introduced as a brand-new teacher at Coal Hill. In this episode, the father of Courtney Woods discusses with Danny how since "last year" his opinion of his daughter has changed, indicating that Danny has been a teacher for some time by this point.


Filming locations[[edit]]

  • Bute Street, Cardiff - Noah and Yashe are confronted by Matthew.
  • Lloyd George Ave., Cardiff
  • The Maltings, E Tyndall St.
  • St Illtyd's Catholic High School, Newport Rd. - Coal Hill School
  • Holton Primary School, Barry - Coal Hill School
  • Gladstone Primary School, Cardiff - Coal Hill School exterior
  • Tonyrefail School, Wales - Coal Hill School exterior

Production errors[[edit]]

If you'd like to talk about narrative problems with this story — like plot holes and things that seem to contradict other stories — please go to this episode's discontinuity discussion.
  • When the Doctor meets Courtney Woods in the caretaker's storeroom, he hands the package of paper towels to her, but they reappear in his hand, and she walks off empty-handed.
  • When Courtney looks into the TARDIS, the Doctor's work bench, which he was sitting at just a few minutes ago, is no longer in the room. It returns later on.
  • When Clara leads Danny down the stairs and away from the TARDIS she is standing behind him and to his right in the closeup shot, but in the wide shot she is behind him to his left.
  • When the Skovox Blitzer deactivates, its eyes fade out from red until they are no longer shining. When the Doctor sends it floating into space, still deactivated and spewing sparks, its eyes are glowing blue.
  • When the Doctor is talking to Clara at the TARDIS console with Danny standing behind him, he places his hand on the dematerialisation lever. His hand is still on the lever when the camera is facing from Danny's perspective but not when it's facing from Clara's perspective; the handle of the lever is clearly visible in these shots.


Home video releases[[edit]]

DVD & Blu-ray releases[[edit]]

Series Full Box-set Region 2

Digital releases[[edit]]

  • The episode was released on Google Play, iTunes and Amazon Instant Video in HD or SD, also available as part of the Series 8 digital boxset. The digital boxset contains various features: trailer, interviews, The Ultimate Companion, The Ultimate Time Lord, Inside the World Tour and Doctor Who Extra episodes for each episode.
  • In the US, the series was released through digital streaming services Hulu and Netflix with a subscription.
  • In the United Kingdom, this story is available on BBC iPlayer.

External links[[edit]]

to be added


  1. Gomez' credit is taken from TV: Deep Breath
  2. Holmes, Jonathan (14 December 2014). RadioTimes. Retrieved on 6 November 2018.
  3. 3.0 3.1 DCOM: The Caretaker
  4. Goodman, Christopher. Doctor Who – Skovox Blitzer. Christopher Goodman. Retrieved on 6 November 2018.
  5. Although the incarnation of the Doctor is not specified, as it's later established that in his twelfth life he didn't meet her until The Husbands of River Song, it has to have been the Eleventh.