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The Caretaker and His Wife, aka The Doctor's New Family
I’ve been giving The Caretaker some thought and I realized how much River Song’s presence permeated this last episode of Doctor Who. There was not just one but four Five-ish strong remembrances of her. It was practically a love letter to The Doctor’s missing wife while also serving to introduce us to his new “family”.
1) “A snap of the finger…” :
The doctor first learned he had this ability when River Song told Ten he could do it in the Forest of The Dead. It was among her last living moments with him. If I’m correct, Clara is the only other person other than The Doctor we’ve seen do this, and she was the one who was/is(?) mentally linked with River. In The Caretaker we see Clara and The Doctor alternate snapping the Tardis doors open and closed, again and again. It’s not just an incidental moment, either. It’s practically a spectacle of this ability, like an homage to the idea.
2) “…Well, I sulked. River and I had this a fight…” :
The mention is obviously direct but still casual. The Doctor recalls a moment he and his wife had an argument and River left him to live among a community of otters. One would presume he was stranded while she took off with the Tardis. Capaldi adds a brilliant touch to this scene by gesturing to his side as he speaks, imagining his wife still there.
The lesson he learned from this spat, The Doctor claims, enabled him to live among people, i.e., he learned to act human. It’s a wonderful off-hand and funny comment while highlighting his awkwardness and misunderstanding of human communities, but it also a great basic moment of character continuity that shows us he still remembers his wife. He is/was a married man/widower. He did in fact dislike being separated from his wife. This is a long, wonderful leap, from the man who couldn’t even bear to men`tion her name because it hurt too much. He’s moved past denial and healed enough to recall her and all the lessons he learned from her.
2b) Bonus: The “Silence (Bullying)” poster directly behind The Doctor as he speaks of getting into trouble with River, is the exact same poster that was the school walls where Amy Pond retrieved her childhood friend/daughter Melody from the principal’s office in Let’s Kill Hitler.
The poster ties a moment of Amy Pond care taking her friend/daughter to The Doctor’s memory of River Song. As if River’s memory helps caretake The Doctor.
2c) Bonus: "I hate you!“ Clara yells at the Doctor on the way out of the staff room. He simply replies, "It’s a perfectly normal reaction” because he’s used to people who care about his say this very thing because how many times had we seen River say this to The Doctor over the years and each time he reacts knowing that she does actually love him.
3) “A single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.”This Jane Austen ‘truth’, of all the quotes and all the authors they could draw from, is on Clara’s board. I also love the misdirection of The Doctor’s correction. “Wrong." he says, but no, he’s not correcting the idea behind the quote, just the year. The idea, we’re left to surmise, is agreeable.
Later in this episode we see Danny call out The Doctor as "Aristocracy." He is a Lord. So the quote could easily about him. Also, it returns us to that fight, wherein River left the Doctor on his own for a while. He didn’t live, he sulked. He needs River, or her memory, to remind him of important things.
4) “The last of the great frost fairs …”
It is an interesting anecdote given the timing. It refers a place The Doctor took River Song on her birthday (to hear Stevie Wonder sing.) It calls back the same episode that River Song revealed herself as the daughter of Amy Pond, thus making Amy a Mother in-law to The Doctor, and unifying them all as a family. The Doctor remembers this day, and bluffs/suggests to take Clara there, just as Danny- her suitor - lies in hiding —in order to make Danny reveal himself.
ETA: 5) The Tempest and his ‘not-finishedness…’The bow-tied Eleven lookalike the Doctor first assumes is Clara’s boyfriend is seen talking to Clara about The Tempest. The play is about a widowed father and magician who needs to give away his daughter to her suitor, but he has some serious possessive Dad issues. The suitor, he decides, must prove himself first. He whips up a storm and other spells to pester his enemies, enslaves a couple of servants to do his bidding (he is a Lord, remember) before setting everyone free and begging forgiveness from the audience.
”Not-finishedness.” is an odd phrase that directly echoed River’s observation about Ten when she first met him. "You know when you see a photograph of someone you know, but it’s from years before you knew them. It’s like they’re not quite finished…” The Doctor, or The Oncoming Storm, or The Tempest, by whatever name, is a widowed “magician” stranded without his mate, who is still a bit not-finished.
This was an episode that positioned The Doctor as a surrogate “Space Dad” of sorts to Clara, placing him in the role of The Caretaker or the parent. Clara is the daughter and Danny is the suitor, the future son-in-law. In a way, it was all about the family The Doctor could have, so it seems proper they would also reference the missing “Mom” and Wife, that would have been the one who caretakes her husband.