Exclusive interview: ‘Doctor Who’ writer Gareth Roberts chats to us about ‘The Caretaker’

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Writer Gareth Roberts returns to Doctor Who this weekend with his sixth episode for the show.

The terrifying Skovox Blitzer is ready to destroy all humanity – but worse, and any second now, Danny Pink and the Doctor are going to meet. When terrifying events threaten Coal Hill school, the Doctor decides to go undercover.

‘The Caretaker’ airs at 8.30pm on Saturday 27 September on BBC One.

CultBox caught up with Gareth for a spoiler-free chat about the episode…


What was Steven Moffat’s pitch for ‘The Caretaker’?

“He had the story pretty much worked out in a way. He came up with the idea of the Doctor going into the modern world and being the caretaker at Coal Hill. Also the Doctor and Danny meeting, with Clara’s two words colliding.”


This is the first episode where we really see Peter Capaldi’s Doctor smiling and visibly enjoying himself. Was it a deliberate decision to make him a bit warmer at this point in the season?

Doctor Who The Caretaker Doctor

“I didn’t realise that, I was just writing it as I saw it. I see now, having watched the other episodes, that he’s very intense in 2, 3, 4 and 5, so [‘The Caretaker’] comes as a bit of a blast. But I think that’s very much part of the character.

“One of the things that Steven was very keen on was that he’s still funny and he’s still fun.”


How did you find writing for Capaldi’s Doctor in a domestic setting differed from writing for Matt Smith?

“I wrote the first draft before I knew who it was going to be. I was finishing one draft when it was announced by Zoe Ball, so that was like, ‘aha, of course!’

“One of the key things I got from Steven at the early stages was to think of an early Tom Baker, the sort of ‘Arc in Space’ or ‘Genesis of the Daleks’ Tom Baker, who’s quite stern and remote, but also very funny. The Doctor is always going to want to say the wrong thing.”


Did you worry that the Doctor and Danny clashing over Clara could potentially have ended up making both characters unlikeable?

Doctor Who The Caretaker Danny

“It was a tough balance, yeah. You just have to kinda take the plunge with stuff like that. The whole idea of the Doctor changing this much was quite a big one. Steven said to me once that the best ideas are the ones that keep you up at night and make you worry.

“I think it’s better to take those sort of risks and be bold, rather than just doing the same thing. I think [Samuel Anderson] is just great as well. He’s very, very naturalistic. He feels incredibly real and that really helps ground it.”


It’s great to see a male human character on the show who’s very much their own person…

“Yeah, yeah, again that’s been a very definite decision on the part of the powers that be; that was what they wanted.”


Also, Courtney is brilliant!

Doctor Who The Caretaker Courtney

“Oh yes! I think [Episode 7 writer] Peter Harness had read ‘The Caretaker’ and said ‘oh, can I use her?’, so that was good. I think initially the idea from [producer] Nikki Wilson was for the Doctor to have a bonding moment with one of the kids from the school.

“And I thought ‘is that just going to be like the Doctor and little Amelia Pond?’, then I realised it would be much funnier if she was the same kind of ‘yeah, what?’ character as he now is.”


Do you think Courtney could become a full-time companion?

“I don’t know; I don’t know what happens after my episode! I like not to be spoiled if I can get away with it, so I have no idea what’s going to happen in the rest of the series.”


Are you the first writer to script someone throwing up in the TARDIS by the way?!

“I think I probably am, yes! I mean, I think if something like that happened to me then I’d probably be sick or wee myself.”


Did you ever imagine that your throwaway gag about Queen Elizabeth I in ‘The Shakespeare Code’ would get its own entire prequel story in ‘The Day of the Doctor’?

50th queen elizabeth

“Never, ever in a million years! It was enormous fun and lovely to see it explained. I didn’t know anything about ‘The Day of the Doctor’ before it aired, so I was just going ‘oh my God, it’s a whole story!’, so that was superb.”


It’s great when you now watch ‘The Shakespeare Code’ and it all fits together…

“Yeah, of course, it’d make perfect sense now, I hadn’t thought of that!”


Which of your six Doctor Who episodes to date are you most proud of?

“That’s hard to say! ‘The Lodger’ I’d say, that was the first time I went ‘aha, this is my niche’, so it will always have a special place in my heart.”


> Order Season 8 on DVD on Amazon.

> Order Season 8 on Blu-ray on Amazon.

Are you looking forward to ‘The Caretaker’? Let us know below…