The Caretaker: Why We Lie

Danny: It’s funny, you only really know what someone thinks of you when you know what lies they’ve told you. I mean you say you’ve seen wonders, you’ve seen amazing things and you kept them secret. From me. So what do you think of me, Clara?

Clara had a myriad of reasons for why she kept her travels with the Doctor a secret: mainly because it sounds insane. How do you explain to someone that you occasionally travel through space and time with an alien with two hearts that looks human? How would one even begin that conversation? And even if Danny believed her or Clara voluntarily showed him the TARDIS-there was always a possibility that he would think all of this was overwhelming and would leave her. Yet despite her feelings for Danny and her attempts at keeping a normal life by working as a teacher, she hasn’t given up traveling with the Doctor. Why would she? She gets to travel to distant worlds, meet Robin Hood, go into the future, and see strange aliens and creatures. But yet she doesn’t tell the Doctor about Danny. She of course lets him know that she is seeing someone, but he doesn’t really ask and she does not tell. Of course noticing twelve’s disdain for soldiers, that would make for a difficult conversation. So, she does what any control freak would do and she tries to hold on tightly to both of her lives while attempting to keep them separate. In the beginning of the episode, she even admits, albeit it very briefly that she can’t keep that up, but then she quickly calms herself down and gives herself a pep talk.

To a certain extent, there is some division between different areas of our life. For example, we might be less formal and uptight with our friends then we are with our bosses or professors. But that’s not to say that we are lying or that we transform into different people depending on who we hang out with. If we are honest with ourselves, most of us aren’t great actors nor are the majority of us psychopaths who can portray a charming façade for long periods of time. For the vast majority of us, hiding our main characteristics becomes difficult after an extended period. Superficial behaviors and negative vices can be controlled or minimized for a certain amount of time-for instance if one is proficient at cursing, one might be able to control his or her language while at work, but if we are lazy or mean spirited, at some point who we truly are will come to the fore.

For a while, Clara more or less succeeds in keeping her two worlds separate. There are times when her worlds almost collide but she is able to avert disaster. She manages to control the Doctor to a certain extent-ensuring that he does not pick her up in public, have her back by a certain time, etc and she is able to control Danny by keeping him from asking a bunch of questions, vaguely answering the questions he does have, and quickly making up excuses for why, for instance, her skin is shades darker hours after Danny had seen her or why she went into a closet wearing one set of clothes and then comes back out wearing another. Unfortunately, no matter how organized one is, one can’t control outside events and people for very long. As the audience, we knew that at some point in this series, something was going to give. Clara was not going to be able to continue this charade for long. In The Caretaker her hand is forced, and she has to tell the Doctor and Danny the truth. The problem is that by not taking the initiative and voluntarily telling Danny the truth, she risks losing him. And understandably so. Nobody likes being lied to. Furthermore, how can someone love a person that they don’t really know? In addition, Clara’s lies almost risked a countless number of lives as Danny had no reason to trust the Doctor, so when he saw the Doctor placing strange objects around the school, as a former soldier, why shouldn’t he suspicious? He had no reason to think that the Doctor was trying to save the school, not harm it.

Yet even when Danny sees the Skovox Blitzer, or the killing machine, and the Doctor briefly gets rid of it, Clara continues to try and keep the masquerade going.

Clara: Yes! It’s a play! Shut up. It is a play. We are rehearsing a play. Shh! Shh! shh! A surprise play! And, um, you see the vortex thing is a lighting effect. Very clever. And that thing. It’s one of the kids. In fancy dress. Really, really good fancy dress.

Now of course the show does break into some humor, as Danny mistakenly thinks that Clara is a space woman and the Doctor is her dad. But things quickly become serious. As Clara is dragging Danny out, the Doctor tells her,

Doctor: And when this is all over, you can finish the job.

Clara: How do you mean?

Doctor: Well you’ve explained me to him, you haven’t explained him to me.

Things become even more intense when Danny and Clara are alone:


Yet Clara isn’t the only one trying to hide who she is-the Doctor takes part in a form of duplicity. No I am not talking about his disastrous attempt at acting like a normal human being by getting a job as the school’s caretaker-but the Doctor tries to hide who is from himself. Lying to other people becomes difficult as we continue to pile on lies since we need to remember what we have previously told them, but lying to one’s self leaves one vulnerable to a brutal awakening. You would think that the Doctor would have learned by now that the very things he despises often reflect a form of self-hatred. But just like human beings, we continue to make the same mistakes over and over again. In this case, Danny calls out the Doctor for his hatred of soldiers:


And of course we sometimes have the help of friends who enable us to continue lying to ourselves. In time heist, PSI tells Clara that she keeps making excuses for the Doctor.

In this episode, the lies that Clara and the Doctor have told begins to fall apart. The Doctor, seems to brush off Danny’s criticisms, while Clara recognizes that lying is no longer an option, not if she wants to keep Danny.

There are a variety of reasons why we tell lies-sometimes it’s to avoid getting in trouble, other times it’s to avoid doing something we don’t want to do, or we want to avoid hurting another person’s feelings, or we want to manipulate others into doing what we want. And sometimes we need to lie to protect others, (ie if we are trying to keep someone safe and from being killed, I think that takes precedence over any ethical quandaries one might have over lying). However, sometimes lying simply provides the illusion of self-protection.

Clara lied in order to protect both of her worlds and her relationships with the Doctor and Danny. The Doctor often lies ostensibly to protect his companions. But the Doctor also lies to himself as a form of protection. The truth can hurt-especially if it exposes something about ourselves that we don’t want to know.

I am known for being honest-sometimes brutally so. If someone annoys me, I tell them. If I think they are wrong, I will correct them. I don’t like lying-it just seems like a massive waste of time. Yet I’m not perfect. However, when I lie, it’s often to myself. And the problem with lying to oneself is that eventually you begin to believe the lies and they become your truths. One of the biggest lies I tell myself on a daily basis is that I’m ok and I don’t need anyone else. I’m highly independent. Based on my childhood, I’ve had to be. My relationship with family members is virtually nonexistent past maybe a few phone calls or text messages, and perhaps a visit once a year. When trouble calls, my family is often the last to know. But the same goes for them as well-when they are in trouble, I am the last to know. But my family life has enabled me to gain a certain level of independence. (I say certain mainly because my cooking skills are non-existent…but that’s why we have microwaves right?).

Yet the truth is that there are times when I am not ok and when I need help. But the lies I tell myself are that I don’t need anyone else and that if I reach out for help I will be abandoned. To be fair, past experience has sometimes proven that to be correct. Reaching out to my family often resulted in ridicule or silence. And reaching out to others-in particular institutions have at best left me in some sort of limbo-and in the worst case, resulted in me losing my health insurance, my shelter, and my source of income and having to move back home to my emotionally abusive mother. Yet even though those particular experiences were horrible, the reality is that not everyone is like that, and I have received kindness and strength from others. In particular my teachers and professors throughout the years have been there for me.

Yet every time I go through a dark period trapped by depression, the same lies whisper into my ear again, “I don’t need anyone. If I reach out I will be abandoned and betrayed. The thinking behind these lies is that if I don’t allow myself to become vulnerable, then I can’t be hurt. But the truth is, when I lock myself away, when I shut myself off, I’m doing more harm than good for myself. Isolation, also leads to other lies-lies that state I am not good enough, that my life does not matter, etc-but those lies start from ones that are meant to protect me.

But what does it mean to embrace truth?(or me being a good post-modernist/progressive Christian, perhaps I should say truths…?) Clara had to embrace telling Danny and the Doctor the truth, as well as coming to terms with the fact that she couldn’t keep living life at the pace she was going. And the Doctor and Clara were both told the truth about the Doctor, (though of course that does not come to a head until next week…) I can’t speak for other people, but what I’ve been learning especially as I go through a particular difficult episode of anxiety and depression, is that it is ok to need other people. In fact, in order to survive, reaching out is mandatory. I’ve needed to admit to myself the truth that I can’t live my life in complete isolation, not if I want to survive. Depression feeds on isolation and loneliness.

One of the things that has helped me to reach out to others-is my theology on God. I’ve mentioned before how the God I held onto as a child was all powerful, and all knowing, and while loving was incredibly vengeful. This God demanded obedience. In addition, the theology espoused by my childhood church was one of them vs us. Those not within our little circle were to be distrusted and even within our circle we had to be weary of backbiting and those who would talk about us for not being “holy” enough. Yet the theology I hold onto now, is one that endorses a God who is not afraid to be vulnerable. Love requires a demonstration of vulnerability, and being willing to join in another person’s journey of suffering requires that one be willing to feel pain. The God I now hold onto, loves humanity unabashedly, loves me unabashedly. I don’t need to hide from this God, nor run away out of shame for my flaws and weaknesses. This God journeys with me through the darkest moments. And this God desires relationship-but relationships, as Clara learned, requires openness. And what is becoming clear to me, as I continue on this journey, is that one’s relationship with God, can’t really be lived in isolation. We need other people. We change and develop based on those we interact with. Furthermore, God often works through the people in our lives. For me, when I am isolated from others, I also feel isolated from God. And this is coming from an introvert…

Clara needed to let go of the lies that she had everything under control and that she could have a relationship while withholding a major part of her life. The Doctor continues to lie to himself about who he is. And next week those lies come to a head when Clara is able to see him for who he truly is. The lies I need to let go are those that tell me I am alone, I don’t need anyone, and that I am unlovable. What lies are you holding onto?


2 thoughts on “The Caretaker: Why We Lie

  1. two things struck me as i read;
    one that the bible tells us that the devil was a liar from the start: even if you don’t believe in an actual ‘devil’ or supernatural force opposed to God the meaning holds true: most of the bad stuff that harms us or gets in God’s way tends to have some lie at the core. Depression is particularly good at lying to us about who we are and what we’re worth, and it takes strength to remember ‘this is the illness talking/thinking, not ME.’
    the second thing was the vulnerability that truth requires is – and thank you for using this word – ‘mandatory.’ or, as the saying puts it: ‘God is great at mending broken hearts; but you have to give him ALL the pieces.’
    Nice that this theme came up in The Caretaker – who is taking care of whom in this episode, and is anyone taking enough care of him/herself?
    Here’s to interdependence.

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