For better or for worse, Listen is a fantastic episode. It’s also a terrible episode, that will leave you slamming your head into a table in a manner reminiscent of Danny Pink having yet another bad date. Spoilers ahead…
It all starts off innocently enough. The Doctor has begun pondering out aloud, of possible monsters in the dark. And with worlds filled with creatures that have evolved into the perfect predators, or the perfect escape mechanism to balance that food chain, what about a creature that has possibly evolved the most ingenius method of hiding? Kind of like the Confessors/Silence from previous Doctor Who episodes, but screw those guys, they’re already ancient Smithsonian history.
Naturally, all this leads to the Doctor roping in Clara to help him prove a point, a point that has roots all the way back to his childhood, in an adventure that goes from the end of time to the formative years of the Time Lord. And writer Steven Moffat is once again dipping into his bag of familiar tricks here, weaving a story that cements itself into the history of the show and touching back on past events.
Still, criticisms of recycled ideas aside, there’s still quite a bit of fun stuff to enjoy in this episode. Clara manages to mess up her date with Danny several times in a hilariously awkward evening, the Doctor’s razor-sharp intellect finds itself baffled by a trio of make-up mirrors and the mystery itself is rather interesting thanks to a closed-loop of wibbly wobbly rummaging about in the time-stream.
And then we get a glimpse at a younger Doctor, scared and alone in a barn that also doubles as the location where John Hurt’s War Doctor was ready to set off the moment way back in Day Of The Doctor. It’s a nice way to connect several dots, and even if the footage is recycled, I’ve got a soft spot for that particular incarnation of the Doctor.
And of course, we’re getting a new relationship set up between Clara and Danny, the bravest soldier without a gun. I’m only hoping that it doesn’t become as painfully corny as Amy and Rory’s romance. The biggest trick pulled out of the Moffat bag in this episode however, is that he manages to create a monster that is the exact opposite of what you expect.
It’s the sum total of all the Doctor’s fears, a figment born from what was perhaps a traumatic childhood, time-travelling and an attempt to escape being alone. It’s a monster that ties in with previous Moffat creations, with “Don’t look” being the equivalent of the Weeping Angels “Don’t blink” and the “Don’t breathe” imperative of the clockwork droids from the opening episode of the season.
Of course, it’s an episode that answers questions while clumsily leaving several open, that will never ever be resolved. And that’s Listen in a nutshell. An episode with some interesting ideas, that are weighed down by some sloppy tropes from the Modern Doc Who library. As much fun as Peter Capaldi is in this episode, carrying it on his shoulders once again and saving the show and the day, expect Listen to most likely be the most polarising adventure of the season.
Last Updated: September 15, 2014