Doctor Who s08e04: Listen

DW Listen

A review by Nalini Haynes

Director: Douglas Mackinnon
Writer: Steven Moffat
Stars: Peter Capaldi, Jenna Coleman, Samuel Anderson

The Doctor (Peter Capaldi) is talking to himself, exploring the idea of the perfect hunter, the perfect defence and perfect hiding with some gorgeous imagery to carry his dialogue. The Doctor writes on a blackboard and leaves the chalk in the gutter of a book then keeps talking until he discovers the chalk is missing — it’s rolling across the floor — and a new word, ‘LISTEN’ has been written on the blackboard. In the Doctor’s handwriting, but he insists he didn’t write it.

Cut to Clara (Jenna Coleman) on a dinner date with Danny (Samuel Anderson). Things go badly. You’d think they were on a blind date instead of co-workers who’ve already blundered and had opportunities for conversations and to build rapport. Clara walks out in a snit. Danny headdesks — again. It seems to be his thing.

Clara arrives home to find the TARDIS in her bedroom and the Doctor making disparaging remarks. Their relationship has become very father-daughter with a bit of crazy uncle thrown in; I like it, it’s refreshing after those companion-romances.

The Doctor co-opts Clara into accompanying him to investigate dreams when something is under the bed and grabs your ankle. Clara admits to having that dream so the Doctor hooks her up to the TARDIS to fly them back to the night of her dream. Danny rings Clara’s mobile, distracting her, and they end up at an orphanage in Gloucester instead.

Clara meets a brown boy by the name of Rupert Pink who’s had a scary dream. While the Doctor talks to the caretaker in a nightmare-like sequence (and nightmare-inducing sequence for the poor caretaker), Clara sneaks upstairs to talk to Rupert who is obviously a younger Danny. While Clara tries to comfort Rupert, they hide under the bed then someone sits on the bed. Clara and Rupert emerge. The figure under the bedspread sits up, then stands on the bed, scaring both Clara and Rupert. Clara doesn’t do the adult thing of unmasking the figure and ending the scare.

Spoilers, Sweetie

Later the Doctor rescues Oswald Pink, a descendent of Danny’s from 100 years in to the future who is actually from the end of the universe because of a time-travel accident (?). The Doctor sends Oswald to gatecrash Clara’s reinstated failed date that fails again.

NO-ONE REACTS TO AN ASTRONAUT WALKING THROUGH A RESTAURANT.

Really? Let me join Danny in headdesking. Only I use that term figuratively, not literally.

Having already rescued Oswald from the end of the universe, the Doctor takes him BACK to the end of the universe to find the thing that may or may not be hiding there, waiting to reveal itself because, y’know, the perfect hiding thing needs to reveal itself.

Spoilers end

I’m not a fan of horror when the intent is to give viewers a fright; I prefer my horror to have actual narrative merit like, for example, that award-winning zode of Buffy where Buffy’s mum died. I also enjoy most of Buffy, Angel, Underworld I & II… In contrast, ‘Listen’ intends to scare viewers for the sake of the scare itself by cobbling three characters’ stories to Clara’s unfortunate date then, with lots of talkiness, ‘Listen’ tries to undo that scare so the kiddies can go to sleep. In the end, ‘Listen’ seems to be saying “Ha, ha, tricked you. Now it’s bedtime.”

This episode got NINE STARS on IMDB. Wow. My rating is somewhat different.

Rating: full starfull starfull starEmpty starEmpty star 3 out of 5 stars

My review copy of Doctor Who season 8 on DVD was courtesy of Roadshow.