WARNING: Contains spoilers of a few key scenes in the episode.
In order for a media piece to create an actual horror themed project, you’d immediately assume it could only be successful by remaining in a static claustrophobic location where the terrifying events could take place. Doctor Who itself has previously mastered that, particularly in episodes such as ‘Midnight’ and ‘The Water of Mars’, however tonight’s episode ‘Listen’ brought upon perhaps the most intense and riveting episode that the series has ever seen, without even following the same procedure.
There were high expectations towards this episode as the BBC remained discreet upon the whole episode, hardly anything was revealed in previews (unless you count the actual episode which was unfortunately leaked online), so walking into this episode, clueless as ever, caused this episode to be an absolute extraordinary viewing. Samuel Anderson makes his second appearance in the season, as the focal point in the episode pivots around the date of Danny Pink and Clara. It was prone with Russel T Davies’ episodes for characters to have more insight into their actual life and create a mini soap-opera out of it, so it was a refreshing change to really witness Clara’s personal life and how she acts around ordinary people. Honestly this episode alone made me ‘ship’ Clara-Pink completely and I’m often not that easily moved by artificial television romances, but it was something about the characters and how they progressed in this episode which really lead to my enjoyment of the two.
‘Hold on, a date?’ you might ask, not exactly the most horrific experiences (well for the audience that is), and whilst that’s true, it’s interesting how the episode transitions between the normal life of Clara to her Doctor life, something which was similarly explored with Amy Pond in ‘The Power of Three’. The Doctor shares his obscure and insane theories of people under your bed, which seemed very off-putting in a sense. Throughout the whole episode I was expecting there to be some kind of cliché sci-fi explanation, something such as ‘it was a lost alien from another planet searching to get home’, but it was nothing of the sort. The TARDIS crew and the audience travel across the ‘Pink’ timeline thanks to Clara, we see Danny Pink as a child and ancestor Orson Pink in the future.
Surprisingly, it wasn’t the horror itself which caused this episode to be iconic. The horror and the theoretical ‘enemy’ were just plot devices created by Steven Moffat in order to engage viewers, but Moffat’s true intentions were to develop these characters even more, which was a spectacular job as I feel more connected with the Doctor and his companions more than any other previous seasons! I honestly cannot explore the actual details of this character progression without at first mentioning the obvious barn scene.
There was no doubt that this was a Moffat episode, the absolutely mind-boggling time structure of this episode could not have been devised by no other guest writer. But even with the foreshadowing of the Doctor with the ‘broken soldier toy’, there was no way the audience could have expected this episode to actually witness the source of The Doctors characteristics by returning to his childhood!
“Fear doesn’t have to make you cruel and cowardly. Fear can make you kind”
So yes, this episode might have just spent the whole time making us fear absolutely nothing. Without there being any reveal if something actually existed, but rather the cause for The Doctor to go on what was practically a witch hunt for a creature under your bed, was just in fact the Doctor who feared the dark and wanted his usual logical explanation which we expected would have been the resolution of the episode. But that didn’t matter, The Doctor who put himself in danger allowed us to witness one of the greatest surprises in the series. Not only did Clara find the child Doctor and comfort him, but we have some wonderful revelations! The barn in ‘The Day of the Doctor’ where the Doctor changes his life by activating the moment, was the same location where The Doctor stayed as a child before going to the academy, which in fact was a place where he changed his life also. Both catalysts of the Doctors decisions in this barn was thanks to Clara, which really signifies how important she will be to the programmes history later on in the future. Had it not been for Clara, she wouldn’t have prevented The Doctor(s) to destroy Gallifrey, had it not been for Clara, she wouldn’t have lectured the Doctor of being ‘cruel and cowardly’ which encouraged him to go to the academy (and henceforth becoming the character we know today).
What remains quite baffling to me is the idea that Moffat managed to cram various events such as the date, Danny Pinks childhood, the end of the universe, the barn scene – all alongside a terrifying setup, witty humour in between lines, and a well coordinated structure – all into one 47 minute long episode! The show-runner has been criticised recently of making half-assed episodes in comparison to his guest written episodes, something which I’ve always declared as completely untrue; but even so, this episode alone would have managed to make all previous comments obsolete!
I’ve refrained from talking too much about the episode, only because I believe this isn’t something which should be read by words, if anyone hasn’t seen the episode yet, they honestly should honestly head out and aim to view this episode, I doubt that this episode will be disregarded in the future!
+ We see the Doctor in a way we’ve never seen him before, Capaldi presents his fear with an extraordinary performance, the overall episode definitely spooked even me out!
+ “I’m against the hugging” says the Doctor, but honestly it just goes to show how the dynamics have changed from ‘Deep Breath’ to ‘Listen’, the two are now closer than ever, with Clara definitely transforming into one of the most central characters of The Doctors life!
– Why is it not a 10/10? As daunting and cinematically stunning the opening scene was, I feel it stood out from the overall episode, it seemed more suitable to start right with Clara and her reactions to the date. It’s a minor inconvenience, but still felt odd due to Capaldi rambling on slightly too much making the purpose of his speech slightly difficult to follow.