Monday, September 15, 2014

My Review of Doctor Who's 8x04: "Listen"

Written by Steven Moffat
Directed by Douglas Mackinnon

The Doctor: “I don’t take orders, Clara.”
Clara: “Do as you’re told.”

Well, maybe it’s me but did this episode cause more of a shit storm on the internet over the last few days than the 50th anniversary episode did in a week? It certainly felt like it as Steven Moffat seemingly ‘broke’ a cardinal rule by further embedding Clara into the Doctor’s past.

If certain audience members weren’t already pissed off by having her enter his time stream in the previous series, then having Clara speak to the Doctor as a child in a certain barn on Gallifrey certainly incensed a lot of viewers. Was I one of them? Er, no actually – I actually loved the scene.

While I do think this probably should be the last time that Clara Oswald is embedded into the Doctor’s history, pre An Unearthly Child, I can’t help but love the scene for what it was and that someone comforting a child and giving them hope by allaying all their primal fears about things being under the bed and being afraid to fight and so on. As a scene alone, it was beautifully written and acted and almost hard not to fault as a result.

This episode was something though of a three/four hander with the Doctor, Clara, Danny and Orson (the latter two played by Samuel Anderson extremely well) all getting a fair amount of scope. The Doctor mainly was obsessed with the idea that even when you’re alone, you’re not really and this episode went out of it’s way to see the Doctor try and prove that point through his companion.

It’s how we ended up in a children’s home where Clara met the frightened Rupert Pink, who would later change his name and have a history with war as well as a stance on what it means to be a soldier as well. I quite liked the scenes where both the Doctor and Clara were trying to get Rupert to look away from the creature under his bed covers. Who exactly was that creature though? It’s one thing this episode didn’t provide an answer for but perhaps it might have been another child playing a prank or something far more sinister. Perhaps we’ll never get an answer for this one.

Speaking of Rupert – well, he grew up to become Danny Pink and Danny certainly had something of a disastrous first date/drink with Clara in this episode as well. While the scenes did feel like they were trying to echo Moffat’s previous series Coupling too much at times, I did like the awkwardness between Danny and Clara as they both managed to embarrass themselves and inadvertently offend each other from time to time. Of course, the episode also didn’t waste time in pointing out that they do somehow end up together in the long run.

It’s how Orson Pink factored into the part where the Doctor and Clara ended up at the end of the universe. He was clinging onto the gun-less toy soldier that Clara had given his great grandfather (and later the Doctor) and it was a way of the Doctor getting a taster of that private life that Clara seems to be eager to keep him out of as well. Then again, enjoyable as Orson was, I didn’t really need to see him to realise that things would work out with Clara and Danny though. The end scene where they made up more or less did the same thing.

Also in “Listen”

The opening shot of the Doctor sitting on top of the TARDIS in a meditative position was pretty cool. I even liked the bit where he went underwear and there was a fair use of the chalkboard this week.

Danny: “Sometimes people like you get the wrong end of the stick.”
Clara: “People like me?”

Danny mentioned quite a lot that he dug 23 wells during his soldier days. I actually think he might be suffering from some PTSD as well.

Clara: “How long have you been travelling alone?”
The Doctor: “Perhaps I never have.”

Clara: “Do you know why they’re called dreams?”
Rupert: “Why?”
Clara: “Because they’re not real?”

I just realised that Danny is the second companion from Moffat's era with a history in a children’s home. We did see Melody/River in one during the sixth series as well.

Rupert: “He took my bedspread.”
The Doctor: “Oh, the human race. You’re never happy, are you?”

The Doctor (to Orson): “There are only three people in the universe and you’re lying to the other two.”

We got some reused footage of the War Doctor from The Day Of The Doctor in this episode. Still, that’s two former Doctor appearances in the first four episodes.

Clara (to the Doctor): “Do you have your own mood lighting now because frankly the accent is enough.”

I don’t think we got anything in this episode that alluded or mentioned the Promised Land and we didn’t see Missy again either. I don’t doubt we’ll get another appearance from her before the finale though.

Clara (to the Doctor): “Fear makes companions of us all.”

Chronology: Mostly 2014 London, early or mid 1990s Gloucester and of course, the end of the universe. Orson’s also from the 22nd century.

This was certainly a polarising episode and while it did try to evoke the same chills, use of sensory perception and eeriness that past episodes have done, I also think that “Listen” in spite of it’s polarising moments might be the first classic episode from Capaldi’s era. It’s certainly for the time being going to be the most heavily debated one. Essentially, a beautiful character piece nonetheless.

Rating: 10 out of 10


Anonymous said...

It was a very good episode all 'round. Did you catch that "fear makes companions of us all" was similar to something the First Doctor said to comfort Barbara in An Unearthly Child?

shawnlunn2002 said...

Oh yeah, loved that little reference.