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REVIEW: Doctor Who 8×04 “Listen”




Yes dear reader, its true – episode four of Peter Capaldi’s time-travelling adventures proves there’s life in the old dog yet. Whether that refers to Capaldi or the actual show I’ll leave for you to decide. To start with, the whole premise of “Listen” is based around the 12th Doctor’s maverick personality.

Obsessed with finding creatures that can’t be found, the Doctor’s impulsive persona is given deeper meaning in “Listen”, and the episode itself is draped with a fabulously intricate plot mixed with strong character development for its three characters (well four if you want to get technical).

The Doctor comes to a sudden realisation that there may be creatures in the universe that are perfect at not being seen, heard, or sensed in anyway. Dragging Clara away from her disastrous first date with ex-soldier Danny Pink, the Doctor aims to prove his theory no matter what it takes. What it does take however is this Doctor’s sense of scope. The all-encompassing personality, the universal experience of having seen and done everything is all suddenly brought to Earth with a bump when, the Doctor unwittingly reveals just how scared he can be of such a little thing – the dark.

Its little because its something we all suffer from, and the Doctor being no exception results in him not quite being the superman we tend to think of him as. Instead, “Listen” shows just how regular he can be.

Using a delicate touch of continuity (and we’ve mentioned previously how the use of continuity in “Deep Breath” ultimately dragged that episode down), Moffat has crafted the show into bearing the full, thick stamp of an adult’s drama, and not the children’s show any casual TV viewer would think.

“Listen” features, almost exclusively, the Doctor, Clara and Danny, whose back-story is given more depth here, and adds to the increasingly interesting double-life that Clara is currently leading. Not trapped in the confines of the TARDIS, the most ironic thing to be trapped in ever, instead she’s somehow managing to balance her day job as a teacher with her adventures in time and space, as well as being able to go on dates.

The restaurant scene at the beginning of the episode is incredibly well-executed, directed by Douglas Mackinnon, and gave us a tantalising slice into Clara’s life outside of the TARDIS. It’s made all the more interesting when Danny proves to be an unintentionally integral piece in the episode.

Ultimately though, the real power of this episode lies in its fusion of the universal and the singular – that of our fears of what lies under the bed with rounding the idiosyncratic personality of the Doctor. By using a finely portrayed and near-perfect piece of human drama as its platform, Moffat takes this Doctor into realms you wouldn’t have dared to dream when C. Baker was prancing around looking like a rainbow had vomited on him or even Smith when he was too busy dicking around with his dickie bow. He paints a tenderly human portrait of the Doctor, someone who for all his other-wordiness has the exact same nightmares that we do.

So what’s that creeping under your bed? It’s the sound of me applauding a fabulous episode of Doctor Who. Just go back to sleep, its only a dream.

Overall grade: A

Extra Thoughts: If Clara’s final words were right, and that all the Doctor’s scared of is the dark, then what was on the other side of the airlock in the bunker at the end of the universe? And what was on top of Rupert’s bed? And are we even meant to know what they were?!

About the author

Fred McNamara