THAT is how you do an episode of Doctor Who.
‘Listen’ was a stunning episode from start to finish and it will justly go down as a classic. It was ingenious, it was heaped with mythology, and it drew upon some of the best episodes in the history of new Who.
Following on from the lacklustre ‘Robot of Sherwood’, ‘Listen’ simply had to be good to exceed what came before it, but in actual fact it completely blew its preceding episode out of the water.
There isn’t a single fault with this episode. It started with a brilliant pre-title sequence in which we saw the Doctor talking to himself whilst noting what makes the perfect defence mechanisms in a living being.
Capaldi is, of course, brilliant from the onset. This episode finally brought the Doctor and Clara together for its entire duration and they sparked throughout.
‘Listen’ was tantalisingly creepy, in a similar vein to ‘Midnight’ in that the threat of the episode isn’t actually glimpsed on screen. It plays a heavy role without actually doing anything and it highlighted that sometimes less is more in Doctor Who.
Aside from the final planet at the end of the universe (sure we’ve already visited the end of the universe already though…) very little CGI was actually used and rather this episode draws upon the brilliant performances of its four main stars. And like similar Moffat-penned narratives, ‘Listen’ created a monster out of nothing.
The Vashta Nerada was a monster based on shadows; the Weeping Angels are based upon statues. The threat this week is based upon something we have all experienced at some point: waking up in the middle of the night and believing that there is something in the room with you. Ingenious and extremely creepy, this concept works brilliantly. Don’t ruin it by bringing this threat back Moffat.
A one time story works exceptionally well; to bring it back will ruin ‘Listen’, just like ‘Blink’ has similarly been ruined somewhat due to the recurrence of the Weeping Angels.
Capaldi, like I said, is brilliant. Here he is firmly comfortable in his role. The Doctor is still mysterious, yes, but he feels like the Doctor, whereas in previous episodes he hasn’t quite managed to capture the heart of the viewers in a similar manner to that of Smith or Tennant. And his relationship with Clara is entirely believable; he spends the episode ridiculing her for her weight and looks in an obvious attempt to show how alien this new Doctor is, but it works nevertheless.
Likewise, Jenna Coleman is once more on top form. ‘Listen’ is a clear attempt to flesh out this character by showing her first disastrous date with the extremely likeable Danny.
Like previous episodes this series, Clara is given her time to shine by once more saving the day. Maybe next week the Doctor should have a go at saving the universe like days of old, just saying…
Jenna gels with both Capaldi and Samuel Anderson, who plays her loveable date Danny. He debuted two episodes ago but this week shows much more range in both the character and actor. Here Samuel has to play the dual roles of Danny and Orson Pink, a distant relative of Danny and Clara’s… possibly.
It’s teased a lot, but a part of me still thinks Clara could have a different ending. Surely falling in love is boring. But back to Samuel. Both roles are similar (in fact they’re pretty much the same character), but Anderson is extremely capable of making the viewers fall for him.
Danny’s first meeting with the Doctor in episode six is surely going to be incredible. I can’t wait to see Danny travelling in the TARDIS. Similarly Remi Gooding who portrayed a younger Rupert Danny Pink was brilliantly executed. His performance was uncannily like that of his older counterpart. Doctor Who has a knack for casting younger versions of its companions and for the most part those castings play off exceptionally well. Just look at Caitlin Blackwood who played a younger Amy Pond.
‘Listen’ dips-and-dives into the date between Clara and Danny whilst journeying from Danny’s childhood to the end of the universe. There we see the final planet and learn that the constant companion has remained. This too played like ‘Midnight’ in that the unseen threat seemingly exists where nothing should possible be able to exist. Given that ‘Midnight’ aired over six years ago, this concept worked once again here. In an episode heavy on the notion of time travel, the final destination dropped jaws across the country, surely.
Whilst probably necessary to include a flashback of John Hurt’s War Doctor, this segment felt like pandering almost in a similar manner to ‘Deep Breath’s inclusion of Smith. But it was a stellar way of tying this Doctor who appeared as if from no where into the rich mythology of the fifty-one year old programme. In explaining why the War Doctor ventured to an abandoned shack in last years ‘The Day of the Doctor’, we learn that this mysterious shed has ties with the very first Doctor.
Yes, for the first time in fifty-one years we glimpse the Doctor as a child. AND… we glimpse his parents! Barely, but they are there. It was probably a good thing to not show any of these fully but it was breathtakingly beautiful nevertheless. It’s here where Clara shines; she once more interacts with the first Doctor and perhaps initiates his need for a companion to help banish his fears.
Clara is the companion of companions; she had been instrumental in making the Doctor who he is right from a very young age. Whilst some may not like this concept, you have to admit it is bold.
So was there actually a threat this week, or was the threat mistakingly created by Clara grasping the first Doctor’s leg? Given that others were glimpsed to have had their ankles grabbed, and Rupert saw a cloaked villain upon his bed, the threat was very evident. But it’s cause and nature are ambiguous and rightfully so. To show this creature, if there even is a creature, would have been a mistake. Somethings are best left to the imagination.
‘Listen’ was a seminal Doctor Who episode. There is quite literally no faults with it and it will go down as one of Moffat’s all-time bests, if not THE best. It exceeds ‘Blink’ (if only because the Weeping Angels have recurred since). Next week’s ‘Time Heist’ will pale in comparison likely, but nevertheless it does look like a brilliant romp. Aside from ‘Robot of Sherwood’, Capaldi’s debut run is shaping up to be a good one.