Doctor Who Season 8 Ep. 4: Listen

September 17, 2014 — Leave a comment

…we came in?

A few years back, in the early part of my relationship with the woman I proudly call my best friend/wife/listener to the worst of my pop culture rants, I used to have a terrible time shutting my brain off. I’d start thinking about little things that bugged me. Really pointless inconsequential things. These little ticks would snowball and before I knew it, I’d be turning to my best friend/wife/person who makes a cracking stir fry and cry, ‘I’ve done it again. I’ve thought too much.’ I could construct monuments to paranoia and anger; the biggest ball of introspection in the west. After a while, I managed to sort it out and can get through the day quite reasonably without starting a fight with myself…

I’m sure everyone has a similar story, which is why the latest episode of Doctor Who, Listen, worked so well. We’ve all talked to ourselves, we’ve all debated ourselves into a knot and we’ve all thought about the worst case scenario. And that’s where we find the Doctor; talked into a corner by himself and trying to find out whose fault it is.

Grabbing an almost unwilling Clara, The Doctor bounces around time trying to work out why we all talk to ourselves and why we sometimes have that sense of dread that we’re not alone. The genius of this episode is how Steve Moffatt manages to lay out two co-existing plots here, and I’m not just talking about the sub-plot with Danny Pink, but we’ll get to that. No, I’m referring to the following:

Storyline 1: The Doctor believes there is a creature out there with a terrific ability to hide. You can feel it just behind when you’re in the dark. It plays with you by moving things around. Everyone at some point in time will meet it. The Doctor pieces together the clues to hunt it down.

Storyline 2: Lost in thought he recalls a time in his childhood when he felt most terrified. The Doctor begins to overthink things, which leads him into failing to see the woods for the trees. He turns a molehill of a memory into a mountain of misunderstanding, corrupting the facts to fit his hypothesis.

Look on the internet and you’ll see that people are divided as to whether there was anything out there. Even when there’s other witnesses, such as a young Danny Pink and his descendent Orson Pink, the story is written to fit a number of conclusions. Young Danny could be the victim of a practical joke, whilst Orson has been on his own for so long his mind is playing tricks on him. Or maybe not?

Staying focused on Danny for a moment; He is, for me, fast becoming our sense of reality on Doctor Who. He’s Wilfred. He’s Jackie Tyler and Mickey Smith. Suffering from PTSD, part of me feel he’s  a reason for Clara to stay in the present should the opportunity arise. But then, Orson did mention that one of his great-grandparents used to tell him stories about time travel… Why must we assume that it’s Clara? To assume that is to assume everything works out for Danny and her in the end. I don’t think Moffat works like that. Danny may step on board the TARDIS one day, but I’m not sure he’ll be with Clara forever. Especially if she continues to put in her foot in her mouth. She may very well be able to stand up to alien creatures and overlords, but she is not so good on a first date.

And then there’s that scene in the barn and a young weeping time lord. Some will, or already have, cried foul. Ooh, Moffat is messing with Doctor Who canon, blah, blah! But then those people, politely, need to get over themselves. Not to sound dismissive, but as the last 50 years of Doctor Who have been built on chopping and changing the show’s canon, I couldn’t care less. Whenever you get really angry about someone changing something in the show you hold dear, just remember that a long time ago, Doctor Who was about an old man with a time machine and one heart. Psychic paper, time lords, Adric and regeneration limits were the stuff of fancy. Times change and so must we.

Anyway, yes, it all turns out that the Doctor was comforted back to sleep by Clara, who soothed him with words she learnt from the older him only hours earlier. And then, and THEN! She ends up telling him something that he’ll end up saying when he kidnaps a couple of teachers in his future. It turned my brain in to a pretzel, but I loved it and, honestly, it brought a tear to my eye.

Listen was a brilliant episode and possibly one of Moffat’s best since Blink. Since the problematic sixth season, he has been upping his game and if this is the kind of thing he can do, then I look forward to more of the same. Come on Moffat. I know you’ve got it in you.

And then I began to think… How do we actually know that it was the Doctor Clara was talking to? Who’s to say that it wasn’t a young boy who had stared into the time vortex and was driven mad? Who’s to say that Clara’s soothing words weren’t accidental encouragement for a pre-destined goateed maniac who will try and conquer 1970s UK and then the world? Look, I’m not saying it WAS the Master, but it could have been. But it probably wasn’t. But it could have been. Though it’s doubtful. But it might not be. I’m drifting. Have I ever told you I over think things?

Isn’t this where…

About The Author
My name is John Noonan. I’m a freelance writer that specialises in arts and entertainment. From genre flicks to chick flicks, I love the stuff. So much so, I started a film review blog at earlybirdfilm.wordpress.com. I also contribute to online and hard copy press, including FilmInk magazine.

If you like what you see, I am available for hire. You can contact me via the social media channels above or the form on my home page.

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