Doctor Who episode 820: Listen (13/9/2014)

In which Clara becomes the monster. And not just any monster, but the one that has haunted the Doctor through his entire life (depending on which Timeless Child was suddenly deemed no longer the most important single being in Gallifreyan history and consigned to a barn). This is a Moffat spook story – the title and some of the dialogue (‘Look away. Look away now. Don’t look at it.’) is deliberately invoking Blink. And because it’s a Moffat script, there’re a bootstrap paradox, lonely children and romcom.

It’s an impressive piece of work. I particularly like the teaser scene, which shows the Doctor on the kind of scientific mission his first incarnation occasionally alluded to as he travels the universe seeking to test his hypothesis of a being that has evolved to hide perfectly (has he forgotten Kamelion?). Capaldi’s performance has improved with each episode – here, he gets a Moment of Charm™ as he reassures young Rupert Pink, and despite the 12th Doctor’s professed aversion to ‘banter’ that’s exactly what he’s doing with Clara.

Clara also comes out of it well. YMMV on whether we needed another story that weaves her so tightly into the Doctor’s past lives (we’re supposed to take away that the first Doctor was quoting Clara when he told Barbara, ‘Fear makes companions of us all’), but in the context of the episode – which has already placed Clara in her new boyfriend’s past and future – it works.

I’m a bit less sold on Danny. His “meet cute” (retches) with Clara is a bit alarming as he leans over her threateningly when he accuses her of being weird and lying to him. Equally, Clara’s clearly got an issue with his military background. I’d say there was no future in this, except it’s heavily implied Orson Pink is their descendant – which means, given we now know their fates, that Undead Clara and CyberDanny must have done some wheezing and groaning at some point (as if their relationship couldn’t get any colder). It’s playing into the series theme “what happens when two control freaks get together?” but it’s not the kind of romance the show normally presents.

I don’t enjoy this as much as Blink. It’s a consciously chillier piece of work which doesn’t offer Moffat’s usual neat and clever punchlines. Nor are there any audience-friendly memorable baddies like the Weeping Angels or the Silents – the hiding monster is probably all in the Doctor’s imagination. It effectively sets up some of the themes of the 12th Doctor and Clara’s relationship, and a location they will return to (the last planet, and the silence at the end of time). One to admire, not to love.

Next Time: Time Heist


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