by Ken Parker
Why do I watch Doctor Who? Because of this episode. I know the show has potential to deliver excellent stories and it has done so throughout its entire history. I am not talking about the good episodes that were enjoyable, more like the ones that totally blow you away. Is it possible that “Listen” is one of those episodes?
I believe that horror is an important element in Doctor Who. Having a monster marching around the streets of London is not scary in my book. I am talking about unseen monsters lurking in the sewers or the opening of a tomb on an alien planet or a statue moving or people trapped by something and so on. Doctor Who does horror really well and Steven Moffat is one of the best at it. “Listen” is an episode that will be compared to “Midnight”, “Blink” and “The Impossible Planet” and that is incredible company to be linked to. Moffat has gone back to the bare bones of what makes something scary and refrains from ruining it with silly plot twists (well, he almost succeeds at this).
The story does appear to have a few agendas going on with the character of Danny Pink as well as the Doctor's question about a particular dream and his feelings about fear. This is link together by Moffat but I have to wonder if two separate stories might have worked better – one about the dream and fears and the other about Danny Pink. Still, we see how well Doctor Who handles suspense and horror with minimum effects or make-up. We don't need to see aliens to be scared and many of the scariest moments in Doctor Who have been what we don't see.
“Listen” takes the entire fear thing literally with the Doctor trying to understand and track down one of those perpetual fears, something under the bed. Moffat had already touched upon this in “The Girl in the Fireplace” but goes even further with it and delivers to us the most ambiguous possible monsters of all, our selves. Is it possible that our imagination, our dreams and our own fears generate these monsters?
Danny Pink – I am finding it hard to find sympathy for this character and he does very little in this one to change my mind. The story line seems to suggest that Clara and him will go on to have some kind of connection for years to come. As usual this may be a red herring that Moffat is so fond of throwing around so often to shock audiences.
Something on the bed – a clever scene where Clara and Rupert hide under the bed only to have something on top of the bed. Peter Capaldi delivers his best performance so far with this scene as he is funny and terrifying at the same time. He is conquering fear not by facing it but by ignoring it. Make fear your constant companion and use it for your benefit.
The end of time – this time we are eliminating the possibility of another kid playing a trick on us. We are where nothing else is alive and yet we are hearing noises and a knocking. Is this imagination or something truly horrifying. The best monsters ever are the ones in our imaginations. For those who feel cheated not to see the monster in “Midnight” and “Listen”, you missed the point. Nothing that would have been revealed to us would have been as scary as what wasn't revealed.
The boy in the barn – Well, here comes the twist in all this where Clara takes the part of the monster accidentally and puts the fear into a young boy who is probably the Doctor as a child. This manipulating the Doctor's timeline is a hobby of Clara's as she continues to do it. Many fans did not like this and while it was a clever little twist, was not needed in this story. The twist that Clara seems to be more Doctor like than the Doctor, especially in this scene and beyond is interesting but not what people like to see all the time. Hopefully there will be less look into the Doctor's past. Even theconnection to “The Day of the Doctor” was not needed.
Will we ever know what was under the covers? I hope not. For those hoping for an explanations in later episodes or who believe a Sontaran was under the covers I feel bad for you because the current production team has made you think this. I will say that not everything needs to be connected to everything else. We don't need the under the cover thing explained because if it was then that would make the Doctor Who universe less mysterious and much much smaller and boring. For once can we not have characters related to one another and stories all connected. Please, Moffat, don't give us the answers, no matter how badly we want them. Don't turn around!
The Doctor – well, this was an incredible episode for Peter Capaldi, his best yet. He has settled in nicely as the Doctor. I like his eccentric manor as well as his measured humor that has never been over the top as with the two previous Doctors. His unpredictability, urge to find the answers and vulnerability is all excellent and if he keeps this up he will be my favorite Doctor of the new series!!
This episode was close to being one of my favorites of all time. I think the falling back onto the Doctor's own time-line was not needed in this story but hopefully this is a stand alone episode in terms of the 'monsters' that were in it. The music and cinematography were top notch and everything worked well with each other.