When it comes to scary Doctor Who stories, no one does it better than Steven Moffat. Sometimes he has “off” episodes, but when it comes to these type of narratives, he hits a home run every time. When someone asks me if he or she should watch Doctor Who, I always recommend “Blink,” which Moffat also wrote. If you don’t like “Blink,” then don’t watch Doctor Who. This episode “Listen,” can almost fall into that same category.
The T.A.R.D.I.S. is orbiting Earth, with the Doctor meditating on its roof. He begins to talk to himself, asking “Why do we talk to ourselves when we know we are alone?” He begins writing on his chalkboard. He talks about evolution, how there are perfect hunters, and there are perfect defenders. He sets his chalk down, posing the question: “Why are there not perfect hiders?” He answers his own question, “How would we know?” If they are perfect at hiding, then there is no way we would see them unless they revealed themselves. As he is questioning this, he realizes his chalk has been moved, and someone has written the word “Listen” on the board.
We move to Clara entering her apartment, very upset. The scene then goes back and forth from her apartment to a restaurant, where she and Danny Pink are finally having their first date, which goes from awkward to argumentative, resulting in Clara storming out of the restaurant. Clara goes into her bedroom to sulk, and the door is partially blocked by the T.A.R.D.I.S. The Doctor didn’t want to disturb anything in case she brought her date home. Disregarding how upset she was about her date, the Doctor pulls her into the T.A.R.D.I.S. for their latest adventure, and he poses the same question to her as he did to “us” at the start of the episode. He has a theory that everyone through time has had, at least once, the same nightmare. You sit up in bed, feeling like you are not alone, and when you sit up, something or someone grabs your feet. Accounts of this dream have been recorded throughout history. The Doctor relays to Clara his theory about the “perfect hider” and wants to see it. He links Clara to the T.A.R.D.I.S. telepathically so it can search through her timeline to find the exact moment she had this dream. However, she is distracted when she gets a phone call and thinks of Danny. The Doctor says everything is fine, and the T.A.R.D.I.S. lands.
They find themselves at a children’s home in Gloucester. Clara is confused because she has never been there. The Doctor brushes this off, saying Clara probably just forgot. As the Doctor leaves to investigate, Clara notices a young boy waving at her from an upstairs window. He introduces himself as “Rupert Pink.”
As the Doctor is lurking around the home, he runs into the superintendent of the building, who, thanks to the Doctor’s Psychic Paper, thinks he is speaking with an inspector. The Doctor questions the man about the same type of things, and attempts to scare the man by turning off his TV with the sonic screw driver, and stealing his coffee, to put some fear into him.
Clara finds Rupert’s room. He is scared of what is under his bed. He has just had the exact dream that she and the Doctor where here to see. She attempts to put Rupert’s fears to rest by having them both crawl under his bed to assure him there is nothing there. Suddenly, the mattress, bends, because someone is sitting on it. They stand up to see something underneath Rupert’s bed spread, looking like an old school ghost. As Clara and Rupert begin to get scared, the light comes on and the Doctor is sitting in the room. The Doctor asks Rupert if he is scared, and when he says yes, the Doctor gives him a speech about how being scared is a super power, and how it can be used to defeat anything.
- This is the first time this season the Doctor has become the inspirational figure we’ve known him to be. He’s still in there. It just takes quite a bit for him to come out with this incarnation.
He tells Clara and Rupert to turn their backs to the creature. There are two options: either a friend of Rupert’s is playing a trick, or a friend is NOT playing a trick. All three of them promise whatever it is that they promise not to look. The creature leaves, never actually revealing itself.
After this “close-call,” Clara does her best to cheer Rupert up. She uses a box of toy soldiers as “protection” for him. She hands him on in particular, the leader. He names the soldier “Dan,” because he likes that name. After telling Clara he was going to change his name from Rupert the first chance he could, Clara realizes that she is actually talking to a young Danny.
The Doctor knocks Danny out (with his powers. He doesn’t club him over the head. He’s just a kid. Jesus, guys) and he and Clara return to the T.A.R.D.I.S. The Doctor questions himself and Clara as to how they ended up with Danny and not Clara. She lies, not wanting to tell him how she and Danny are linked. Clara decides it is time to make amends with adult Danny, and asks the Doctor to return her to the restaurant moments after she had originally stormed off. As with every other interaction they have had, this one doesn’t go well. She lets slip that she knows his real name is Rupert. This time HE is the one that storms off when she won’t tell him the truth. Clara then looks up to see a man in a space suit signal for her to get into the T.A.R.D.I.S. The man is Orwell Pink, Danny’s descendant from 100 years in Clara’s future.
The Doctor explains that he was trying to link Clara and Rupert’s timelines, to find a connection, and the trail led to Orwell. It turns out Orwell is also a time traveler, and the Doctor found him on “The Last Planet,” meaning the end of the Universe. Orwell was stranded there after his maiden time travel voyage to 1 week into the future got a “tad sidetracked.”
They take Orwell back there to pack up his things. The Doctor lies and says they need to stay overnight so the T.A.R.D.I.S. can recharge. The Doctor, realizing that since there is nothing left in the universe, this would be the perfect time to discover what this “creature” is. As the Doctor prepares his watch, Clara helps Orwell with his things and finds the toy soldier she gave Rupert among his belongings. He calls it a family heirloom, and in the same conversation alludes to the fact that he and Clara may be linked closer than she had thought.
As Clara and the Doctor await the creature, Orwell’s ship begins to make noises. Normally this would be brushed off as the ship settling, but thanks to the Doctor’s paranoia, it now points to the creature being real. After hearing a knocking on the ship’s airlock door, the Doctor unlocks it with the sonic, and it begins to open, either from the pressurization, or from whatever is on the other side. Getting Clara to safety, the Doctor looks on as the door opens.
After a brief malfunction, the T.A.R.D.I.S. monitors come on to reveal the Doctor about to be sucked out the airlock, as the air seal had been broken. Orwell brings the unconscious Doctor back inside. Not wanting to take any chances, Clara uses her telepathic link with the T.A.R.D.I.S. to take off, not knowing exactly whose timeline they are traveling.
The T.A.R.D.I.S. lands, and Clara goes outside to investigate. The T.A.R.D.I.S. has landed in small barn. She hears a small child crying, and notices a bed in on of the barn’s lofts. She assumes it is either Rupert or even Orwell, and goes to check on him. Two people come into the barn to check on the boy, and Clara hides under the bed. After overhearing their conversation, Clara realizes that she is in the DOCTOR’S timeline.
The adult Doctor wakes up, and disoriented, calls for Clara, which is heard by his younger self. The boy rises from bed to investigate, and by reflex, Clara grabs for his leg. At this moment Clara realizes what has happened. The Doctor is obsessed with this “creature” because he experienced it when he was a child. Only there is no creature. It was Clara all along.
Clara calms the boy down, and gets him to go back to sleep, telling him this is all a dream. She uses the same speech that the Doctor told Rupert to reassure the boy that it’s all right to be afraid, but that he can control the fear. It is also revealed that this is the same barn in which the War Doctor was going to detonate the Moment during The Day of the Doctor.
After making sure the young Doctor is okay, Clara returns to the T.A.R.D.I.S. and asks that the Doctor take off, not asking where they had just landed. They return Orwell to his own timeline, and Clara returns to hers, going straight to Danny’s apartment. They make up, and share their first kiss. The episode ends with the Doctor staring at the word “Listen” from on his chalkboard. With a smile, he underlines/crosses it out. He doesn’t seem sure that he will find any closure with this, but for now he seems content.
- “Why do you have three mirrors? Why don’t you turn your head?”
- “You know why dreams are called dreams? Because they’re not real. Otherwise they wouldn’t need a name.”
- “He’s not in every book.” “Really? Well, that’s a few years of my life I’ll be needing back.”
- “That’s why he’s the boss. A Soldier so brave he doesn’t need a gun.”
- “Once Upon a Time, The End. Dad Skills.”
- “What’s up with your eyes? They’re all over the place. GET THEM UNDER CONTROL.”
- “Only three people left in the universe and you are lying to the other two.
- Using time travel as part of the narrative, and not just a mode of transportation. They did a good job of using it without us having to question every little detail.
- Everything that could have been the “creature” could also be perfectly explained as something WAY more believable. It always had you question.”
- Coleman gave her best performance since joining the show. Hands down
- Clara and Danny went right from constantly arguing to kissing pretty quick, if you are following Danny’s narrative. I am kind of letting it slide, because I like both characters.
- Why didn’t the Doctor remember the toy soldiers? Or did he and just wasn’t saying anything. Unless his disdain for them in Rupert’s room was his way of showing how HIS soldier didn’t help him. That’s a good question. Hmmm.
Two A’s in a row. Looks like they are finally hitting their stride. Next week’s episode looks super sci-fi oriented. Let’s hope the VFX match up with the story they are trying to tell.
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