Doctor Who Review: 12.4 ‘Listen’
Ok, so I usually review the Doctor Who episodes as they air and I haven’t done it for the past two weeks. Here’s the thing though…I wasn’t quite sure what I thought about either of them. We’re adjusting to a new Doctor, one I already associated with another character, which was making it difficult to completely accept him in the role. And there were some other problems with the continuity and core story telling that I’ll talk about when the reviews get written. In the meantime: listen.
This is the first episode where I’ve genuinely felt that Peter Capaldi was embodying the role. Not that I doubted him, I always thought he was a great bit of casting, but I didn’t yet look at him and think ‘Doctor’. The opening shot of this episode showing the Doctor sitting cross-legged on the top of the TARDIS went a long way to changing that viewpoint though – that was something akin to Tom Baker’s time with the character. Stealing coffee, crashing Clara’s date and the like brought it all into focus and for the first time I wasn’t seeing Capaldi – I was seeing the Doctor. It’s the first time in the new season that Clara feels like she’s got something to do. She was introduced into the show with a specific purpose and since the mystery surrounding that has been resolved her role has been wishy-washy at best. Without a goal, conflict or even a reason to stick around with the Doctor each episode felt like it was shoehorning her back into the story.
Certainly a horror episode, the Doctor opens proceedings researching an entity that can hide itself perfectly, and has caused the same nightmare in every person throughout history (that classic ‘there’s something under the bed’). Clara, meanwhile, is on a disastrous date with colleague Danny Pink before the Doctor picks her up to help with the investigation. Through their travels they meet Danny as a child and his descendent at the end of time, both of whom have encountered this terrifying creature. By the end of the episode we have a clever bait and switch as it turns out that this isn’t a story about Danny Pink but about the Doctor himself, and a fear that he’s lived with since he was a child and the truth surrounding it. Although it isn’t much, this is a rare glimpse into the Time Lord’s early life. After 50 years of the series with almost no information about the backstory of our hero this is something of a treat.
Much like the statues in Blink and shadows in Silence in the Library this episode seeks to created fear and discomfort around an everyday occurrence. This time around it’s the nagging feeling that something isn’t where you’ve left it, or the glimpse of something out of the corner of your eye. They manage this to some degree but without an ultimate reveal or a visual to go with the horror (the Weeping Angels, the skeleton in a space suit) it doesn’t have the impact of a universal fear the writers have shot for.
Quite a good episode over all. Clara has something to do for a change, the new Doctor has hit his stride and the story featured some clever time travelling shenanigans. Hopefully this is the beginning of a trend.