Doctor Who First Impressions Review & Spoilers: Season 8 – Episode 4 – “Listen”

Doctor Who, Season 8, Episode 4

Listen

Written by Steven Moffat
Directed by Douglas Mackinnon

Cast
Peter Capaldi – The Doctor
Jenna Coleman – Clara Oswald
Samuel Anderson – Danny Pink/Orson Pink
Remi Gooding – Rupert Pink
Robert Goodman – Reg


Warning! This review contains quite a few spoilers!

Quick Summary: While alone, the Doctor starts to ponder the idea that maybe we never are alone. Maybe there are invisible creatures around us who have evolved the ability to hide perfectly from our senses. The Doctor wonders what this type of creature might want, and starts to investigate the idea of “what is the monster under the bed?” He brings Clara along, and tries to look into her time line…but Clara keeps losing focus and they end up exploring the childhood and future of her new boyfriend Danny Pink, and in the end, we find out exactly what led the Doctor to this strange mental exercise…a trauma from his own past.


First Impressions:

  • This is a tricky review to write. So much of what I loved about this episode was very spoiler heavy. I am trying to not spoil everything, but be warned it is virtually impossible to talk about this episode without dealing heavily in spoilers.
  • First of all, I loved the way this episode started. Capaldi meditating on top of the TARDIS was just a beautiful image. I also like the idea that when the Doctor is alone, he gets some real crazy ideas. The exploration of “is someone listening when we think we are talking to ourselves” was a cool one. And I definitely agree that most people have had the dream about someone hiding under our bed. I know I have…and I am really careful about making sure my feet are covered by the blanket, even now.
  • The awkwardness of Clara and Danny’s first date felt real. When they travel back in time and accidentally find young Danny instead of young Clara, I thought it put a lot of things into perspective. And then they switch it up and we end up in the far future to see someone who is possibly the great grandson of Clara and Danny.
  • Peter Capaldi really made the most of every scene in this episode. I thought he was really convincing when he was talking to young Danny about being afraid being a superpower. I also loved his manic monologue in the beginning of the episode about the idea of a species that has adapted to hiding and what that creature might want from us. At the end of the episode, you see that it really was fear that was driving the Doctor all the time, and why he’s so afraid of being alone that he always needs to have a companion with him. Capaldi’s performance as the Doctor has been flawless all season, adapting to whatever the episodes ask from him.

  • Samuel Anderson was great as Orson Pink. The Earth’s first time traveler who was lost in the end of time, and is slowly being driven mad by his own isolation. I thought he pulled this off perfectly, without being heavy handed.  We really hadn’t gotten to see much acting from Anderson as Danny, other than “look brooding” or “look goofy,” but he showed a much broader range here that makes me want to see much more of him in future episodes.
  • I also love how this season has really pulled apart the Doctor and given the viewer a lot to think about in terms of who he is. We’ve been able to explore the idea of “is the Doctor a good man?” and last episode we looked at the idea of “heroic legend vs reality” in terms of the Doctor and Robin Hood. This week, we get to look at the Doctor’s reaction to fear and how that has shaped him, as well as Danny and Danny’s descendants. In a lot of ways, this season of Doctor Who has felt like a thesis statement on “What is the Doctor?”
  • One of the big things about this episode is that in the end, we see a quick glimpse of the Doctor’s childhood. The young Doctor was terrified of everything, especially the monster under his bed, which ended up being Clara. The scene with Clara whispering to the sleeping young Doctor about how to be brave was really well done. I love how it tied into the Doctor’s earlier conversation with young Danny, and how the “gunless soldier” is used to bring the story full circle. It was a very powerful moment.
  • I also liked the quick glimpse of the War Doctor and seeing why he chose that particular spot to activate The Moment.
  • It was great that there was still such an air of mystery at the end of the episode. In the end, we don’t really know what was in Danny’s room and it’s never clear is there was anything with Orson trapped at the end of time. I really thought that the Doctor may have been proven right about his theories on the “perfect hider.” But, Clara manages to lead him away from that idea. Typically, at the end of an episode of Doctor Who, everything is spelled out in real clear detail. This time, they didn’t even try, and I thought that was a good way to go with this episode.
  • I do think that Moffat really overdoes it with the importance of Clara to the Doctor’s past, but at the same time, Jenna Coleman brings so much to the character that it is real hard to hate these kinds of scenes. And this whole episode was about how the small moments can real change someone’s life. We see how the Doctor “created” Danny the solider, and how Clara created the Doctor.

  • I also think that the awkward scenes with Danny and Clara need to be much shorter. I get that Moffat wants to show us what Clara’s life is like when the Doctor is not around. I get that these scenes were vital to setting up the story of young Danny. But at the same time, those aren’t the things I watch Doctor Who for. I like adventure and mystery. I like scary monsters that go bump in the night and time travel. I don’t like watching two people out-awkward each other in a restaurant. I can’t help but think of the Doctor’s line from the first season “I don’t do domestics.”
  • My cousin ended up watching most of this episode as her first episode of Doctor Who…this is not an episode to show someone as their first episode. Typical for Moffat, but it was definitely heavily tied into the lore and history of the series, and that makes it hard for anyone to just jump right in. But, she handled it like a pro and hopefully will try it again next week with us.
  • Next week’s episode Time Heist: The Doctor and Clara are tasked with breaking into the bank of Karabraxos – the deadliest bank in the cosmos! I don’t think we’ve ever seen the Doctor involved in a heist movie, so definitely curious to see what this one is all about. Stephen Thompson is co-writing it, and he’s written some of my favorite episodes of Sherlock, so that is a good sign.

    Final Score: 9.5/10: Just a terrific episode of Doctor Who. Lots of big ideas here and a huge sense of mystery that is never quite resolved. I thought the writing and acting here were damn near perfect.

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