TV Catch Up // Doctor Who, Series 8, Episode 4: 'Listen'
Warning: contains spoilers!
Cast: Peter Capaldi, Jenna Coleman, Samuel Anderson, Remi Gooding
Written by: Steven Moffat
Directed by: Douglas MacKinnon
The Story: We see what worries the Doctor when he’s all alone. And a small boy in a children’s home is afraid of what’s under the bed.
Every now and then Doctor Who throws us an episode unlike most others. When we looked at our Essential Doctor Who episodes in the lead up to the 50th Anniversary special last year, one of our ‘must see’ episodes was David Tennant episode Midnight. Midnight is unusual even in the world of Doctor Who. It is seriously terrifying, especially as you never actually get to see the monster, and you never feel that the Doctor has any serious control over events as they unfold in an increasingly claustrophobic setting. And it’s Midnight that springs to mind when watching the latest Peter Capaldi episode.
Listen begins with the Doctor alone in the TARDIS. Or is he? Haunted by the thought that we may never really be alone; that there may be a creature that lives to hide. Just outside the corner of the eye. Or under your bed at night. This is one that could seriously scare the kids.
But it’s not all scares. There’s plenty of humour in writer Steven Moffat’s script. This is the man, remember, who wrote comedy drama Coupling, and the date and the scenes showing Clara’s much-anticipated and excruciatingly awkward date with new boy Danny Pink are are particular delight. There’s also the frequent and very amusing casual insults flung at Clara by the Doctor. “What’s going on with your face? It’s all eyes.”
Once again, we have the increasingly common sight of Clara playing the grown-up and taking control and Jenna Coleman continues to completely sell Clara to us as a companion worth watching. Clara even takes control of the TARDIS as it zips back and forward along her timeline to key events that show us a young, scared Rupert Pink in a very creepy children’s home and another young, scared boy in a familiar barn on Gallifrey.
Moffat has frequently given us Clara popping up in the Doctor’s timeline and here she does it again, giving him the very words he himself will use to sooth the night time fears of another young boy. Which brings us on to Rupert Pink (a brilliant turn by Remi Gooding), the boy who, because of the Doctor, grows up to be Dan the Soldier Man. In an especially unnerving scene, an unseen creature appears in Rupert’s lonely room and the Doctor urges Rupert not to look at it.
But the creature is far from the scariest thing in young Rupert’s room as the mad-eyed Time Lord tries to reassure the boy with his ‘dad skills’.
In Listen Samuel Anderson not only gets a chance to show us more of the increasingly interesting Mr Pink, he also gets double acting duties as he also plays Orson Pink, a pioneering time traveller (and the great-grandson of Danny Pink) who’s lost in the silence at the end of the Universe.
Listen is an episode that works really well as a standalone episode, regardless of its references to barns and Time Lords and War Doctors. Even with more than one unseen terror to have you heading behind the couch, the most chilling thing in Listen is the Doctor and what happens when he’s alone with himself. Directed in a wonderfully considered style by Douglas MacKinnon and underscored by Murray Gold’s excellent score, Listen also feels like the first episode where Capaldi truly inhabits the role of everyone’s favourite Gallifreyan.
Did you know? ‘The Sontarans! Perverting the course of human history!’ were among the first words spoken by Tom Baker’s fourth Doctor.
Best line #1: Scared is a superpower
Best line #2: I’m against the hugging
Trope of the Week: A soldier so brave, he doesn’t need a gun
Fan-pleasing moments: The orange space suit, the cloister bell, the barn, John Hurt. Well, possibly not those last two.
Next Time: Time Heist!
(Reviewed by Andrea McGuire)