Doctor Who: Listen – Series 8 Episode 4 Review
You know… I hate horror movies. I don’t like to be afraid. I do love a good scary episode of Doctor Who though. You know what really scares me about tonight’s episode? It’s written by Steven Moffat. He has written some of the greatest, scariest episodes of the modern Who like Blink and The Empty Child. He’s also frustrated me beyond belief the last three years. Which Moffat will we get tonight? The carefully plotted, well thought out Moffat who’s adding to the brilliant world of the Doctor; or the self serving, fan fiction writing showrunner?
I had such high hopes for this episode, but then it just seemed like it was trying to be too clever with itself and it just turned into Moffat being Moffat. The parts where he thinks he’s being clever are the parts I hate the most, because of his circular logic and dropped ideas.
What if we are not alone, what if when the hair on the back of your neck stands up it is really some invisible, hidden entity breathing from behind you? What if that thing you see in the corner of your eye really is something? The Doctor wants to solve that mystery tonight. First the Doctor picks Clara up from her disastrous date with fellow school teacher Danny Pink. Hooking Clara into the telepathic circuits of the TARDIS they travel back to her supposed childhood to track down a dream she had that may answer the Doctor’s questions. Unfortunately she’s distracted by a phone call and they end up meeting a young boy named Rupert Pink. He doesn’t like that name so he thinks he’ll change it some day…probably to Danny. The Doctor and Clara find something under Rupert’s bed and the Doctor gives a great little speech about fear and then brings Clara back to her present to try and fix her date. Back in the restaurant things go from bad to worse as Danny figures something strange is going on as Clara doesn’t have on the jacket she was wearing when she left and an astronaut walks through the restaurant. Clara follows the astronaut (wearing a suit similar to the Doctor’s in Satan Pit, so a sanctuary base suit I guess) back into the TARDIS and yells at him, assuming it to be the Doctor. It isn’t though, it’s a man who looks like Danny (only older) who turns out to be named Orson Pink and was a time travel pioneer. Launched forward to the end of time, Orson has been marooned alone for six months, and developed a sensational fear of being alone, and of the dark. The Doctor lies to Orson and tells him the TARDIS has to recharge, and then he can bring him back to his own present and save him. Of course the TARDIS is fine, the Doctor just wants to search for his invisible creature again. Opening the door to the exterior of Orson’s ship to hopefully solve his mystery, the Doctor is rendered unconscious but brought back to the TARDIS by Orson. Clara operates the telepathic circuits of the ship again and arrives in a barn where she hears a young boy crying. Here’s where a twist happens, so I’ll use my usual spoiler prevention methods. I will say first that this was actually kind of cool. Clara thinks that the boy is Rupert, (or Danny) at first, but when he doesn’t answer she assumes it must be Orson. Hearing the what we assume are the child’s parents talking, they say that if he’s always so afraid he won’t make it in the army or in the academy, that they know he doesn’t want the other boys to hear him crying, and that he’ll never become a Time Lord at this rate. So it is very heavily hinted that the child is the Doctor, but who knows, this could be a red herring and it could be the Master.
This episode had such great potential, but instead it fell flat. Completely flat for me, even though I did kind of like the end bit, if it is what it claims to be. We could have had a great ghost story, even an I Am Legend homage. The bits with the Doctor and Clara together were great, the bits where anything else happened did not mesh and the story didn’t flow properly. That could be due to the commercial breaks, but I don’t think so. There were several “dropped balls” in this episode, like what was the entity under Rupert’s bed and bed spread? Also the moment where Clara hugged the Doctor, was probably the perfect moment for the Doctor to gently hug her back and show that this incarnation really accepts her. The biggest problem seems to be Moffat planting the ideas for his future stories and neglecting the current one. All his foreshadowing off Clara and Danny’s possible futures and pasts with hints dropped here and there really felt preachy again, like he was still the smartest writer in the room. Well, let’s hope next week turns out better.