Dark Doctor Who? Check! Slightly morally ambiguous Doctor? Check! Episode that looks like a serious horror movie? Check! If any episode is going to set the tone for this new darker version of Doctor Who, it’s Listen.
Listen begins with the Doctor talking to himself in the TARDIS. He’s been on a little quest to discover the nature of predator and prey. Or, more actuarately, why there are perfect hunters, but nothing like perfect hiding. Basically, the Doctor is trying to figure out why you feel like someone is always watching, waiting, or listening to you.
Clara, meanwhile, is on a date with Danny Pink, her co-worker and potential love interest. But this “love story” doesn’t ever feel like love at first sight. There’s an awkwardness that makes this relationship more real and interesting. I’m not keen on the idea of an other couple aboard the TARDIS, so it’s with a wary eye I’ll watch this relationship unfold.
When Clara gets home, the Doctor is waiting for her, back again to whisk her off on some dangerous adventure. He quickly begins detailing his new obsession to Clara, his observation on shared nightmares and never feeling alone. He is starting to think that nobody is ever really alone. In a scene everyone can relate to, Doctor Who manages to make bedtime scary again by asking the question “what’s under our bed?”
The Doctor brings Clara to a children’s home in the mid-90s. As a bit of a shock, it appears the TARDIS team has arrived at the childhood residence of Rupert Pink… actually Danny Pink… Things get wobbly on this subject. It appears as though Danny is a much more complex character than expected, and it’s becoming abundantly clear that both the Doctor and Clara are integral to his development in some way. But the Doctor is interested in other things, like finding out just what is beneath the Rupert’s bed.
It turns out Clara begins the investigation by talking to Rupert about why he’s awake so late. As it turns out, he had a bad dream, and is afraid of what might be lurking underneath his bed. Clara does what she can to reassure him but Rupert isn’t exactly relieved. The Doctor shows up to try and relieve Rupert in his own, completely crazy way. It manages to work, but still leaves an uneasy feeling in all of us. The bedroom scene is certainly one of the most creepy and tense in Doctor Who’s recent history. The hairs on all our necks will be standing a bit stiffer from now on.
We get a good sense of what the Doctor meant in Into The Dalek when he said that Clara is his “career”. Not only has the Doctor become less concerned with making people (particularly children) less afraid, but Clara has grown into the role quite dramatically. She has taken on the savior-esque persona that Matt Smith’s Doctor wore so prominently. I’m really enjoying watching Clara become a truly good companion.
It was a quirk of both Clara and the TARDIS lead to them to meet the young Pink boy, and the ramifications lead to a reshaping of Clara and contemporary Danny’s relationship. I’m still wary about it, but I can’t deny that it bothers me far less than Amy and Rory’s which always felt contrived, and too orchestrated. Unfortunately it seems as though Danny’s life is about to change as Clara’s life with the Doctor begins to spill over into her everyday life.
What first looked to be an episode that would emphasize themes of horror and fear, actually turns into an unexpected unfolding, or rather, continuance of the mystery that is Clara Oswald. It becomes quite apparent that not only does she have more interesting secrets in her future, but that Danny Pink is inextricably linked with her. Again, who is Danny Pink and where is this story headed? At this point I’m more intrigued in this mystery than any mystery from previous seasons.
The episode weaves its way back into the episode’s main theme of what makes people (now one of Danny’s decedents) afraid of the dark. It’s a theme explored many times in Doctor Who, but somehow always manages to feel new and different. And so the story does move along, and we are back trying to find out what there is to be afraid of when there is supposed to be nothing left alive in the universe. This is Doctor Who after all…
The Doctor just has to find out, and allows himself to be put in mortal danger just for a chance to discover what there is to fear at the end of everything. With Clara watching the Doctor from the safety of the TARDIS after he angrily demanded she wait inside, Danny is the one who comes to the rescue. But even back in the TARDIS the object of our trio’s fear is still a threat. The TARDIS might not be so safe after all, and now it’s Clara’s turn to save them from whatever lies beyond by flying the TARDIS to safety.
There’s a lot going on in this episode. Almost too much. Most of it has to do with the true introduction of Danny Pink, despite explaining nothing of who, or even what, he may be. By the end of the episode it turns out that the whole episode was about teasing us with his mystery, and in that regard Listen was the most interesting episode of this season so far. I’m left with so many questions rolling around in my head that I can’t even make the slightest sense of it all.
The real twist of the episode comes with astonishing force. A spectacular link is made within the Doctor’s life, and it is a powerful scene that leaves a beautiful, indelible mark on the show’s history. Once again we get a glimpse of The Impossible Girl being omnipresent in the Doctor’s life. We even visit a familiar location that has significance for the Doctor many lifetimes apart. This revelation is shocking and touching, and in light of Clara finally filling out as a character, has far more significance.
The premise of Listen turned out to go nowhere. It was merely the platform for an episode dedicated to character development. At the same time, it’s almost nice that we weren’t introduced to another “hidden in the dark” enemy. Rather, we were tricked into believing there would be when that wasn’t the point all along. That said, Listen is a big cerebral ball of timey wimey stuff that will undoubtedly have major implications down the road. It clearly set up an even larger story than I never imagined we’d be getting this season. Forget the Missy mystery, or the clockwork droids. Who the heck is Danny Pink? How is he linked to Clara? Will he come to travel with the Doctor? Has Moffat managed to finally find his Doctor Who legacy? I can’t help but think he just might have.
image source: [doctorwhotv]