13th Sep2014

‘Doctor Who: 8×04 – Listen’ Review

by Paul Metcalf


Looking at Doctor Who episodes written by Steven Moffat you can see that he understands how to scare viewers, especially the younger ones.  Listen taps into the fear of the unknown and very much like Blink and The Empty Child creates something that really does show an understanding of what is definitely creepy.  Not everything we see on the screen is what it seems though, as you will see (or not see as the case may be).

In an episode that travels through time, even to the end of the universe itself everything we see Listen begins because The Doctor (Peter Capaldi) wants to know what that thing is hiding under the bed, or in the dark, the thing that never wants to be seen but is always there waiting and hiding.  As he again drags Clara (Jenna Coleman) along with him will he finally find the answer?

There is something confusing about Listen, but it’s not important and in truth it only comes from overthinking the plot that Moffat comes up with.  I think in truth he doesn’t really want you to think about what happens and what sense it may make, the important thing is to scare you then show the important revelations at the end.  This is very much an episode looking at the new Doctor and understanding him and just what he is afraid of.  It’s surprising that what could have been just a normal story based episode like last week’s turns into something that may be important to the future of the series itself.  Some may not like that Moffat went “there” but it is a brave move, even if the episode in story terms is just a little weak at times.  That usual feeling of everything being rushed does again seem prevalent here.

Listen’s strength is the fact that Moffat understands fear, he even uses yet another monologue to set up just what we should be afraid of.  In many ways the episode is reminiscent to Blink, especially with The Doctor’s orders that he barks.  Praise has to be also given to Douglas Mackinnon whose direction works perfectly with the script.  Some of the scenes are so full of suspense that you can’t help but be impressed.  Capaldi’s acting also drives the message into the audience that they have to be scared, that it’s ok to be scared and that is something that he must realise too and does manage to convey.  This is an episode not about monsters but about fear.  We are made to fear that thing that we can’t see, that isn’t there…it is just how we are wired to be.

Although important to the story of Clara and her new love interest, I have to say that I didn’t really enjoy the date that we see in this episode, though after watching the episode fully I do understand why it was needed and how important it is going to be to the series now.  Samuel Anderson’s Danny Pink is going to be a character we have to get used to, and I do admit that I’ve warmed to him after this episode so it will be interesting to see where they go with him.

Although I liked Listen a lot I can’t help but be bugged about some of the story choices in this episode, but it’s something that really shouldn’t get in the way of the main message of the episode.  Peter Capaldi is very good as The Doctor, but this week he did seem to slightly change some elements of the character.  Now something of a mischievous child liking to run into danger at a moment’s whim I do wonder if this is something that he’ll stick with, I hope so as this is something that really is what gives The Doctor his spark for life.  Listen will be remembered as being scary and introducing us to a new fear, even though we probably won’t remember just what it was we were meant to fear.  Not as good as Blink, Listen still manages to be memorable and entertaining which for the fans is the most important thing really.

**** 4/5

Steven Moffat is obviously trying to recreate what he created with Blink here, and that is not a bad thing. Scary and with some interesting revelations, we’ll have to see just how important this episode will be to the series.

Review originally posted on PissedOffGeek

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