Listen reviewed

Twelfth Doctor Listen 2So, how was it for you? Was Listen as good as Blink or did you blink and miss the point of the story? Did Steven Moffat deliver the goods or has this divided the fans even more than usual? What is going on with Danny Pink? In other words, how was the latest episode in season eight of Doctor Who?

There are enormous amounts of spoilers below – I apologise if you read this before seeing the episode.

The story

Clara goes on that all-important date with Danny and things don’t run smoothly. Being a time traveller (and reminding me of the manipulations once used by Dominic Hide) Clara takes advantage of the TARDIS and has another go at the date (and sees herself in a moment reminiscent of Amy seeing herself for Children in Need). Still things don’t go well, but don’t forget the time travel. Over the course of the story Clara pops back, meets young Danny (as Rupert), gets his name changed to Danny (by the Doctor) and gives him a special token (a plastic soldier with no gun).

Clara and the Toy Soldier in ListenClara also visits the future, meets her (we assume) great-grandchild Orson Pink (and there is plenty of Clara Pink conversation) so knows things work out. She even learns of family tales of time travel and gets the family lucky charm – a toy soldier.

The Doctor has been meditating (quite literally at the start, which shows him on the TARDIS roof) on fear of the creature under the bed and the possibility of an evolved unseen species (I believe the Silence are not evolved but created). He uses Clara to explore when in her life she had the dream of a fearful presence but the confusion in her mind over Danny means they visit his life not hers. This gives a great mini-story and tells us lots about Danny without focussing on him. There is a moment when, on Rupert Pink’s bed in the children’s home, a figure is seen: is it another kid playing tricks or something else? We see a vague figure (is it a delusion) that suggests fear has a reality.

There is then a wonderful, mythic sequence where Clara goes to a barn and reassures a young boy that fear is not bad and gives him the plastic soldier. It is an astonishing moment to find out that the boy is the Doctor and we get a link back to Day of the Doctor and the barn and the Moment.

We are also left with the understanding that the fear is only fear (and makes us stronger) – so is the figure on the bed a strange creature or not?

The storytelling

This is well executed and tightly scripted. I do wish people hadn’t compared it to Blink as it is its own thing. I have come away with a bit of a so what? and why tell this story now? I enjoyed this and in many ways it felt First Doctor (Paul Cornell talks about this – see below) with the use of the monitor screen and the dark feel of many of the settings. I kept expecting to see Totters Lane appear in the monitor.

More so than last week’s Robot of Sherwood I am ambiguous on this story – really lovely in many ways yet I’ve come away unfulfilled. No doubt a second viewing would help.

Wider response

I don’t do Gallifrey Base. The Big Finish Forum is very pro this story (when I checked) and Paul Cornell (who, let’s face it, is more than entitled to an opinion) has some very worthwhile comments on his twitter feed, such as:

A Hartnell quote, ‘fear makes companions of us all’. I said it before he did, ‘cos that was about a shared history of us all watching Who.

I assume JR Southall will have plenty to say in his Starburst review. I will link to that when it’s out. Update: and yes JR didn’t let me down scoring this a solid 10/10 in his review. I don’t know either of his other references (and will be sourcing the HG Wells ASAP) and I find it intriguing that he detects similarities to the Fourth Doctor stories whereas I feel that Capaldi is set in a much earlier vein. Good old Doctor Who – always plenty of chances to project your own views!

I thought there might be more division on this episode. What do I know?!

Some reactions just on a random sample:

Possibly Steven Moffat’s most terrifying episode to date

smart, scary, superb

an impressive episode (often hugely so)

The series arc

[pullquote]I am not sure how to fit this in[/pullquote]

Not evert story is part of an obvious arc and this does gives us the Clara arc in spades. We also get a great linking of Clara to the Doctor at a moment earlier than ever, earlier than even in Name of the Doctor. I am not sure how to fit this in. If we believe this is pivotal I can’t imagine any amount of time looping that allows this moment to happen. What do I know of temporal mechanics?!

This also seems to stamp all over the ideas of Lungbarrow and the Other and the Moffat Time Lords are just seen as a thriving race of very human people with barns and children, living in their billions on a planet called Gallifrey. Gone are the looms, the elite minority, the ancient non-human race. I don’t fully subscribe to (or understand) the Cartmel Masterplan, but I prefer my Time Lords more alien. Just me, you understand. (Note the comment below giving another point of view – it seems more people take the barn sequence as being from a Gallifreyan children’s home which is a bit closer to Lungabarrow than my first reaction.)

4 Comments Add yours

  1. Fadedeathdave says:

    A lot of people, I included, think otherwise to the last part about Moffat supposedly stamping over Lungbarrow. We think that he has made it a bit more canon, since it is never stated that the two people were his parents, and also ‘the boys’ could refer to his ‘cousins’ from Lungbarrow…


    1. Tony Jones says:

      You’ll have to spell that out for me. Good point on my assumptions about the two people being parents (though they wore a male/female pair). Do you see Lungbarrow as having big barns? Maybe? I need to re-read it.

      I don’t get how it can be more canon – happy to be proven wrong. Do you have a link?


    2. Jennifer Schillig says:

      Might have been a pre-Academy boarding school–a Gallifreyan Eton, as it were. (Perhaps the young Doctor was acutely missing his parents, thinking that “if only Dad were here, everything would be all right.” Or maybe he was an orphan, to draw the parallel with Danny further.)
      I don’t think the couple were the Doctor’s parents, although they did give off a married-couple vibe to me. So my guess is that they were the couple that ran the orphanage/headmaster and headmistress of the school.


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