This week’s episode of Doctor Who, “Listen” gave us the most suspenseful and frightening Doctor Who experience since the classic Moffat episode “Blink”. Though unlike the original “Blink” – whose villains, the Weeping Angels, rapidly became overpowered and unbelievable – “Listen” proved to be much more than just a copycat. I’ll admit that there were a few moments when I worried about where Moffat was going with this; but in the very last moments of the episode, everything tied together beautifully in what was once again an amazingly well written episode.
Afraid you missed something? Well don’t worry, because as always I’m here to take you deeper Into The Episode; and reveal just what happened and what it all meant in the larger scope of things. So let’s get started. Allons-y
Not The Question, Not The Monster:
This episode began with a question: ‘Have you ever had this particular dream?’ – in which you were scared at night, felt you weren’t alone and something grabbed you. When the Doctor first asked this, I tried to remember if I’d ever had such a dream; but I couldn’t recall. Perhaps I had just forgotten it and this was a universal dream since everything else the Doctor was saying – ‘talking to yourself’, ‘hairs on the back of your neck’, ‘things vanishing’, etc – was all true. After Clara had expressed some doubt into her having had that dream in her life , I began to become a little confused as to where this episode was going.
Though as we found out at the end, this all wasn’t the real question – or at least the question this episode would be answering. The actual question wasn’t ‘have you ever had this particular dream?’; but actually ‘have you ever been afraid?’. There was no creature that had developed ‘the perfect ability to hide’; but rather it was all how our minds can run wild when we are scared.
Nothing To Fear; But Fear Itself:
During each scene where this ‘perfect hiding’ creature is experienced; and alternate explanation is given. In the opening sequence, the Doctor forgot he had written “LISTEN” – as we learned it was in his handwriting. In the first time travel adventure, the thing under the sheets was another boy – or even possibly a boy in a mask – since we only got a blurry shot at him. In the second time travel, each noise was just the ship settling, pipes whistling, the hull cooling or some other pressurized sound. As for when the Doctor was knocked unconscious, that was when something hit him when the air lock was broken.
How many times has this happened to us honestly? You’re sitting at home and think you hear a creaking noise upstairs, a rattling of some sort, or a scrapping against the window. Our minds run wild with fear because we’re alone and/or it’s night; and all of a sudden we believe the most frightening scenarios without considering it’s just the pipes or a tree branch in the wind. Sure we might tell ourselves that’s the explanation; but the scary scenarios we think up hold much more sway in our heads than any ‘rational’ explanation, because fear can make us abandon all rationale. In this episode, everyone who believed this idea initially was either a small, frightened child or someone pushed to the brink of absolute loneliness; and that is exactly where we find our new Doctor.
Revealing The Doctor:
If you’ve been following these “Into The Episode” articles, then you know by now that the antagonist of each episode has revealed something about the new Doctor via their juxtaposition. Last episode changed it up a bit with the focal point of comparison being the new hero, Robin Hood, but this week’s almost made me think this theme was over. That is until those last few moments when it was revealed the ‘monster’ in this episode was nothing more than something concocted by the Doctor’s imagination as a child. Though this ‘creation’ goes far beyond the ‘hand from under his bed’ that turned out to be Clara.
We learn from the flashbacks that the Doctor was a very scared child, who would cry and hide from most things in general. This puts him on par with the other frightened child in this episode, a young ‘Danny Pink’. Additionally – as I stated prior – the only people who initially believed in this creature was either a frightened child or someone pushed to the brink of loneliness. The Doctor might not have been mistakenly banished to the end of the universe; but the Doctor has been alone for a long time. Sure he has companions from time to time; but they inevitably always leave somehow someway.
The Doctor knows Clara is with him now; but he knows she’ll leave eventually too – and her budding romance isn’t helping the matter. The Doctor knows he’ll be left alone again soon. You can even tell by the words used to describe this ‘monster’, ‘a companion’. Manifesting this fear of his creates a companion in his head that will never leave him. Now fear might not be the best companion; but as Clara points out, fear isn’t such a bad thing.
Butterfly Clara Effect:
If Doctor Who has taught us anything by now, it’s that meddling with timelines is a messy business. This time we saw Clara have quite a few unintended effects on both Danny and the Doctor. Sure the Doctor taught young Danny that fear is good, that fear is a ‘superpower’; but it was Clara that originally tells that to the young Doctor – despite her hearing it from the Doctor earlier on *cough* Wibbley Wobbley Timey Whimey stuff. Though the most potent effect Clara had on them wasn’t just how they dealt with fear; but actually who they would become.
It was Clara who lined up the soldiers on young Danny – I mean Rupert – Pink’s bed and said they would protect him. It’s not outside the realm of possibility to believe that this lead young Rupert to become a soldier in order to protect people – especially considering his older self focused so much on those he protected and is haunted by those he killed. Her biggest success would be when she later gave the young Doctor the same ‘Dan the Soldier Man’ toy she have given to young Rupert. Though unlike young Rupert, the young Doctor heeds Clara’s words to the letter and became just like the ‘toy soldier without a gun’. The Doctor might kill if there is no other option; but he never uses guns.
This episode showed us why the Doctor is who he is. We saw why he can face such terrifying situations and never back down. We saw why he never uses guns and fights to protect those around him. And the answer to all these questions is “because of Clara”. The Impossible Girl no longer has a hand in just ‘helping the Doctor in his greatest moments’; but also in shaping who the Doctor would grow up to become.
Day of the Doctor Tie In:
Whether this was a brief nod to the prior special or a set up for something that might be revisited later; there was a brief moment where Day of the Doctor was referenced. It turns out that the barn the War Doctor visited was the very same barn that he used to flee to as a child when he was scared. Again, whether a brief nod or something to be explored more later, we’ll have to wait and see; but I feel this was just a simple Easter Egg.
Wibbley Wobbley Timey Whimey Wha?
Initially there were a few things about this episode that didn’t make sense continuity wise. For me, none of these were big enough to tarnish the episode fully; but I’m sure some were annoyed by them. One example that my friend Alex pointed out was about Clara visiting the Doctor’s childhood. He would be on Gallifrey; but Gallifrey was removed from all time and space as we learned in Day of the Doctor – and previously was Time Locked. So how did Clara get there? Either the Doctor wasn’t born of Gallifrey or Clara just did the impossible . . . again.
Once again, this was another great episode of Doctor Who for this season. Initially, I was really scared for a lot of it; but not because of the ‘monster’, but rather because I thought we had returned to overly convoluted plot lines – simply for the sake of being overly convoluted. Thankfully, all was resolved and tied up simply in a well-written last minute revelation that put everything in perspective – not only in Doctor Who; but our lives as well.