Spoiler Warning: This review contains massive amounts of spoilers and ranting. If you’d rather not know what went down or dislike hearing the opinions of others, we have many other great articles you should read instead.
Why do we sometimes speak aloud when we are alone? ‘Listen’ begins with The Doctor monologuing about why sometimes we will speak while there appears to be no one else listening. But what if someone was? Clara and Danny Pink get their first drink, now dinner, and it goes horribly wrong. The dialogue feels straight out of the show Coupling rather than a Doctor Who episode (not a first this season, and I’m pretty sure not the last). In anger, Clara ditches the date and goes home to find the Doctor in her bedroom (creepy). He yet again criticizes her appearance before taking her to a Children’s Home in the early 1990’s. The Doctor believes he is taking Clara back to the source of a collective nightmare, but really introduces her to a young Rupert (Danny) Pink. Clara ends up in the child’s room, trying to comfort him after a nightmare while The Doctor inspects the home. To show the child there is nothing in the room, Clara and Rupert lie under the bed, only to have something lie on top of the bed and press the mattress downward. A childlike figure is on the bed, wrapped in the comforter. After some discussion, banishment and a quick trip to the end of time, Clara and the
Doctor end up in a abandoned facility with Orson Pink, possibly Clara’s future great great grandson. After offering to take him home, The Doctor insists that the TARDIS recharge in the facility. The Doctor inspects the facility and looks for a possible haunting and source for a collective dream he feels everyone has had. This leads to a trip into his time stream and Clara comforting a young version of what appears to be The Doctor.
The plot here may seem really complicated and confusing. That is because it made about as much sense as listening to an alcoholic on a three day bender discuss Fox News Conspiracy theories. I’ve gone over it again and again, and here are some points that I’m still bleary on. Mr. Moffat, I’d like an explanation.
- Allowing a companion to travel back to “fix” something they have messed up: In previous episodes after a companion has made a fool of herself, The Doctor has blatantly prevented them from going back in time to “set it right.” In ‘Listen’ The Doctor drops Clara off at the scene of her date without a bit of complaining (which is all Capaldi’s Doctor does). While this does finally move the plot along, it makes no sense in regards to the previous event of The Doctor. A figure arriving in the familiar orange spacesuit BBC uses for EVERY space episode briefly made me hope beyond all home we had a previous Doctor intervening. No, no… that would be too easy and make too much sense. Instead, we have Orson (which with the accents sounded like ‘Awesome’) Pink confronting what he pretty much states is his ancestor, Clara. Hold up. Did Moffat basically just tell us not to bother watching the rest of Danny and Clara’s story unfolding?
- The Date Itself: And that date. The rather adult dialogue on the date will either go right over children’s heads or make us go, hmmm, still family programming, right? Danny discusses his time in the military and sort of loses his mind when talking to Clara, thinking she is judging him. He insults her, she insults him. It isn’t just nervous banter, it’s basically fighting. At one point Danny even tells Clara he doesn’t deal with weird. This is the first real-ish thing to come out of the conversation.
- The complete lack of explaining what the big bad really was: Then there is the child in the comforter thing. IT IS NEVER RESOLVED. The Doctor comments that it was likely a child that had snuck into the room. Hang on. Wait. You just went to the 1990’s to prove a point and then decided it really wasn’t that big of a deal, nevermind? The one engaging creepy scene of the entire episode means nothing? Does Danny even get his comforter back? Then we go to the future and see an outpost that clearly has no other life forms in it, except maybe it does. Orson, supposedly, has written warnings to himself not to open the door at night. Are we watching The Walking Dead or Doctor Who? As night falls, we are treated to frightening sounds with no real explanation. The creaks and banging, the knocks on the door. The mania that causes the Doctor to open the door? Never explained.
- The TARDIS recharging: Was this middle of nowhere location a rift in time or was The Doctor just making something up again?
- The Barn in the Middle of Nowhere Containing a Timelord: But hang on a moment. They are in a barn in the middle of nowhere and there is a Timelord there. Is this barn on Gallifrey? Isn’t Gallifrey missing? Shouldn’t we explore this barn and explain to the audience where this barn actually is? No, we are going to have a moment where Clara tells a frightened child version of the Doctor that everything is okay and that fear is a super power. Hold up, you just gave us a flash back shot from the 50th of the War Doctor entering the barn. Cool, BUT WHERE IS THIS BARN? Listening to the dialogue (and yes, Steven, we did actually listen) the child comes “way out here” but how? Is it still on his home planet? If it’s on his home planet, isn’t this the planet The Doctor has been searching for? Isn’t that the whole supposed point of this season based on the 50th special? No? What? It is even better when Clara instructs The Doctor to not look at where they have been. So, what you’re saying is we’re just going to push past the fact that The Doctor just found his own time stream again?
- Clara’s appearance being criticized yet again: The second Clara Oswald started to develop a personality, to start becoming something other than a side bar for a plot that didn’t make sense in Series 7, The Doctor starts bashing her looks. This season he has commented on her rear end, told her that her face is too wide and told her he is proud of her for still trying. I’m sorry, hang on a minute. Why are her looks an issue? How is this supposed to be funny? The second a companion has a life of her own she’s suddenly a worthless ugly thing? Maybe we’re lucky that Rose was stranded in an alternate dimension and that River was locked away like a princess in a tower. Maybe it’s good that Donna never wanted to date the Doctor and that Martha moved on to bigger projects. I’m thankful Liz Shaw moved on to bigger and better things and that Sarah Jane Smith developed a life of her own. Jenna Coleman is a beautiful woman. How many young girls are taking away the message that The Doctor would find them ugly?
As a huge supporter of Doctor Who, I’ve got to say my disappointment with this season is palatable. People ask what I’m watching and I don’t include it in my list. IMDB hasn’t even been updating lately. Last night, the internet was oddly quiet about the episode as well, leading me to wonder how many people saw Steven Moffat as the writer for the episode and just didn’t bother. BBC, we are listening; at this point we just don’t know what we are supposed to be listening for.