Doctor Who Review: Listen

The Doctor goes in search of a life form with the perfect ability to hide.

Cast and Crew Information

Peter Capaldi as The Doctor
Jenna Coleman as Clara Oswald
Samuel Anderson as Danny Pink
Remi Gooding as Rupert Pink
Robert Goodman as Reg
Kiran Shah as Figure

Written by Steven Moffatt
Directed by Paul Murphy

Premise

What if you talk out loud when you’re alone because deep down you know there’s something listening? The Doctor thinks that’s exactly what’s going on, and is determined to prove it.

High Point

The pre-credits scene is a genuinely creepy moment, something which often eluded the show in recent series. Fortunately this isn’t diluted by subsequent happenings.

Low Point

If you suspected you’d just met one of your own descendants, wouldn’t you ask them about their family tree?

The Review

Originality seems lacking initially, as there are more than just echoes here of the Silence and the Weeping Angels. In fact, I started thinking that the idea that it’s not involving the Silence is quite absurd. Then things got all loopy and I no longer knew what to think about whether I’d seen this before or not. It’s like four or five familiar stories I can’t quite actually recall the names of mashed together in an interesting way. Five out of six.

The effects were minimal, since the story called for very little more than some TARDIS travel and a few giant fans. The result of this, of course, is that the effects were basically flawless. Five out of six.

The story started creepy but absurd, then started losing the absurdity and just got creepier. Unfortunately it was slightly disrupted by the ongoing stepping around of certain bits of character development. The end is less surprising in hindsight than it is when it happens, but there’s a lot left unsaid as well and actually I have no idea how certain things in the opening scene tie in with the eventual resolution. A hole in the plot, or an unresolved thread? In character terms, I’d argue that it doesn’t actually matter. Five out of six.

Capaldi’s acting remains strong enough to deliver an entire scene by himself and make it at least mildly blood-curdling, while Coleman takes us through at least four of Clara’s many facets in a way that reminds me that she might be one of the most competent companions the Doctor has ever had. I’m still enjoying Anderson’s ability to match Coleman for early-date-awkwardness, too. Six out of six.

The production has a great way with odd camera positioning, tying in well with the emerging story. Also there’s a trend this series with wide camera shots of the TARDIS control room which are just gorgeous. I didn’t even notice the incidental music until the preview of next week’s episode (which used the big, bombastic theme we’re so familiar with from many previous series), so in my mind that’s a big win. Five out of six.

The emotional response was me being creeped out extremely rapidly, and this was me watching first thing in the morning over breakfast. And what is it with anonymous people in protective suits? They know exactly how to push my scary buttons when they want to. Six out of six. I haven’t been this scared of an episode since The Empty Child.

Overall, this is the kind of episode I want to see a lot more of. Capaldi shines as this kind of Doctor, and the story suits him very well. Six out of six.

In total, Listen receives 33 out of 42.

14 replies on “Doctor Who Review: Listen”

  1. lost says:

    To be fair, Clara did sort of try to ask about his family history. The discussion did get a bit derailed by the ongoing story. I get the impression that she ultimately got her answer before events let up enough to actually continue that conversation.

  2. JD DeLuzio says:

    While I wasn’t entirely satisfied with how they handled the ending, they took an original approach to what could have been a very derivative episode. And, as you say, it was a creepy episode that actually managed to be genuinely creepy in places.

    • quantaman says:

      Can you be more specific?

      I really liked the episode in the sense that it really defined the Doctor philosophically. The Doctor’s curiosity is driven by fear, he’s afraid of the dark, afraid of the things he doesn’t know or understand, that’s why he has to explore and learn everything.

      Capaldi’s Doctor really seems to be the polar opposite of Matt Smith’s. Smith’s Doctor was basically a goofy child exploring the universe, he had struggles but he you could always trust him to follow the path of most empathy. Capaldi is a tortured madman. He’s still a good guy but you can’t fully trust him since you don’t really understand what’s motivating him.

      • JD DeLuzio says:

        I assume the monster is entirely an invention of the Doctor’s imagination. And yet the references to the nightmare “everybody” experiences feel like more than just misdirection. It may just be that I need to see it again; horror often involves ambiguities.

        • zocalo says:

          I’m not so sure about that assumption, although I do think that it was left ambigious on purpose – either “just because” or to be followed up on later in the series, maybe there is some connection to “Missy” perhaps?

          Getting back to the real/imagined nature of the creature though, multiple people saw *something* under the bedsheet – if not a creature, then was that supposed to be a shared dream, or just another child messing around as The Doctor speculated? Also, as the audience, we got to see something that the others did not – an actual creature of some kind. Then again, there was certainly something unique about The Doctor’s version of the dream, so maybe there is a different link between those present that will be revealed later?

  3. Jethro says:

    ok, seriously… this was one of my favoirite Doctor Who episodes. Ever. Even the predictable stuff was wonderfully unpredictable, and the whole thing with Clara ending up bein the ‘monster’… I loved it.

    Now when you say “post-credit scene”… I hate spoilers so I turn off as soon as the “NEXT TIME” comes on. Is there stuff that’s relevant to THIS episode AFTER that???

    • zocalo says:

      *Pre*-credit scene. The only thing that airs after the credits is the preview teaser for next week’s show.

  4. JD DeLuzio says:

    Is it too obvious to mention the story also references one version of the Shortest SF Story Ever Written?

  5. vanyel says:

    Listen completely redeemed Dr Who after the Robot of Sherwood fiasco – it’s the second best episode after Blink. While David Tennant was the most fun Doctor, I think Peter Capaldi may very well end up being the *best* one – he’s certainly a brilliant actor that this role is giving him a chance to demonstrate.

    • Kiersten says:

      I agree!
      Robin Hood was a huge disappointment for me, but this one, oh yes, the show totally redeemed itself!
      I was so pleased!

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