Doctor Who, S8 Ep 4 – Listen

“Listen” is the fourth episode of Doctor Who Series 8, and, with a singular Steven Moffat writing credit, I can’t say I wasn’t nervous going into it. The last two episodes were written by Phil Ford with Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss, respectively, and each was a breath of fresh air after a relatively overdone series opener and an exhausting Series 7.

I’ve been mulling this episode over for nearly 24 hours, and I still can’t figure out if it’s a ridiculously brilliant episode, or just ridiculous. I’ve rewatched scenes, which I never do in preparation of doing a write-up — I figure, if something doesn’t make an impact (or make sense) the first time, the write-up should reflect that. I made an exception, because, honestly, I got distracted by that iTunes commercial with U2 doing “The Miracle of Joey Ramone” on BBC America during the last ad break. Hey, it’s a good song.

So I re-watched the last ten minutes, and… I can’t put my finger on it, but something bothers me. And I’m not sure that wasn’t the intended effect.

Let me go back to the beginning. “Listen” starts strong, with The Doctor mulling over the possible existence of a creature who is so good it hiding that no one else knows it exists. This, of course, is classic Moffat storytelling — we’re talking about the man who created both The Silence and the Weeping Angels.

Clara Drives the TARDIS

Clara drives the TARDIS

The Doctor needs Clara to help with his latest hypothesis. She’s on a date with her fellow teacher Danny Pink, and it’s not going well. A joke about wanting to “kill” another co-worker sets ex-soldier Danny on the defensive, and just as the conversation cools down, he offends her with a “people like you” comment. She ends the date, leaving them both upset. Clara goes home, wondering how it all went so wrong. She still likes him, clearly, and can’t take her mind off him as The Doctor drags her back to the TARDIS. The Doctor tells her his theory that the common dream people have about something hiding under the bed and grabbing them by the leg might not be a dream at all. He wants her to guide the TARDIS to a time when she had the dream so they can investigate it. He has her connect with the TARDIS, but her phone rings during the process, distracting her. She’s sure it’s Danny. When they get to their destination, Clara doesn’t recognize it. Turns out, it’s Danny’s childhood home, and he, a young child, is cowering in his room, afraid that something is under his bed. Clara sneaks into his room while The Doctor talks to the caretaker. The boy says his name is Rupert Pink, but he wants to change it. In an effort to reassure him, Clara slides under the bed and has him join her to see that there’s nothing there.

Here’s where it gets creepy: The mattress bows on top of them, as if there’s something on top of the bed. Freaked out, Clara climbs out and looks, and there is something sitting on the bed, fully covered by a bedspread. It just sits there, seemingly staring at them. The Doctor has mysteriously entered the room, and asks Rupert if he’s scared. He says yes, and the Doctor assures him that that’s good — “Fear,” he says, “is a superpower.”

The Doctor turns his back on the bedspread thing (which, by now, has become the world’s easiest Doctor Who cosplay idea), and asks them to do the same. The thing gets up and moves closer to them, but he tells them not to look. The bedspread comes off silently — it seems there’s nothing underneath — and the bedroom door shuts as if someone has left. It’s gone.

It’s probably the scariest scene I’ve seen in Doctor Who since that light bulb started flickering in “Blink.”

They leave Rupert with a toy soldier for protecting. “Dan the Soldier,” of course. Clara frets that her inadvertent detour changed the course of his life, and she’s probably right.

At this point, you expect to find out what that thing under the blanket was. But Clara insists on taking another detour to make things right after her bad date with Danny. She re-enters the restaurant seconds after she left before, to his relief. They re-start their date, and it’s going well, until she calls him Rupert, and it all goes sour again. Then an astronaut, presumably The Doctor, enters and motions for her to go with him.

Orson

Orson

But it’s not The Doctor. It’s Danny Pink with different hair. Only he’s not Danny, he’s Orson, and comes from 100 years in her future.

OK.

It gets convoluted, yes. Orson has gotten himself trapped at the end of the Universe. Turns out (surprise!) he’s Clara’s great-great grandson (with Danny, of course). He still had the toy soldier. And he really wants to get back to his time, but The Doctor wants to spend the night at the end of the Universe. When there’s a mysterious knock at the door (who can it be? Everyone in the Universe is dead), he uses his sonic screwdriver to open the airlock and orders Clara to return to the TARDIS with Orson. What happens next, we don’t really see, but when they leave the TARDIS, The Doctor is unconscious.

Clara decides to connect with the TARDIS again to fly them out of there, and as she does, The Doctor gasps and lurches forward, distracting her.

See where this is going?

Yes. She takes them to a small barn where the future Doctor cowers in his bed. Clara doesn’t know it’s the Doctor at first — she hides under the bed when two people enter, and she puts it together based on their conversation (she also somehow puts it together that this is the same barn from “The Day of the Doctor”). After they leave, the boy gets out of bed, and, afraid he’ll come face to face with himself from the future, she instinctively grabs his ankle.

The creature from his own “dream” was Clara.

She calmly whispers to him that he is sleeping. When he climbs back into bed, she sits by him, still assuring him he’s having a dream, but asking him to listen — and she gives him the same “fear” speech The Doctor gave Rupert. Yes, it seems that Clara may have pep-talked The Doctor into becoming The Doctor. With his own speech. It’s a little much, but we know Moffat loves to make his characters impossibly important.

The Doctor, conscious when she returns, never finds out where they went. Clara orders him to leave without looking outside the TARDIS.

Clara returns to Danny — what she’s she got to lose? They’re cosmically connected, and she knows they’re destined to have at least one child together. They kiss. Fade out. Ten bucks says she’ll be pregnant by the Christmas episode.

In the end, there was no monster under the bed. “Listen,” doesn’t refer to some creature like the Silence, but Clara’s reassurance. There’s no big gimmicky monster, which is a twist. Still, the story was overwrought, with too many elements. I was very surprised this episode didn’t even mention the Promised Land (not that there was room for it). Clearly, though, “Listen” isn’t a self-contained episode. There are loose ends.

After all, we still don’t know who it was in Rupert’s room.

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