Why I Loved Listen (Doctor Who Series 8)

While we don’t necessarily review every episode of Doctor Who, we definitely write about it a lot. There’s lots of reviews going on out there right now – say, on Sourcerer and Part Time Monster, to name a couple in our local blogosphere!

So while I loved the most recent episode, Listen, I don’t want to just do an episode review. I want to look at a few of the specific reasons why I personally liked this episode. Then it’s just opinions! And you can agree or disagree as you like.

I think this is easily the best episode of this season, and last. The best of Capaldi. Some of the best from Moffat. And most importantly, it’s the best of Clara, something that in particular has been lacking. It also had some aesthetic ties to one of my favorite things, which gave me chills… but we’ll get there! SPOILERS!

The Best of Clara

So I did a character study of Clara recently, and I wrote it right after series 8 of Doctor Who started. At this point, Clara had played out her plot purpose, in The Name of the Doctor, and was finally getting to just be a companion who has some adventures with the Doctor.

But they also hinted, in Deep Breath, at there being more to Clara. And not in her future: but in her past. Like, an honest-to-goodness backstory and life! That’s right, her career as a teacher played into things, and she figured things out because of it.

In other words, she has her own life now, external to the Doctor. She does not just exist to be a companion. And this really featured in Listen. She was trying to have a date, trying to live her life. And then they gave her a child to interact with (timey-wimey: it’s her date) and she does a great job. Like she should. But without giving her the opportunity, how would we ever be able to tell?

However, better than just trying to breathe life into Clara (finally), they kept up with what they had done with her in the past: mainly, have her majorly impact the entirety of the Doctor’s life. To whit, the GIFs on this page:

So they’re building her character up, without stopping what they did before. Good work!

Evolution is trying to Perfect Moffat’s Monsters

I love the opening premise of the episode. Well, both of them. One, that a creature might have developed the perfect ability to hide – and if so, how would you detect it? And the second one: that the Doctor can actually come up with a hypothesis and spend the episode trying to resolve it. You know, instead of just showing up somewhere random and seeing what’s wrong.

I like how fresh this felt – while also really being totally a Moffat sort of idea. We’ve mentioned before that we love Moffat’s early Doctor Who work, and have enjoyed his time as showrunner (series 7 had its own problems).

Because for one thing, he gave us the Weeping Angels in Blink. An attempt at perfect hiding – you never see them moving! Are they really coming for you? Are you going crazy? By the time you generally have that answer, it’s already too late for you. Great creature idea.

And then he gave us The Silence, or I guess the alien race the Silents? I think that’s what people have decided they are called. The creatures that, once you look away, you forget you’ve ever seen them. Pretty darn good hiding!

The point is, we’ve kind of seen this before. But not perfect hiding. That’s a stretch even for these creatures. There’s a flaw in their methods of hiding.

I like that we’re left with a level of ambiguity as to whether or not they find anything that is hiding. And as Clara says, what’s under the bed? Only her…

The Ghost Inside

But for me, the clincher was that I loved the episode’s aesthetic, especially when they went to the end of the universe. Oh, by the way, was anyone else thinking that the last time they were at the end of the universe, they found the Master there? Just saying.

But first, it’s the spacesuit. That orange spacesuit.

Yeah, that one. Sure reminds me of Danger Mouse and James Mercer (the Broken Bells) showing up in The Ghost Inside:

Screen Shot from The Ghost Inside by the Broken Bells

Screen Shot from The Ghost Inside by the Broken Bells

But it’s more than the fact that it looks like they were trying to steal Danger Mouse’s look. How about that world they were on, at the end of the universe? With that sunset?

That’s the one. Meaning it’s entirely possible that what they find outside is robot Christina Hendricks:

Another Screen Shot from The Ghost Inside, by the Broken Bells (and starring Christina Hendricks. Seriously, go watch it).

Another Screen Shot from The Ghost Inside, by the Broken Bells (and starring Christina Hendricks. Seriously, go watch it).

Or perhaps you’d just find the disco from Holding on for Life. Come to think of it, either of those music videos would make a fascinating Doctor Who episode… or the Doctor versus our Mrs. Reynolds???

Anyway, that’s what I wanted to share. What’d you think of Listen? Let us know in the comments below!

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8 responses to “Why I Loved Listen (Doctor Who Series 8)

  1. I liked listen for all of the reasons you listed. For the Doctor coming up with the problem rather than landing in it, for the idea itself; really creepy, perfect hiding not talking to yourself and for Clara interacting with the Doctor as a child and her being the one to maybe have triggered it all by grabbing his leg (the whole weird time loop thing?) But… I’m still not quite feeling Capaldi as the Doctor yet. I think he feels too buttoned up. Too far away from Clara when the previous Doctor was such a caring version. It’s a huge leap. Maybe with a few more episodes…

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  2. I totally missed the significance of the “What’s under the bed/ME!” thing in relation to the end of the episode. GAH this episode was so good! I also loved that the Doctor was actually doing something rather than just stumbling around, that he had a hypothesis and followed it all the way through. So far they’ve managed to achieve individual complete stories in episodes, something extremely lacking in most of Eleven’s seasons, while at the same time not making them feel choppily episodic, like those in the last season. So much hope restored.

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    • One thing that was really missing last season was traveling. Like, they would just be somewhere, because they needed to be. There wasn’t a scene where Clara was on the TARDIS deciding where to go, or getting picked up at home or school… and those scenes add something, despite maybe not being “plot significant.”

      I only caught the “what’s under the bed/ME!” thing watching the episode a second time – and it was just like OH MY GOSH WHAT JUST HAPPENED. Great episode 🙂

      I don’t know if I would like a hypothesis/exploration EVERY episode, but the thought that the Doctor might actually have something he feels like doing? Besides running? I like that a lot!

      And it’s significant that an episode this good happened, but also that it was by Moffat. So we can’t be like “well, that one writer was good…” Instead, it’s “well, the showrunner is good…”

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      • Yes! I was just agreeing with Gene’O the other day that what we really want is a Doctor with some kind of control over himself and the situation. (Not absolute, of course, but some self-awareness! Something approaching the gravitas and power we’re so often told he has!)

        Definitely agree on the significance. I remember when Moffat got the job, many people in my circle were very excited, because he’d done such awesome and memorable episodes during Davies’ run, and he’s reminded us of that skill here. I feel like maybe he did learn from last year a little and decide to fix some problems rather than doubling down on them, which I respect. (Pending the finale, of course.)

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        • The first part of series 7 really felt like a run of Specials, like Tennant did at the end of Davies’ run. When you add in the cool movie-like posters the episodes got, they just really were one-shot little adventures. I think maybe it could have been better for them to have worked the Ponds out of things a little sooner, like end of series 6 – not because I didn’t like them, but because they were clearly floundering with them by series 7. They’re here… they’re family… episode?

          All the 2013 episodes were about the fact that it was the 50th anniversary. Heavily referential, with very little internal life. Even the “… of the Doctor” episode trilogy was a large arc to deal with long-standing plots from throughout New Who.

          I guess all I’m really trying to say is, I think that any showrunner would have been trying to do something like this – something worthy of being a 50th Anniversary year. In the end, I don’t blame Moffat – I’m just happy to see they’re moving on from that!

          Meanwhile… it goes back to what Gaiman wrote in The Doctor’s Wife… the Doctor never really expects the TARDIS to take him where he wanted to go – but it always took him where he needed to go. If he’s not running anymore, if he’s charging towards trouble and problems, then maybe those two things (his wants and the universe’s needs) are in alignment!

          I’m really excited 🙂

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          • Yep… I don’t begrudge Moffat the effort to change things up and try some different things, I just don’t think those things WORKED, so there’s no need to keep doing them. 🙂

            I like that alignment idea. I’m excited too. 😀

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