Sunday, September 14, 2014
Listen is one of those Doctor Who stories that I feel I need to watch again. And again. There might actually be nothing going on here but the Doctor trying to sort out his own issues but then again there might be an entire new race of creepy creatures to be added to the canon. There might not be a villain here at all, except possibly the Doctor himself in a strange way.
I think I liked it.
It intertwines the Doctor's dangerously focused desire to get to the bottom of a dream he's had with Clara and Danny Pink's date. It's a mixture of the extraordinary and ordinary. It's about fear and how we deal with fear.
It has some genuinely creepy moments, especially the scenes in young Danny Pink's room and those on the ship with Orson Pink. There's no actual answer given either. Was the thing in the bed a monster or was it one of Danny's friends playing a trick on him? Was there a monster outside the airlock or was nothing out there? I like the fact that there are loose ends going on here. We don't need answers to everything, although being Steven Moffat this episode might end up being key to the whole story arc. The less that happens, the more I'm wondering what I'm not supposed to see. I think I might have to call this parmoffatanoia, except that's a terrible word.
But does it matter that we don't see the thing? Probably not. The whole young Danny scene is about getting an insight into Danny's character. People say that Clara's involved in every aspect of the creation of the Doctor, particularly after the final moments of this episode on Gallifrey but she's also creating Danny Pink too. Here she takes Rupert and makes him Danny. It might not be intentional but she's trying to help. Indeed if she makes Danny a soldier, in the final scenes perhaps she stops The Doctor becoming one, based on the overheard conversation by his 'parents'.
Yes, I'm a bit uncomfortable about Clara having to be intertwined with the Doctor's whole history but it doesn't mean Clara's THE only reason the Doctor becomes the Doctor. She perhaps gives him just the boost to be less afraid but there's a long, long history between the young Doctor and the First Doctor fleeing Gallifrey with Susan.
Also Clara's involvement with the Doctor seems to have had little in the way of consequences for her so far. Perhaps her interference into Danny Pink's life might have a different effect. After all Doctor Who can't kill off Doctor Who but it might be able to bump off Danny Pink. But perhaps I'm over-analyzing. It's easily done.
There are hints in the conversation between her and Orson Pink about what is to come but who knows what if anything that will mean.
My quibbles aside I think Jenna Coleman's doing a stonking job as Clara this season. Now she doesn't have to just be the 'Impossible Girl' she's developing into a character, although some of the banter between her and the Doctor re. her appearance borders on the uncomfortable. Now that might be because there's a British piss-taking friendship thing going on - certainly at one point Clara's reaction is an amused smirk - but occasionally it seems played too seriously. Maybe I'm just being ultra-touchy about it.
The thing that I will say without quibbles is that I'm really enjoying the Capaldi Doctor. He feels properly Doctor Who-ish. It's not darkness so much, which has become a massively over used phrase attached to the Capaldi era already, as alien. Capaldi's Doctor Who isn't human. And it shows. It's a nice change to both Tennant and Smith, although it has a certain resonance with Eccleston (who often gets forgotten in these discussions). But we're only four episodes into the season so things have a long way to go yet.
I haven't really talked about the more domestic scenes between Clara and Danny at dinner. You know what's strange I'd have hated this kind of scene back in the Eccleston era but now I find them quite fun. Their a nice counter-balance to all the alien madness that's about to come. Ordinary people trying to live ordinary lives who turn out to be extraordinary. Again having been Moffated once too often I find myself wondering whether the waiter might turn out to be significant or that line about twenty-three wells will be important. But that way madness lies.
The other thing to note is the sound design on this is incredible. In some ways it would be a brilliant Big Finish story. Perhaps 'Listen' can be seen as a massive advert for audio Doctor Who. But the scenes inside Orson Pink's ship are atmospheric as hell as much due to the sound design as the performances.
So after all that I can say I enjoyed it. It wasn't as much fun as Robot of Sherwood but it has a certain creepy charm of its own. There are unanswered questions and seeds sown for the future of Series 8 but I bet there are kids up and down the country hiding in beds tonight in an attempt to scare their friends and family.
A second viewing is needed though.