JReviews: Doctor Who Series 8 Episode 4- Listen

So, we've had two "bad" episodes in a row, how does this one fare?

If I had to sum up this episode in a sentence it would be: Starts off good, then goes weird but ends up excellently. My only complaint (and I might as well get this out of the way straight away) is the jerky switch from the story the set in the past to the story set in the future. We come back from helping Mr. Pink's younger self in the past to the date that got completely messed up at the start of the episode and you think "ok, this weeks story got done a bit quicker than I thought, but at least it was good and we get some interaction and character building time for Pinks and Clara" then BOOM Spaceman! Not episode breaking, but jarring all the same (oh and loving the budget saving costume re-use, that space suit has been used in "The Impossible Planet", "The Satan Pit" and "The Waters Of Mars").

So, now lets get on to the stuff I liked about this episode, of which there is a profusion. Kicking off with the start, that opening monologue was perfect in every way, shape and form. Capalidi sold it like it was on sale. And the pay off at the end, with the writing on the blackboard worked so well.

The dinner scene's were well executed as well. This director's obsession with the jump cuts usually annoys me, but this time it worked, showing the date as it happens and the aftermath for Clara was a neat fit and didn't spoil the flow (this also worked in the last scene as well for the same reason). We also got to see nice interaction between our two human leads, the awkward conversation, the jokes and the mess ups. Mr. Pink is certainly a very interesting addition to the line up and his reactions to Clara's two miss-haps make me even more interested in his character, what happened to this guy? What did he do as a soldier exactly? I know we can assume he killed people and he has guilt from that, but is there something else? Did he kill a civilian perhaps? Also, why is he so touchy about a) being made fun of (or thinking he's being made fun of in this case) and b) being lied to?

Then we have first section of the story, the bit set in the past. Up until the spaceman dropped in I thought they were actually doing a Mr. Pink backstory episode, but it wasn't to be. But this scene was pretty damn good. There were bits where it set you up for a mystery or a scare, then caught you of guard with a joke (the disappearing coffee for example) which was a great tactic, tension and release but not in the way you expect. Plus the bedroom scene its self was very scary in places, it reminded me of "Hide" from the last series (which was one of the best episodes of that series btw). They never do explain what it was under the covers though, given how the episode ends we have to assume that it was another kid. However, my sister came up with a pretty neat little theory which, whilst not entirely plausible and not having any basis on anything that was shown in this episode, I like enough to want to share with you guys: Maybe the creature under the covers was a projection of the fears of Rupert and the Doctor. As I said, it doesn't explain how the projection could be solid, or steal the covers, but it's nice and creepy and less mundane than "it was another one of the kids" 'cause that's boring.

Anyway, now it's time to talk about Clara. Ok, so, before this series started I said that one of the things I wanted most of all was more development for Clara because I just don't care about her. Well, this episode actually managed something incredible, the scene with the toy soldiers actually made me think "hang on, Clara is actually good in this scene". And then the end of the episode cemented the fact, this episode made Clara Oswald a companion that I liked. Hopefully it would just be this episode, but she's finally got some meat on the proverbial bones of her character. Sure she's no Donna, but she's proven to be at least a near equal to the Doctor in many respects here, at least enough to be able to make him obey her after he explicitly says he doesn't follow orders.

The we have Capaldi. His character came into its own as well in this episode. His Doctor is a very interesting mix of characteristics from the First and Third Doctors. He has their arrogance, their condescending natures with a dash of Pertwee's charisma and a pinch of Hartnell's age and experienced intelligence, topped of with his own gruff delivery, awkwardness and a bit of insanity that was present in his immediate predecessors. His banter off of Clara is improving, especially when it is against Clara rather than with her (example, when he appears in her bedroom and makes a crack at her about her make-up). Also, he looks positively evil when he grins.

And finally, we get to the end of the episode. That was an excellent pay off. Nice way to explain why the Doctor was so desperate to find out what was under the bed. You could just imagine this sitting in his mind for all those thousands of years, then, when it clicks into place (the start of the episode), he'd go literally to the end of the universe to find out why. It's interesting that they managed to time travel back in time to Gallifrey, does beg the question, why hasn't the Doctor done something similar before or why doesn't he still get summons from the Time Lords of the past, back when they decided that they'd use his as a cosmic yo-yo when they needed a problem sorting out, but Moffet is prone to trampling continuity, so I guess that one can slide (plus try and get your head around time travel continuity, try and put all of the Doctors encounters with the Time Lords and the Daleks in non- time travel chronological order rather than his personal time-line and then wonder how any of them know what's happening where and when).

So yeah, good episode. I'll have to watch the first episode back to judge whether this one was better or not, but it was certainly a big improvement on the last 2.

JR19759

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10 Responses to JReviews: Doctor Who Series 8 Episode 4- Listen

  1. This episode was simply amazing. Totally the best of series 8 so far. My favorite moments were with the childhood of the Doctor – and a nod to the War Doctor. Hell, almost every moment of the episode was my favorite. The amazing monologue from the start was especially good. Although I expected that this monologue would be interrupted by Clara.

    But there are also some things I didn’t like THAT much. First, the Pink dynasty. I liked the story of Danny’s/Rupert’s past, and the space man with afro is ok, too (although when I saw this space suit my first thought was – BURN WITH ME!!!). But somehow I get a feeling that the showrunners just want to create an “Impossible Boyfriend” for “Impossible Girl”. I bet the woman who mentioned her brother in “Into the Dalek” is somehow connected too.

    The other unsettling moment is Clara herself. I was a bit concerned with the fact that in series 1-7 the showrunners made the Doctor responcible for basically everything on Earth (Pompeis, Torchwood) and in the rest of the universe. He even kicked the Satan’s fiery behind! The Pandorica, then Trenzalore…the Doctor was getting from a curious space traveler to a big Marty Stue, the superhero version of Galactus and all things that way. Now, I’ m pretty used to that already – bot now it looks like Clara is behind most of the Doctor’s accomplishments! That’s something I have to chew for some time before it gets tasty.

    Still, the episode is fantastic. Absolutely fantastic! I like it. Oh, and another moment. Did Clara just rob the last Pink of his family heirloom or he willingly sacrificed it to the little Doctor?

    Adults-only moment.
    On one of the russian DW-forums I saw another joking theory about the thing under the bed sheets. That it’s the Time-Traveling Interstellar Erection. But those forums also worship Brigadier’s Evil Moustache ™ and Capaldi’s Flying Eyebrows ™, so I was not too surprised.

  2. I was so ready to hate this episode. I was so dreading it that I went into it concerned that I would hate it regardless. I must admit, I was pleasantly surprised and then extremely happy.

    It was a solid B+ episode throughout – tried too hard to be both a horror episode and a feelgood episode, and sacrificed some of the horror aspects as a result because the pacing was so screwy, but I can let that slide. Then it got to the barn and I was quite happy. Sure it’s a bit of a Time Travel problem (Nine or Ten mentions they can never go back to Gallifrey because the paradox will break the TARDIS and, at best, they’ll be stuck there forever) but I’m willing to overlook that – Moffat clearly has no time for continuity, and it’s the kind of thing that Russel T. Davies would probably do, just slightly better written. That War Doctor nod was definitely good, and made it actually feel like the 50th really existed within the continuity, rather than being ignored as it has been so far.

    TL;DR: I liked it, and I regret being ready to give up on the show after a handful of bad episodes.

  3. @Kjakings, Something tells me that the barn wasn’t on Gallifrey. The bit with the War Doctor. Gallifrey was besieged by the Daleks by the time War Doctor visited the barn. Yet the sky was clear and blue although we know that the skies on Gallifrey are always red/orange, and there was no single Dalek ship in the sky. Even if the Daleks simply didn’t want to shoot at uninhabited desert with a single barn in it, their ships still would be seen in the sky.

  4. @Malafar

    You make a series of very good points and I have absolutely no way to refute them.

    But I think only Gallifreyans could become Time Lords, and we know that The Doctor grew up on Gallifrey. It could’ve been some colony or something, they did have them, or slightly different atmospheric conditions – or maybe by the end of the war the ozone was so depleted on Gallifrey that the sky was a more earthlike colour. I do disagree with your point about the ships – they were blockading the planet, but only outside the atmosphere so they’d only be visible as extra stars at night, unless you were somewhere worth attacking.

    But again, all this is just theorising and there’s no proof to any of it.

  5. @Malfar & Kjakings- The things I want to know are a) if that barn isn’t on Gallifrey, how did the young Doctor get there and b) if that barn is on Gallifrey and it was known that the Doctor used to go there as a child, why didn’t the Time Lords go there to retrieve The Moment from him (they knew what it was to be used for and what it would mean, so they’d surely have to stop him). We can safely assume that there was no atmospheric disturbance causing the sky of Gallifrey to change colour because it is orange in the 50th special and it’s prologues (specifically the one showing the soldiers of Gallifrey and the first Dalek breaking through a Sky-Trench), so I doubt that barn is on Gallifrey, but that brings up my first point, how did a child get to another planet, multiple times if what the other two Gallifreyans were saying is to be believed, without having access to Time Lord technology, which would have been denied to him until he joined the Academy according to all know information on Time Lord society from the first run of the show. All in all I think we can chalk this one off as Moffet trying to be clever and once again buggering up continuity.
    Also I have to agree with Malfar’s point about Clara starting to become an interstellar Mary Sue. The reason we don’t really see the Doctor as such is because we’ve seen him for so long, we’ve seen his numerous failures (this was the guy who showed the Daleks there was life on other planets and who was meant to have killed his entire planet, before the 50th anniversary reticon), so we over-look how Mary Sue-ish he’s become at points. Clara however, doesn’t have that luxury and personally I think it’s because they don’t actually know what to do with her. They are moving in the right direction in this series, with the whole Mr. Pink thing, but obviously they’re still stuck in that rut where they are trying to make her stand out too much, by making her over important (she’s going to be the great-grandmother of the first human time-travel test pilot as well as having saved the Doctor from deletion from time and inspired him to adventure and told him which TARDIS to steal, plus she talked him out of destroying Gallifrey, which could have caused all sorts of problems). Okay, each her predecessors had a certain thing similarly important (appart from Martha in all honesty). Rose had the Bad Wolf thing, Donna was the meta-crisis girl, Wilf was the man who killed the Doctor and Amy and Rory were the parents of the ultimate weapon against the Doctor and his future wife, but each of these is only one thing, as I listed earlier, Clara has got five Mary-Sue things already. It will be interesting to see how she ends up leaving the show, because obviously she isn’t going to be there forever, and what they do with her replacement.

  6. I think Martha was special, too. When the Master turned the Doctor into something very old and very cute she traveled the Earth and inspired the people to, erm, pray for the Doctor. So she actually provided the Doctor with enough positive energy of sorts to be reverted from a tiny and withered creature back to David I-Don’t-Want-To-Go Tennant.

  7. @Malfar- Whilst that is true, she didn’t have any major cosmic importance like all the others.

  8. I don’t think every character must be of cosmic importance. Sometimes all this importance can become tiresome. I liked the classic episodes where the companions were actually companions, not Silver Surfers to Doctor’s Galactus. Epic adventures and epic plot twists are good, but not all the time.

  9. @Malfar- Completely agree.

  10. I am very confused. Not by the potential continuity problems. –they might be fixable. What confuses me are two things.

    1. Did Capaldi’s dr. write ‘listen’ himself and forget it?
    2. Why, when every ingredient was great did the whole leave me feeling flat?

    I’ve a theory about the second one. The Dr. is the perfectly constructed character to pass through someone’s life and never get involved, never be known. It’s Dr. WHO, right?