TV Review: "Doctor Who" 8x04: Listen

Editor's Note: little late because The Armor of God got in the way, but we're back on track!

Written by: Lord Gremlin

Back in the day (which is a Monday. Most people think it’s always a Wednesday but it’s really a Monday) during the classic era of Doctor Who, it was known as a show that kids would “watch from behind the sofa” due to all the scary aliens and frightening creatures The Doctor and his Companions would come face to face with every week. It’s hysterical to me that kids, no matter what the time period was, could ever find a Dalek scary. Don’t get me wrong, I love those cylindrical bastards, but they are goofy as all hell looking.

Before he took over as showrunner, Steven Moffat was the writer who reintroduced the concept that Doctor Who can be one hell of a scary show with fan favorites like “The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances”, “Blink” and “Silence In the Library/Forrest of the Dead”. These episodes and more are more genuinely freaky than most horror films that get released today.

Now with “Listen”, Moffat gets back to his roots and delivers what is already being called by fans one of the best episode of the entire revived series and I have to exuberantly agree. And when I exuberantly do anything, it can get messy. Messy and stinky. Don’t ask. Or do, I’ll just have to tell you in private. His scripts these past few seasons have been wildly inconsistent, but this is so not the case here. “Listen” is one of the most well-structured, controlled and meaningful scripts the man has produced for the show-as well as one of the scariest.

This is a frustratingly difficult episode to review because I don’t want to spoil anything (I do actually because it would be way easier to write but I’m not a dick so I won’t), so I’ll so my best to illustrate the mood and intent of the episode while trying to avoid being overly cryptic.

Moffat has a brilliant knack for tapping into the everyday fears of people and twisting them into something terrifying: That mysterious noise late at night (probably just a fart), the thing you thought you saw move from the corner of your eye (probably me outside your window), that suspicious shadow, that feeling of something behind you that you never see, or something under the bed. That last example is what Moffat plays with here and there is one scene in particular that uses brilliant suspense and unease to freak out the viewer without ever once showing you what the thing is.

I mentioned earlier that this is damn well written script and let me explain why: Moffat seriously tones down some of his lesser traits and goes for minimalism. The plot is still “timey whimey” but things are revealed just enough at the right times throughout the episode to make everything click into place. The exposition is handled sparsely and the plot is propelled by the characters instead of the plot propelling them. The Doctor, Clara and newcomer Danny Pink all get equal times to shine and develop in interesting ways. The character of Danny is still a mystery up until this point and I can’t wait to see how what they do to finally integrate him into the TARDIS Crew full-time. The Multi-Companion dynamic is something I’m a fan of.

Via RadioTimes
Allow me to repeat myself for the millionth time in saying that Clara is yet again written and acted with care. I could not be happier with the treatment her character is getting this season. If they keep this up Clara could end up on my top list of all time Companions.

Most surprising of all though, is that this episode ends up being all about The Doctor. The resolution of the story is simple, effective and emotional. Its small scale yet means so much. I predict a small contingent of fans being unhappy with the way things wrap up but for my money the ending excels an already great episode into something more meaningful.

I don’t like hyping things up too much (yes I do), because I get dismayed at the thought of contributing to potential disappointment: “Damn you Lord Gremlin! I hated this episode! I thought I could trust you!” Sometimes though, you just gotta go with what your gut says and my mine (which is round and hairy) says that this is a special and unique episode of Doctor Who. While it’s too early to tell, it may very end up being the defining episode on the 12th Doctor.

9/10. “Listen” is a small, intimate, scary, wonderfully performed and smartly written story. I hope you all enjoy it as much as I did. 
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About The Damn Beast

Pre-op trans-minotaur, sci-fi/fantasy/horror author, metal singer, videogame journalist, pop culture blogger. I also lift heavy things and put them down again repeatedly to occupy more space.
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