'What's that in the mirror, or the corner of your eye?/ What's that footstep following but never passing by?/ Perhaps they are just waiting, perhaps that when we're dead/ Out they'll come a-slithering from underneath the bed.'
For a that show can literally go anywhere, Doctor Who has quite a lengthy checklist of things we expect from each episode. But sometimes an episode comes along that breaks the mould - and 'Listen' is one of those episodes. This week we were delivered many inversions of the show's norms - just this once there was a hugely ambiguous nature to the monster of the week, it centred around the Doctor and Clara on their 'days off'' and, most tantalisingly, went to places that the show has never been before. Well, it has but it hasn't. Trust me, it's timey-wimey.
There seems to be a deliberate effort to up the thematic content of the episodes this year as, beneath the whimsical adventures in space and time, we've had stories that are really about change, hatred and heroism. This week's episode not only continues the theme but emphasises it. While 'Listen' may start out as a familiar - but still spooky as heck - Moffat scarefest it then goes down a completely unexpected avenue to become a sensitive mediation on loneliness and fear. As the First Doctor - and now Clara - said 'fear makes companions of us all.'
While we've come to expect great blockbuster finales and Christmas specials from Steven Moffat, this episode takes him back to his creepy one-off roots, In fact, Moffat has described the episode as a 'chamber piece' a small-scale adventure with few performers. In such a story as this, then, the cast is all important and, thankfully, the three leads of Peter Capaldi, Jenna Coleman and Samuel Anderson do not disappoint. Firstly, Capaldi embodies the Time Lord better than ever before here, as we see him inspire children and face terrifying sights but also explore new facets to the character like his almost unhinged obsession with the notion of a perfectly-evolved hider. Can such things really exist?
Meanwhile, as several incarnations of Pinks were met this week, Anderson's Danny (don't call him Rupert) is fitting well into the show, aided by the actor's awkward charm that fizzes with Jenna's perky Clara. Speaking of whom, Clara herself proves once again this week how invaluable she is to the Doctor - we've already seen her save his entire life and inspire him to rescue the Time Lords but here she makes her biggest impact on the Doctor yet. The Doctor is the solider who never carries a gun - I wonder where he got that idea from?
'Listen' utilises all the classic horror film tricks and motifs (the thing under the bedsheet is one we've all seen before but that makes it no less eerie here) to treat us to a sleepless-night-inducing episode but then is also not afraid (ha!) to pull the rug from our feet and surprise and scare us in different ways. But embrace that fear because being scared is a superpower. And being scary is just one tool in the endless arsenal of Doctor Who, the show that can do anything. Just as this episode reminded us.
|It's the end - Is there something waiting on the last planet in existence?|
Next Week: The Doctor and Clara save the day - by robbing a bank? Find out how in 'Time Heist'...