A summary and review of Listen, with spoilers.
The fourth episode of the new series turned out to be a bit of a surprise. From what little I had read about it in advance I was under the impression that it would be something in the vein of Stephen Moffat’s classic Blink that introduced the Weeping Angels. However Listen turned out to be something entirely different.
The opening of the episode had the Doctor speculating that a creature could have evolved that was perfect at hiding. He ties it in with a dream that he thinks everyone has had where the dreamer wakes up and a hand reaches out from under the bed and grabs their ankle.
So with that hypothesis in mind the Doctor picks up Clara who has just had a disastrous date with fellow teacher Danny Pink. He hooks her into the Tardis console so the Tardis can take them to the moment on her timeline that Clara had the dream.
Only Clara is distracted by the date and they end up at a children’s home where a certain boy called Rupert Pink is worried something is under his bed. Clara gets under the bed to convince him otherwise.
And then someone sits on the bed.
By now the Doctor is in the room too and he suggests the figure under the blanket is either another child playing a trick on Rupert or the being he believes exists. The doctor tells Rupert that fear is a superpower as it makes you strong. The Doctor convinces the mysterious figure to leave but we are left wondering what was under the blanket.
They leave Rupert with a toy solder to protect him, a soldier without a gun called Dan.
Clara gets the Doctor to return her to her disastrous date to try and repair the damage from earlier. All goes well until Clara lets slips Danny’s real name, Rupert. Oh dear.
Then a space-suited figure enters the restaurant and beckons Clara to follow. It’s Danny, except it’s not… It’s actually his descendent Orson Pink, a time-traveler from 100 years in the future who the Doctor found marooned at the end of the universe while investigating Clara’s timeline. Orson has Rupert’s toy soldier which is a family heirloom and he gives it to Clara.
The Doctor takes them back to Orson’s time ship in the far future. Orson is unhappy about returning because of the strange banging on the hull at night. The Doctor opens the airlock when the noises start but neither we or Clara see if there was a being or if it was just the metal expanding or contracting.
The air seal fails and Orson rescues the unconscious Doctor. Then the banging starts on the Tardis door and Clara takes control of the Tardis to get them out of there. On stepping out of the Tardis she finds herself in a barn where a boy is crying. Is it Rupert? Orson?
A man and a woman enter the barn and Clara hides under the boy’s bed. They ask the boy if he wants to come in to be with the “other boys”. And then the man makes a remark about how the boy will “never make a time lord”
Ok, I wasn’t expecting that.
In the Tardis the recovered Doctor calls to Clara and the boy gets out of bed. Clara’s hand shoots out and grabs his ankle. She is horrified at what she has done and tells the boy it is just a dream and to go back to bed. Then she gets up to go but turns back and gives the boy a variation of the fear is a superpower speech.
During her speech we see a glimpse of the John Hurt War Doctor taking the Moment to the barn in last year’s The Day of the Doctor. (Cue: “Holy crap! It’s the same barn!”)
She leaves the boy the toy solder without a gun and her last line is “fear makes companions of us all” which is a line spoken by William Hartnell’s Doctor.
So there was never anything under the bed. Never anything outside the door of the time ship. There was no monster, no alien because fear is the monster in this week’s episode.
(Although there was the figure under the blanket. I guess we need to come to our own conclusion on that.)
The episode has the same somber and slower tone that we had in the series opener Deep Breath which I find very welcome. This allows character scenes to develop such as that between Danny and Clara on their date.
Capaldi is on fine form delivering his lines with intensity. There is a continuing gag where he insults Clara’s appearance, such as the observation that she needs three mirrors to see her face as it’s so wide.
Really, I think I’m going to have to go back and watch it again to appreciate the episode better. As I said at the start I was expecting another Blink. What we got was something entirely different.