TV REVIEW: Doctor Who Season 8, Episode 4: Listen

promoThis review contains spoilers.

 

Synopsis

The Doctor and Clara travel through time and space to find out if the monster under your bed is real.

 

Plot

I am not talking to my cat right now because he walked out of the lounge room right when things were getting scary. We’ll sort out our differences eventually.

Why do we talk to ourselves when we’re alone? The Doctor thinks it’s because we know we’re not. What if something has evolved to become the Hide and Seek Champion of Existence? Well, the Doctor has misplaced a piece of chalk and a sudden creepy message appears on the blackboard, telling him to Listen. So maybe that Hide and Seek Game is still going strong.

Clara’s first date with Danny (upgraded from drinks to dinner) is a cringe-worthy disaster. She makes an uncouth joke about him killing people because he’s a soldier. Danny responds so defensively that he becomes the one making everything uncomfortable.

Clara storms home to find the Doctor parked in her bedroom (the least conspicuous place to be if she brought her date back). Noticing that Clara’s home early, the Doctor comments that she’s already taken off her make-up (she hasn’t). I laugh at these jokes every time because of Peter Capaldi’s delivery but if I were in Clara’s position, constant comments like that would eventually get downright offensive. Clara hasn’t reached that threshold yet.

She follows the Doctor into the TARDIS and listens to his theory. He’s found accounts throughout history about people having the exact same nightmare: waking up and getting out of bed, only to have something seize them by the ankle. What if it’s not a dream? The Doctor shows Clara the creepy blackboard message, which she points out is written in his handwriting. But she does admit to having had that dream.

Squidgy, huh?

Squidgy, huh?

Apparently the TARDIS has a new telepathic interface on the centre console, capable of reading a person’s timeline from birth to death. It will take them to the exact point in time when Clara had the nightmare. Too bad the TARDIS didn’t have this weird brain/timeline app on the console before. Probably could’ve solved a lot of problems back when Rose nearly died after looking into the heart of the TARDIS in season 1.

Clara’s phone rings (possibly Danny calling to sort things out) and breaks her concentration. The TARDIS touches down at a children’s home in Gloucester. Clara has never been there in her life but, as the Doctor goes off to investigate, she does see someone familiar. It’s Young Danny Pink, whose name is actually Rupert.

Clara sneaks upstairs while the Doctor is busy creeping out the man on night duty. They’ve arrived at near an ankle-grabbing nightmare occurrence but it was Rupert who dreamed it/didn’t dream it/was recently assaulted. Clara assures him that there’s nothing under the bed, even crawling under it herself to prove the point. Rupert joins her and, as they’re lying under there, the bed starts to sag like someone is sitting on it. GET FUCKED.

fucking doona creeper

KILL IT WITH FIRE.

They both crawl out to find something sitting on the bed, hiding under the cover. JUST FUCKING KILL IT. (This is where my stupid cat abandoned me.) As usual, the Doctor appears just in time and gives Rupert an encouraging and very fatherly talk about how being scared can make him strong. They turn their back on the creature and look out the window. HOW ABOUT YOU JUMP OUT THE FUCKING WINDOW BECAUSE IT IS GOING TO BREAK YOUR NECKS AND FEAST ON YOUR BONE MARROW.

The Doctor calmly tells the creature that if all it wants to do is stay hidden, they promise not to look. Reckon you can kill it without looking at it? PLEASE? For a minute, it looks like the creature doesn’t give a crap about the promise and is ready to up and attack them, even taking off its blanket so we can see the vague outline of ET and Gollum’s lovechild. But eventually it runs out the door to go and make some other unsuspecting child soil themselves.

Clara sets up toy soldiers to ‘guard’ Rupert’s bed (yeah, good luck, plastic friends). She gives him one without a gun, saying that it’s the leader: a soldier so brave it doesn’t need a gun and can keep the whole world safe—someone like the Doctor. Rupert names the soldier Dan and asks for a bedtime story. The Doctor doesn’t have time for that shit. He puts a finger to Rupert’s forehead and sends him off to sleep with a dream about being Dan the Soldier Man, calling it ‘Dad skills’. Every time he makes little comments about being a father or grandfather, it breaks my heart.

Clara is now certain that Rupert is going to grow up to actually be Dan the Soldier Man. She doesn’t seem bothered by the fact that her date’s younger self just imprinted on her like a baby bird.

I liked you better when you were giving me toy soldiers.

I liked you better when you were giving me toy soldiers.

The Doctor takes Clara back for a second chance at her first date. She doesn’t say it outright, but I’m guessing she also wants to make sure she didn’t somehow create a most ingenious paradox and get Rupert/Danny eaten by the doona monster because her plastic toy force field was a hack. Clara screws it up even faster this time by accidentally calling Danny Rupert. Of course, the Doctor picks this time to walk in dressed as an astronaut (I wish I had his knack for subtlety) and prevent Clara from giving any kind of believable explanation. Danny leaves. He’s not up for this weird shit. And he didn’t even see the astronaut.

Clara follows the astronaut Doctor into the TARDIS, yelling at him for interrupting her date (because it was going so well). Except it’s not the Doctor. It’s Danny. Wait, it’s not Danny. It’s someone called Awesome Orson Pink, from 100 years in Clara’s future. The Doctor found him by tracing the telepathic imprint Clara left on the TARDIS’s brain console. So Orson has to have something to do with Clara’s timeline, but he says he doesn’t recognise her.

Orson is a pioneer time-traveller and his first mission overshot by a couple of billion years, leaving him stranded at the end of time for the past six months. The TARDIS isn’t supposed to go so far into the future but the Doctor had turned off the safeguards earlier so he could follow Clara’s timeline. I don’t think the TARDIS cares about where it’s allowed to go. The Doctor’s been to the end of time before, hasn’t he? Or at least very close.

The Doctor wants to know why the door to Orson’s ship is locked if there’s nothing left at the end of time. He tells Orson that the TARDIS needs to recharge so he can spend a night here and figure out what Orson’s afraid of.

Are you my grandmummy?

Are you my grandmummy?

As Clara sees that Orson has the same toy soldier she gave Rupert a hundred-odd years ago. Orson says the soldier is a family heirloom and that time travel ‘runs in the family’. That means either Danny’s going to be travelling with the Doctor in the future or Clara is Orson’s ancestor. I sincerely hope it’s the former because I’ve never been keen on people meeting their descendants prematurely and finding out what their future has planned. If Clara decided she wasn’t fussed on procreating with Danny, would Orson cease to exist in the future? That’s a lot of pressure to put on a first date.

Orson hands Clara the toy soldier. She protests, saying it’s a family heirloom. He nods. He clearly knows more than he wants to admit.

Clara and the Doctor hang out in Orson’s ship, discussing Danny’s prospects and whether he’s a suitable match according to the Doctor. The night lights come on, revealing a message Orson wrote above the door as a reminder not to open it. The Doctor thinks it’s because, after six months of isolation, Orson might sometimes be tempted to seek out company. He also thinks that, if the hiding creatures have stayed out of sight for all time and there’s only one man left in existence, maybe they would decide to reveal themselves. And also, they may just be here because this lines up with one of the Doctor’s old nursery rhymes. He’s been playing that card close to the chest.

The Doctor unlocks the ship’s door. He has to know what’s out there but tells Clara to do as she’s told and get back in the TARDIS. She does so reluctantly, pausing long enough to tell him that he’s an idiot but not quite long enough to give him a swift smack for the ‘Do as you’re told’ comment.

We don’t actually get to see what was trying to get in because the TARDIS’s surveillance cuts out. Then the ship’s air shell is breached and the Doctor just ends up unconscious and flapping in the wind like a Scottish flag until Orson drags him back to safety. The TARDIS starts rocking and, not keen on finding out if the creatures still want to catch up, Clara hooks into the telepathic interface again.

They land in an old barn. In a little bed on an upper level, a child is crying. Is it Rupert? Is it Orson? Is it some Pink boy in between Rupert and Orson? Clara goes to investigate but hears approaching footsteps and quickly hides under the bed. Don’t DO THAT, girl. You are going to end up grabbing an ankle. You will BE the creeper.

A man and a woman enter. The man says the boy will never be a Time Lord if he runs away crying all the time. IT’S BABY DOCTOR. I guess pre-war Gallifrey isn’t time-locked, then. I wonder if the Doctor ever goes there to watch his family from afar.

Mistakes were made.

Mistakes were made.

The Doctor wakes in the TARDIS and starts calling out for Clara. Baby Doctor gets out of bed and Clara leans over, grabbing his ankle. YOU DID THE THING. WHY WOULD YOU DO THE THING? Turns out Clara’s been the Doctor’s bad dream all along.

Clara tells the young Doctor that it’s all just a dream and everything will be fine if he goes back to sleep. Before she leaves, Clara decides that she may as well give him some friendly advice. She’s already been in every other part of the Doctor’s timeline so what’s one childhood visit going to hurt?

She tells the young Doctor that he will return to the barn in the future (as the War Doctor) and that it’s okay to be afraid because it doesn’t have to make you cruel or cowardly. How do you know that it’s the exact same barn, Clara? You’ve spent most of this trip hiding under a bed. Maybe the Doctor just really likes barns, okay?

She leaves him with the toy soldier, which is lovely but the Doctor keeps saying how much he hates soldiers. Even the woman who just walked into the barn said Baby Doctor doesn’t want to join the army so maybe that toy wasn’t the best present.

Clara returns to the TARDIS and says that this whole nightmare investigation trip stems from the Doctor’s childhood fear of the dark. She tells the Doctor not leave the TARDIS to see where they’ve just been. He almost doesn’t agree but Clara tells him, with big pleading eyes, to do as he’s told.

No, Clara. Clara, stahp.

No, Clara. Clara, stahp.

Orson hitchhikes to his rightful time and place. Clara hugs her probable descendant goodbye and then forces the Doctor into a hug for being an adorable, scared child.

She gets the Doctor to drop her off on Danny’s doorstep so she can try and salvage her date one last time. Did Clara know where Danny lived before? Or should this be setting off more warning bells for him? He seems totally fine with it because now that they’ve both calmed down, it’s time for them to go forth and make future time-travellers.

Honestly, I’m all for Clara’s relationship with Danny. While Russell T Davies focused more on the families of his companions, Moffat has been all for making a manfriend the most important person in Amy and Clara’s lives. Personally, I like the family angle better but each to their own. If Clara’s going to stop being a plot point, she needs to have something in her life besides the Doctor. And if she’s going to stop being a companion at some point then having someone to go home to will probably be the clincher.

I’m not entirely sure but it feels like Moffat actually changed plot halfway through that episode. Maybe the reveal of the Hide and Seek Champion of Existence was going to be a letdown so he was all, ‘JK. Was never real anyway.’ But if it wasn’t real then WHAT, in the name of ever-loving FUCK, was that thing on Rupert’s bed? Because you know what? Going back to bed at 5.30am and seeing that I’ve left my blankets in a pile that could possibly be some kind of unexplained terrifying creature is NOT COOL.

All in all, we got some Doctor development, companion development, child-like monsters, excellent one-liners, and we were made to question perfectly ‘normal’ occurrences. Even with (or maybe because of) the unexplained doona creeper, I think this might have been my favourite Moffat episode since Blink, which was my favourite Moffat episode since The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances. Well done, Moffat.

Update: my cat came back to make peace and I’ve decided to move past my abandonment issues. I’m powerless against that furball.

 

Next week

The Doctor and Clara are robbing a bank! Who knows why? I’m hoping that there’ll be a web of lasers they have to get through by relying on previously unacknowledged gymnastic skills.

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