Doctor Who: Listen (S8E04) Review

listen*SPOILERS*

I’m starting to quite enjoy this new series of “The Adventures Of Clara Oswald”. They’ve done a really good job of replacing her time travelling sidekick without allowing him to hog too much of the limelight and take the focus of the series off our heroine. In this episode, the Doctor comes up with a theory that none of us are ever truly alone and sets out to find a way to prove his theory. Luckily, Clara is there to save the day again, giving more weight to the throwaway ‘I’m his carer.’ line in “Into The Dalek” and further enshrine her retrospectively into the very core mythos of the itinerant Time Lord from Gallifrey.

Towards the end of David Tennant’s tenure as the Doctor (from “Journey’s End” onwards) it became pretty clear that Russell T Davies had fallen completely in love with the 10th Doctor. He was infatuated and it contaminated everything he wrote from that point onwards, giving us the painfully dull (“Planet Of The Dead”), the darkly messianic (“Waters Of Mars”) and the emotionally over-indulgent (“The End Of Time”). So much so, that I was glad to see the back of Tennant and RTD’s ‘Lonely God’ take on the character. Tennant’s return in “The Day Of The Doctor” reminded me how good a Doctor he was, though. My point is: I think something similar may have happened with Moffat and Clara. I’m starting to feel like he’s so utterly taken by the cleverness of his own creation that he’s starting to write her in to every aspect of the Doctor’s chronology. Not content with scattering literally millions of copies of her throughout time and space in “The Name Of The Doctor”, we now find out that Clara was present at a pivotal moment of the Doctor’s childhood (sorry, “Lungbarrow” fan boys – definitely no Looms in canon now).

Whether or not you like Moffat’s tenure as Doctor Who showrunner (I’m firmly in the Pro camp) you’ve got to admire his willingness to explore, reinterpret and sometimes just rewrite cannon to suit himself. More than any other producer in the show’s history since Verity Lambert, he’s left his fingerprints all over it, right down to the Doctor’s origins. But The Impossible Girl is running the risk of becoming the Eponymous Girl and, no matter how much she’s carved into the backstory, it’s not the companions I tune in week after week to see. The current ‘will she/ won’t she?’ over whether Clara is leaving in this year’s Christmas special for me has only one happy answer: she’s off. Only then, I think, will we get to see this Doctor in full flow – with a companion he chooses, not an inheritance from his predecessor.

Don’t get me wrong, I really enjoyed this episode and it contained some premium, grade-A nightmare fuel in the demonising of a harmless household object, this time: a shape under a blanket and those noises under the bed. For the first half hour, it was really, really strong. Then the Doctor got knocked out and Clara saved the day by taking the TARDIS to Gallifrey (it was Gallifrey, wasn’t it? – and if it was (and Gallifrey now exists in time up to the point it vanished), that’s the most massive change to canon since the series came back; not the fact the Doctor was a barn-dwelling bed wetter as a little ‘un).

It’s still a step up in quality for this so far uneven season, and although I’m not quite so enamoured of his Über-companion, I’m very glad the show is in the hands of a writer with a wicked sense of humour, a twisted imagination and seemingly boundless courage to try new things and take the show in fresh directions after all these years.

8/10 TARDIS 8

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3 thoughts on “Doctor Who: Listen (S8E04) Review

  1. I liked this episode too. Best in the new series so far IMO, but while we’ve gotten the odd glimpse of how good Peter Capaldi can be as The Doctor – I’m still hoping for weightier more serious material.

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  2. He’s fantastic – my favourite bit being when he roared at Clara to get in the TARDIS but I need to see him take the lead and do something heroic to fully bring the character back. It’s almost like the Doctor lacks purpose so far. Hopefully he’ll get wind of whatever Missy is up to and that will give him something to focus on.

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