Recap: 'Doctor Who' - 'Listen'
Last week saw Twelve and Clara in a stand-alone episode. “The Robot of Sherwood” had some great dialogue and character insights wrapped in a candy coating of absurdity. I don’t know about you guys, but I was along for the ride right up until the last ten minutes. A leap of faith via suspension of disbelief is acceptable…even expected…but the “golden arrow” might be the new “jumping the shark.” Can this week’s episode “Listen”, written by showrunner Steven Moffat, right the ship?
We open with the Doctor meditating on top of the TARDIS above the Earth. He is listening for something. And he asks us to listen along, breaking the fourth wall to look right at the audience. This is a variation of a theme Moffat has played on before. Don’t blink, don’t breathe, don’t move. Be still. Listen.
Inside the TARDIS, the Doctor is monologuing at no one. Clara is nowhere to be seen and without her humanizing presence, Capaldi’s Doctor has devolved into a paranoid Grandpa, seeing monsters in the dark. The darkened mood lighting of the TARIDS adds to the spooky feeling of being watched. Of course, whenever the Doctor is involved there is a high probability the monsters are actually there, watching.
The monologuing continues and out comes the chalkboard. I’m still not sure if he’s been working on one complex equation the entire season or if old school mathematics are just how this incarnation unwinds. Chalkboards are cool now. Talking to himself — or more accurately the audience — Twelve questions why in nature there are perfect hunters and perfect defenders but not perfect hiders. Clearly he’s never heard of camouflage or seen an octopus seamlessly blend with the ocean floor. But I digress.
As the line of questioning continues, I can’t help but wonder if we’re headed for a jump scare moment. The Doctor clearly believes he is talking to someone or something unseen, the evolutionary pinnacle of a hidden predator. Are we bringing The Silence back into play? Perhaps not all of them were brutally murdered after Eleven’s proclamation and they seek vengeance? Or perhaps they just want to emulate the Japanese Ghost Child trope and creepily write “LISTEN” on the chalkboard as soon as the Doctor’s back is turned. Either/or.
P.S. I still adore the new opening credits. Steampunk ALL THE THINGS.
We return to Clara and Danny Pink on a date at a restaurant. Or more accurately, Clara remembering a date that has just happened. Based on her body language in the present, it did not go well. But it takes several staggered flashbacks to get to the heart of the problem. At first, all seems to be going well. Danny is wearing a pink shirt, I assume because you have to learn to own a name like that early in life. They are laughing and having a good time, making fun of co-workers and students and just generally behaving like normal, non-time traveling humans. And then Clara steps in it.
For whatever reason, she keeps coming back to the fact that Danny was a soldier and therefore probably killed people. Only in the most dismissive, flippant way possible. It is as if it never occurs to her that shooting at humans who are hellbent on also shooting at you might weigh on a person’s conscience and/or leave behind invisible mental trauma. Luckily, Danny is having none of it and launches in on how much he and his fellow soldiers were saving lives, not just kicking in doors and murdering people. Real life soldiering is more SimCity and less Call of Duty, it would appear.
But then Danny steps in it, saying “Sometimes people like you get the wrong end of the stick.” Now whether he meant women, or civilians, or middle-class white people, the world may never know. The date has been officially declared a disaster zone and ends.