Doctor Who Series 8 Episode 4 Review: Listen

ListenSteven Moffat returns to sole writing duties this week on Doctor Who with the first real “scary” episode in Peter Capaldi’s run as The Doctor, and it’s pretty much a Steven Moffat episode you’d expect.

Listen is an episode that opens with a wonderful shot of The Doctor sitting on top of the TARDIS and stringing a story along with some damn fine construction, but with a few flaws here and there.

The Doctor begins the episode alone and in his curious element. Always the inquisitive one, Capaldi’s Doctor begins with reflections to himself about the thing that lives under your bed, the prickles at the back of your neck, the unseen companion when one is most alone. Which, of course, is a mystery good enough for The Doctor to want to solve.

His curiosity is the motivation and the driving force for the progression of the episode, with twists and turns all over while he searches for answers. Of course, he ultimately isn’t alone, for he swings Clara (Jenna Coleman) up into the adventure, having plucked her from a rather bad date with still-not-a-Companion Danny Pink (Samuel Anderson), a choice that actually has repercussions through the episode.

Listen isn’t a perfect episode but director Douglas Mackinnon certainly translates the script onto screen in a lively and competent manner. The editing is effective, use of depth of field does wonders for the mysteries of what lies behind us, and the tension becomes quite unnerving at times…but there are the few pitfalls of Moffat’s writing that spring up as usual.

There’s more curious choices in the timelines that Moffat has created for his characters, evoking memories of the Eleventh Doctor’s run, but not in the best of ways. Where some characters interact with others at certain points in time causes some awkward concern, but it ultimately pays off.

Moffat at least does a good job making yet another “scary” episode out of a common occurrence, this time with dreams and nightmares and fears of what lies beneath. A sequence set in a bedroom at night when things really kick off makes for some tense and engaging watching. It’s played perfectly and is certainly a highlight of the episode.

And while earlier beats are questionable, there’s no doubt that Moffat set up a ton of dominoes this episode and swiftly knocks them down in a wonderful flourish near the end. Somewhat predictable, but nevertheless a glorious climax.

Capaldi continues to shine as The Doctor. Yet again seemingly interacting with the audience in a way a little more directly than previous Doctors, but it doesn’t pull you out of things. It just gets you all the more hooked. His humour works well and Capaldi’s eyebrows continue to be a star. That air of curiosity and deadpan no-nonsense is great. A constant refreshing change up from previous Doctors that works well for this incarnation.

Coleman’s series so far has been the best yet. With actual fleshed out character and impact to the stories of recent episodes is great, as is the chemistry between her and Capaldi (which is different with Matt Smith, but all the more effective) as well as her and Anderson. Danny Pink is definitely a character to look out for and the more we get to know about him from this episode makes the eventual Companionship all the more exciting.

Overall Listen is a solid and somewhat scary tale in the world of Doctor Who. It explores more areas of The Doctor that we haven’t yet seen, and it’s another case of Moffat finding the fear in the common world around us. Not on par with anything like Blink, but the concept and the timey-wimey-ness of the episode certainly feels like it’s in that vein.

It all pays off, and that’s all that matters.

But really, when you know next week’s episode is called “Time Heist”, you just want next week to roll around. Because it sounds and looks like the best episode concept since having Dinosaurs on a Spaceship.

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