Listen is an episode, which is determined not to answer any of the questions it asks.
A gothic tale wrapped around the awkwardness of a first date, Listen uses ordinariness to both reassure and terrify the audience in equal measure.
Listen builds on the promise seen in Deep Breath and Into the Dalek, fully utilising Peter Capaldi’s masterful delivery, flipping from comedy to horror, and back again in less time that it takes for me to eat a Jaffa Cake.
Honestly, I love those things.
Clara Oswald is along for every step of this journey, as she occupies something of the character 11th Doctor, with her stories to lift the spirits of fightened children.
There are two ways to review this episode, the first way is of course the most logical, a piecing together of the events that take place throughout the episode, in some attempt to make sense of what happened, or worse than that even, to try and tie it in with what we know WILL happen.
Because, and I’m hoping I’m not popping anyone’s party balloons when I reveal this, but the death of Danny Pink in the penultimate episode of Series 8, makes the events of Listen moot.
But that’s not the first time an entire history has been blinked out of exsistance in this show, way back in the Christopher Eccleston era we were teased with the idea that the human race would some how go onto have a great golden age, The Doctor remembered it, but due to his interference it never happened.
Harriet Jones, one time Prime Minister of Great Britain was also supposed to usher in another golden age, but that never happened, either.
Time lines change, and the voids left behind are filled with other things, and it can be argued that the same thing happens to Clara and Danny and Orson Pink.
Who cares if it never happened, The Doctor and Clara still remember it.
So, let’s not dwell on the negative, instead let’s choose the second option, let’s discuss what made this episode so good.
And on with the review…
Doctor Who has a long tradition of producing excellent horror films…I mean episodes, from The Horror of Fang Rock to Ghost Light, and probably the best defining episode of this trope, Blink, this show knows how to send you running behind your sofa, and more importantly it knows how to keep you there.
For anyone watching Listen, it should be no surprise that it comes from the pen of departing Showrunner Steven Moffat.
Moffat may have his faults as a writer and a Showrunner, but when it comes to producing this sort of episode he never fails to come up with the goods.
Using the familiar staples of various things that may already terrify many if not all of us funeral statues, that space under your bed, he boldly throws logic right out of the window and boldly tells the audience YES, all these things actually want to kill you, or at the least zip you back into the past, and let you live to death.
While Listen has nowhere near the narrative drive of Blink, I don’t think it ever sets out to, in a way it’s a story that allows the audience to pick, which way they want the story to go.
A great example of this is the character of Orson Pink, the audience can choose to interpret him in the same way that Clara does, as a great-grandchild born from the union of Oswald and Pink, or he could just be a man with a passing similarity to Danny, and the same last name.
Inside the episode Listen, all of these things are true and none of them.
Deciding to build the narrative of this episode around Clara and Danny’s first date is in many ways the masterstroke of the story, as it perfectly juxtaposes the action of everyday life, with the strangeness aboard The Tardis, and a Doctor who appears to have gone mad in his own company.
There is of course another reason why having a first date at the heart of this episode works so well, think about it, and maybe this is just me, but how many of us have imagined and pictured an entire life with someone before going on a date with them, houses, children, even weddings, if it goes well you might actually get some of those things, if it goes badly you won’t, and all those imaginary people just vanish, Orson Pink and his tenuous/obvious links to both Clara and Danny is almost a living embodiment of that.
Let’s now leave behind Clara and Danny and Orson, and consider The Doctor in this episode.
While keeping all the plates spinning over the question of Orson Pink’s lineage, Listen, also refuses to answer the question as to whether The Doctor is right about his suspicions of invisible creatures dogging our every steps, or if in fact, after spending far too much time alone in The Tardis with his chalk board, he has in fact finally gone completely off the deep end.
As in Robots of Sherwood, Listen further presses the point home, that the 12th Doctor more than any other recent incarnation, is prepared to prove his point at any cost, even if it means his life.
With some seriously spine chilling moments, and some nice bits of tension breaking comedy, I am happy to give this episode a 10 out of 10, and I urge anyone reading this to put it at the very top of their must watch list.
II would also rate Clara’s cute date night look in this episode an absolute 10.