Reviewed by Owen Bush.
Doctor Who has always been a show to free you from the boundaries of normality, to inspire, to reveal the adventure in all of this that sometimes gets lost within the illusions of age, and I’ve always loved that fact, Doctor Who is a show, unlike many others, that teaches you many ambiguous lessons and moral stories, within such an eloquently crafted 45 minute family setting, filled with action, romance and ambition. Whilst many tell a similarly subtle message, I’ve never found an episode that leaves me with such a tingle than that of Listen, an episode that, albeit, not perfect, showed such a sophisticated moral accomplishment that any flaws would, for me, vanquish, for the Doctor’s naivety and child-like mentality is one we can all relate to when facing our fears – Listen, is an episode that shows the Doctor in a more human light that ever.
For me, the best episode of Series 8 (Mummy on the Orient Express and Dark Water follow just behind), Listen almost fluctuates between a comedic cliched collection of human experiences of fear, to the sinister and foreboding sense of tragedy and it’s effect on the Doctor – and that these two largely contrasting ideas, are actually very similar. It baffled me as people continued to reject any story Moffat came out with, for every episode has some sort of similarity to another and even if you do encounter some “Moffat-tropes”, they never diminish the achievement that is an ambitious, rich, raw, bitter and beautiful story that mixes the ideologies of fear from everyone – whether you’re a Time Lord, a human, on a date, or scared of a bed time nightmare, we all encounter it, and we all become children again.
Okay, okay, yes, the whole Danny plot-line of Series 8 was loathed by the majority of fans (unfortunately I’m included in that majority), due to its tediously teasing nature whilst actually never delivering – it wasn’t the biggest success in the series, however, I did manage to capture this flame in the episode, even if it was a rare significance in terms of the bigger picture. For me, it was Clara (I’ll get onto her more later) whom managed to persuade me, due to her fear, that this was a relationship worth fighting for. There I was, almost thinking to myself that I’d really wish they’d put things behind them, face their fear, and fight everything together, because this was where we saw their couple in the most relatable state – no pantomime nonsense, this was a battling relationship, based on trust and anxiety – and we’ve all been there.
Listen, for me, focuses on many things, but from The Doctor’s perspective, it’s his huge childlike mentality, his naivety due to his immense fear, almost reminds us of how human he really is. The Doctor feels fear just as anyone else, and within this, his lack of judgement and sensitivity almost ruins him – the concept here is that fear is important to us, it doesn’t need to be objectified or overcome, fear is necessary to survival, fear makes us all, like The Doctor, who we are today.
Ahh, the mystery of thousands of eagerly angry and bitter fans as they frowned in annoyance of whether or not there was actually a monster or not, but once again, Moffat tricks us all into believing we know how Doctor Who works, he is the ace player, he has the quickest slight-of-hand, and he certainly knows how to fool us all – and that, is why I love him so damn much.
Listen is Moffat warning us of the tragedies of fear, how, so easily, we fall behind a blanket of terror and why sometimes things are just things and there really is nothing to be afraid of.
“What if the big bad Time Lord doesn’t want to admit he’s just afraid of the dark.”
I’m still majorly confused how Clara Oswald isn’t recognised for the sensation that she is, that astoundingly magic and emotive speech will go down as one of my all-time favourites in the show – and in television in general. I think that really confirmed how special this episode was, for it eliminated any dodgy direction or muffled pace, because in reality, the episode had a core, rich and suitable message that was executed with passion and honesty.
The nod to The Day of The Doctor and The War Doctor didn’t feel like it was there for appreciation or admiration, but because it fit perfectly with the tone of the episode, The Doctor will never feel more fear than in that barn, he rivals his mistakes, and he tackles the tragedy that encompassed him – fear made him change, fear made him his own companion.
Listen will remain as a relic for teaching, it’s a story that has a subtly necessary moral high-ground. Weirdly, it refracts from pretty much everything that will be seen in a usual Who episode, yet it feels like it would fit nowhere else, for this tale of tragedy and fear is one that perfectly reminds us that we’re all so similar in our battles and we all need each other to pass through that fear – for even The Doctor, a man, hundreds, possibly thousands of years old, whom has battled everything and anything around him, still needs to know that fear makes us strong and that fear is not to be feared.
Tomorrow, Harris will take you inside the Bank of Karabraxos with Time Heist!