Saturday, 13 September 2014

The Preview Review: Doctor Who Series 8 Episode 4: Listen [Spoiler-Free]

(While this review does not contain major spoilers or specifics, some minor things may be given away. It also draws your attention to hints in the episode. Read at your own discretion.)

We've had two dark episodes and a light-hearted episode. Now we have the thrilling top billing bone-chilling heart-drilling underwear-filling episode. Hold onto that sofa because this new Moffat episode could possibly be described as the new Blink. Almost. 

The episode investigates the possibility of evolution evolving a creature that has the perfect hiding ability and cannot be seen, or even detected, unless it wanted to be. What would such a creature do? Are we ever alone? The questions it poses are immensely frightening to think about, however once the episode was over, I felt quite disappointed on this note by the episode, for reasons I will leave alone for the sake of spoilers. 
While a lot of people could compare this episode to Blink, I feel that it draws a lot more parallels with Midnight. For example, there are almost no jump scares, almost the entire opposite of doctor-light and it has scarier thoughts over physical monsters. The episode's director, Douglas Mackinnon, takes the idea that "less is more" to heart in this episode, where it relies greatly on the viewer's imagination.

The cast of this episode is amazingly small. Just Capaldi, Coleman and Anderson. Even the chalkboards hang around longer than some previous guest stars. While we see 'a bit' further development on the Clara/Danny dynamic this episode, this episode is mostly about The Doctor. Capaldi takes his central role with great pleasure (and that's not from the light bulb), especially focusing on his character and his past, which will be greatly debated, while Coleman is focusing on the present, with The Doctor, and her future, with her dates with Danny. This is an important episode for The Doctor and in the process, we see him like we've never him before, including showing Clara that he is the one in control, in a big fit of anger, which is nice and fitting to see with this new Doctor. The Doctor/Clara dynamic is simply improving exponentially this series!
The Clara/Danny development fits the episode very well and contains even more 'cringe' than before (did you know he dug 23 wells?), along with its problems. Danny's head is having better luck connecting with tables than with Clara. Jenna gets to display a much fuller set of emotions, as does Anderson especially in his multiple roles.

We also see another section of the TARDIS console in greater detail that we've never properly seen before (pictured), where the TARDIS is slaved to the thoughts of whoever is linked with it via this section. It's amazing, and a little weird, just how well the TARDIS is behaving itself this series.

On the other hand, I found the new flashing lights of the TARDIS very distracting when the attention is not supposed to be in it, primarily in the opening scene. It doesn't help to set the mood at all.

It's fair to say that Moffat has most certainly put his stamp on the history of Doctor Who (both personal and overall) over his years and this episode follows through on that in no short order, especially through Clara, which some people are already sick of. And the incredibly controversial scene does help to answer one fairly big question that has been around since at least the fourth series, and cause people to ask a lot more. This is especially because it makes the viewers completely forget everything else that has happened.
This episode has an amazing amount of repeated Moffat elements to it as well. Nursery rhymes, monsters hiding under the bed, childhood loneliness, timelines. Amazingly, however, these are put together in a way that makes them all seem new and interesting. Even the one incredibly simple and a bit silly scene, that practically any fan could make, comes off rather well.

As usual, Murray Gold provides some wonderful scores for the episode to accompany Mackinnon's excellently directed shots.

Overall, the episode is a very divisive episode which most will enjoy it and some will hate, especially that one scene everyone is talking about. I would rate this episode 9/10.


Jemmy said...

I love that even those who hold some reservations about the episode acknowledge that it is so exceptional in all of its elements that it deserves at least 9 out of 10. Sounds as though we are in for something truly memorable!

Scarilian said...

It deserves a much lower rating and I'd say it barely deserves a 2/10. The episode doesn't make sense at all as the monsters cannot be real and not real as the episode portrays. I would point out all the issues however I will save that for my own review.
For now I'll just say that the episode takes everything from 'Midnight' and 'Day Of The Moon' and the idea of Clara having such a massive influence on the Doctor feels insulting.

cuddy2977 said...

Actually, Id argue it’s not about the Dr: it’s ALL about Clara.

GuessWho said...

The ending was clever and in many ways leaves it up to the viewer to decide whether the 'monsters' are real or not... My view is that they are and that the reason Clara is so keen to stop the Doctor looking for them is because she realises that his curiosity will get him killed... he HAS to know for knowings sake... So she convinces him they are not real and just a figment of his imagination... But what if she's wrong... What if there's one standing behind you right now as you read this?

Guess what I had a nightmare about on Saturday night? And I'll be 50 soon!

CrypticPunk said...

Many publications in the US are calling it the best Dr Who Episode of all time. I and everyone I know here in the states, disagree with the review here completely. I agree, it is one of the best ever of the new series. And anyone of the new series is better than the old series.

robvanriot said...

Well you're most certainly in the minority there.

Janus002 said...

I could not agree more. This ep started out strong but just became confused by the end and it dropped several of it's own ideas. The mood was good but it just came off as contrived not to mention getting too close to the Doctor's history which needs to be left out of the show to retain some mystery. Clara is too much the focus of this season and the Doctor just seems to amble about with not much to do.

Scarilian said...

When the majority believe that Twilight is a good film, that the Michael Bay Transformers films are good and that every episode is 10/10... I'm happy to be in the minority that realise how bad this episode is.

Scarilian said...


Their is no audience decision about it, we literally saw it ¬_¬

robvanriot said...

Assuming intellectual superiority is always a good sign when entering a debate, isn't it?

Opinions are like arseholes, sir. All of us have them, most of them are full of shit, and yours most certainly is.

Scarilian said...

You attempted to do the intellectual superiority first, claiming that I was in the minority in order to devalue my opinion. Now you are complaining because I defended my opinion and claiming my opinion is 'shit' and you expect to last on this website long?

robvanriot said...

All I observed is that you were in the minority. If you took that as a slight against your intellect, you're a very paranoid soul.

I have no expectation about lasting any finite amount of time on this website. What a bizarre thing to ask. Do you have hobbies?