This episode of ‘Doctor Who’ is like none you have every seen before. Whether this is good or bad… well… that is entirely up to you.
Up until now– and when I say “up until” in ‘Doctor Who’, please know I say an “up until” with over fifty years of weight behind it– the Doctor has almost been passive in his adventuring. He finds a place he’s interested in, and then it just happens that something dramatic is going on there. Sure, when he takes the TARDIS somewhere, it always lands him in a crisis, but this is the first time the Doctor has actually actively sought a crisis out.
In ‘Listen’, the Doctor begins to muse on why he talks out loud. His conclusion? There is actually someone there to listen. Who is that someone? Well, the Doctor concludes it must be that thing that everyone thinks is under their bed when they were a small child.
That is absolutely perfect logic right there…
So the Doctor decides to find this creature that he apparently talks to when he’s alone. Clara intimates that between his visits with her, he’s spent too much time traveling alone (an allusion to Orson Pink’s struggles when he accidentally time-traveled to the last planet in the universe and imagined ghosts knocking on his spaceship door when it was in fact just the spaceships shifting in the night). He uses Clara to find a time when she was asleep and dreamt of the monster under the bed in order to… I guess confront it.
Clara gets a phone call from Danny Pink (who she is trying to date, but keeps offending but also gets offended by), and it distracts her so they end up at Danny’s childhood where he is having that dream. Clara becomes super nanny in the most endearing way (have I mentioned she’s growing on me this season?), and tells Rupert nothing is under the bed but her, and climbs under. After inviting him to join her so he would see it’s fine, the bed sinks…. which is the scariest moment in ‘Doctor Who’ ever, and you cannot tell me otherwise.
The Doctor comes in (which doesn’t freak little Danny out), and tells them to turn their back on the person who was on the bed so it can leave, and it eventually does. Then the Doctor leaves and searches out the thing that could possibly just have been another kid trying to play a prank but may be a scary alien. That’s how he ends up at the end of the universe opening a hatch on a spaceship door while Clara hides in the TARDIS.
After he gets knocked out while things fly in the air because he OPENED A HATCH IN A NON PRESSURIZED ENVIRONMENT, Clara and what is probably her descendent that looks exactly like her crush, escape in the TARDIS back to the Doctor’s moment when he had the dream of someone under the bed. Only, that someone is really just Clara trying to hide from his child self, and keep him from going out and seeing himself (I assume this is because earlier he suggested to her that seeing herself in an alternate time line would have dire consequences– which is canonically not true, as Amy and Rory waved to themselves once and episodes like “Time Crash” and “The Five Doctors” exist, but Clara believes it).
Essentially, “Listen” is the scariest episode dedicated to assuring kids that the things under the bed are just Clara. It’s true. Didn’t you know? Every time there is a monster under the bed, it’s just an echo of Clara in the Doctor’s past hiding underneath his bed (which is inexplicably in a barn) grabbing his ankle and assuring him it’s all a dream because that’s… comforting.
To summarize, “Listen” is about the Doctor inventing an enemy for himself and letting it completely freak him out.
But did he really invent an enemy? Because in Rupert/Possibly-Danny’s room, the creature under the blanket was almost assuredly not just a kid. People have been citing this as a plot hole on my social media (which is silly, because there is something blurred and terrifying under that blanket, I briefly saw it!), but I think it means that this is going to be an enemy in the future.
Though, one wonders how it differs from the The Silence. After all, the Doctor’s monologue in the beginning talks about how there are creatures who evolve with perfect defenses, and perfect offenses, but if any creature evolved with perfect hiding, we would never know….
…He definitely just described The Silence, didn’t he? As any time a Silence is witnessed, a person immediately forgets it, that would suggest they are this “hiding” creature the Doctor illustrates.
Except, oh wait, Moffat promised a new enemy. So, it looks like we have a new thing to be worried about that we can’t see. Great. I was hoping to sleep tonight, but it looks like that isn’t going to happen.
“Listen”, as interesting as it was unusual, and so far my favorite episode of the series despite the fact that nothing really gets solved and it invited more questions than answers (like, just who is Danny Pink to Clara’s story?). The Doctor was less caustic, and more manic than he’s been, making the darkness of his character stand out against the darkness that laces the edges of the other Doctors up until now.
I’m very excited to see what’s going to happen next, and not just because Captain John Hart totally showed up in the preview for the next episode “Time Heist”, marking the first time Moffat has ever referenced ‘Torchwood’ in ‘Doctor Who’.
So I give this episode
See you next week!