Imagine a creature whose major adaptive skill is the art of hiding, a creature so good at its talent that its prey don’t even know it’s there until it’s too late. Now imagine if that same creature is the one that’s under your bed at night, you know, the one that grabs your ankle as you dangle it toward the floor. Oh yes, this is going to be a good one on this episode of “Doctor Who.” Hold on tight to the covers, and stay on the bed as you check out my thoughts on “Listen,” after the jump.
This season is racing by quickly. Already we’re up to the fourth episode of the Peter Capaldi Doctor’s tenure, and the reaction is mixed. Some older folks like the fact that he’s playing an old school Doctor in a new school Who-niverse, while some of the newcomers don’t quite know what to make of the older oddster in the role of their previously young cool and quirky hero. What do you think? Me, I haven’t quite made up my mind yet.
Ratings might be a bit down, possibly the result of an older Doctor in place of the young ones, but I think he’ll do. I do like his quirkiness, his eccentricity, and his unpredictability, and although his recklessness with companions that I’ll address later does distress me, I like that too. Peter Capaldi brings a bit of the first four Doctors into play with his incarnation while still being an original himself. The mad man with the mad eyebrows, too much coffee, and the Scottish accent is a unique one indeed. I have a feeling he just going to get madder.
Hide and Listen!
This is a chilling opening sequence, and despite any other problems some viewers may have with showrunner Steven Moffet, chilling is something he does well. He created the Weeping Angels in “Blink” and now here in “Listen,” I think he may be conjuring something just as terrifying. We begin in space, orbiting a planet, Earth perhaps, we see the interior of the TARDIS then pan up to see The Doctor in lotus position on its roof, his eyes open in the already trademark Peter Capaldi mad glare, and he shouts “Listen!” loud enough to make us jump.
Next he’s stalking madly about the inside of the TARDIS control room, talking loudly to himself. If this were a classroom, one might imagine him a passionate professor on crack he is so manic. If Capaldi is going for a ‘mad Doctor’ type, this sequence seals it. The Doctor is theorizing a creature whose primary skill is hiding – how would you know? What would it want? What would you do? And then the piece de resistance… some chalk has moved from where The Doctor left it. He is not alone! Yeah, I got chills too.
The Date with Danny
We flashback to Clara earlier that evening, finally on ‘the date’ with Danny Pink. There were multiple parallels in the episode Samuel Anderson’s Danny Pink first appeared in, “Into the Dalek.” There was his opposite number, Journey Blue, and they were both soldiers, and they both had to kill whether they wanted to or not. There’s also the Pink/Blue color thing. Could Danny be some incarnation of Journey’s brother who died in the opener of that episode?
Despite all that, the date seems to go well for a bit, talking about school, their common ground, and then taking a wrong turn into the killer rumors the kids are spreading about Mr. Pink (no, not that Mr. Pink). The awkwardness of both parties plummet them both into wrecking the date sadly. I’m sure they’ll get together eventually. Clara walks out and goes home… to find The Doctor in her bedroom. No, it’s not what you think. This Doctor doesn’t flirt, remember?
The Nightmare and TARDIS Tricks
The Doctor has picked up Clara after his mad class. He thinks he’s pinpointed the creature. Everyone has the same nightmare, waking up, uneasy, putting feet on floor, and then – the hand comes out from under the bed and grabs your ankle! Holy crap. “Doctor Who” is a show with a reputation for scaring the bejeebers out of kids and adults alike, making them hide behind their sofas. The old school Daleks were bad enough, the new series brought us the Weeping Angels and The Silence, now what has The Doctor (and Steven Moffat) found under our beds?
To track the creature The Doctor does something very intriguing, especially considering what we know about the TARDIS and Clara. He connects Clara’s mind to the mind of the TARDIS. It is a rather unique tracking method to find out where these dreams started (with Clara at least) and also find out what’s under her bed. From this unorthodox union we journey back to Clara’s childhood. Hasn’t it been established previously that the TARDIS, itself a jealous lover of The Doctor (per the brilliant Neil Gaiman), is not exactly fond of Clara? Isn’t this sort of thing just plain dumb as well as reckless on The Doctor’s part?
Rupert and Risk
Supposedly going to Clara’s childhood, there may have been miscalculations, but they have arrived in someone‘s childhood. We can only guess what was on Clara’s mind when matched with the TARDIS because soon Clara comes face to face with a young child named Rupert, Rupert Pink. It’s a stupid name, he’s going to change it. Yeah, you got it. If I didn’t know better, I would say that the Impossible Girl might have an Impossible Boy of her own, else why does he keep showing up?
In hindsight, the threat is rather stupid. Perhaps that is the point. The moments in Rupert’s bedroom as The Doctor confronts or not-confronts the creature on the bed are truly chilling, and truly beyond. Peter Capaldi is a Doctor totally willing to seemingly sacrifice companions and innocent bystanders. There’s no way this Doctor could have hanger-on casual companions like say a Tegan, Nyssa, Mickey, or Martha – they’d get killed quite quickly. Nobody is along for the ride any more without risk.
Wibbly Wobbly Timey Wimey
Another big difference between Peter Capaldi and specifically Christopher Eccleston is this thing about breaking the laws of time and space. Eccleston went bonkers trying to keep Rose Tyler from meeting her dad in the series one episode “Father’s Day” and ending up fighting off weird time-eating monsters because of it. There are rules. Later Doctors however, like David Tennant with his ‘timey wimey wibbly wobbly’ videotape, and the fez and mop toting Matt Smith have no problems messing about with time. Capaldi is no different.
After dropping the concepts that will create the future adult Danny Pink into young Rupert’s head, The Doctor then takes Clara back to her date earlier that night shortly after she took a powder. Whereas older Doctors (and Time Lords in general in the old continuity) would protect time, it seems that the new school Doctors manipulate it to their will. Perhaps absolute power does corrupt absolutely. Maybe our Doctor is turning into something darker… Valeyard anyone? Wouldn’t it be quite a twist if Missy turned out to be The Master or The Rani, on the side of good for once, out to stop an even more evil renegade Time Lord?
The Date with Danny Redux
I find it odd first of all that The Doctor doesn’t seem to understand the connection between Clara and Danny/Rupert, and then even odder that he doesn’t catch on when Clara asks to go back to the date with Danny. He can’t really be that clueless, or that much of a slave to Clara’s whims. Is Capaldi already forgetting one of his own rules? No flirting. All that said, I did like Clara’s lines about what she looked like from the back.
When Clara slips up and calls Danny Rupert, it puts him on the defensive, and he gets up to leave. He doesn’t ‘do weird,’ he tells her. Well, then he is not going to fit in on the TARDIS, not one bit. He wants her to tell him the truth, but before she can explain, she is compelled back to the TARDIS by a man in a spacesuit. The man isn’t The Doctor, but instead revealed to be an older-looking version of Danny, Colonel Orson Pink, from about a hundred years in Clara’s future. I guess that means Danny and Clara will have a second date…
The End of Time
I think we’ve been here before haven’t we? Not just at Milliways or the third act of “Paradise by the Dashboard Light,” I think The Doctor has been here at the end of time before. Here’s another facet of the Peter Capaldi Doctor, he’s not just reckless, or none too bright, he also has holes in his two thousand year old memory. Anyway, the end of time is where Orson Pink came from. He was Earth’s first time traveler, who was tragically overshot to the end of time, rather than some time in the next week. The Doctor agrees to take him home (more time meddling) but it will have to wait overnight. The TARDIS ‘needs to recharge,’ he says. Wait, what? Add deceptive to that lost as well.
The plan is to lie in wait for whatever these creatures are. With Orson, Clara, and The Doctor the last three people alive, the only others would be these hiding creatures, right? That’s where this episode runs off the rails. Clara discovers a sleeping child, hides when someone comes, and then she herself becomes the thing under the bed. So… there’s no monster, but the child… is The Doctor. So are the creatures actually meddling time travelers like The Doctor himself this episode? Is this how the Time Lords of Gallifrey return?
I’m really not sure what happens here and what we’re being told. There is a connection to The War Doctor from “The Day of The Doctor,” as we see the cottage where he contemplated destroying the Daleks and Time Lords in the Time War. Was that where he hung out, in the very place he hid as a child? It was nice to see that tiny bit of trivia from The Doctor’s past, but that’s not the only Gallifreyan connection here.
Is the implication here that Danny Pink is also a Time Lord? We see three different versions of him that may or may not be the same person, and then there’s the matter of Journey Blue’s brother – was he also an incarnation of Danny Pink? The war weary teacher sure bears a startling resemblance to The War Doctor in psychological profile at least… could Danny be a future version of The Doctor himself?
Finally, a bigger mystery than Missy… who is Danny Pink? What do you think?
Next: Time Heist!