Review: “Doctor Who – Listen” (TV Show Episode)

2014 Artwork Doctor Who listen review sketch

Well, I’ve just watched the latest episode of “Doctor Who” on TV and I thought that I’d write a review of it. As I say every week, I’m not sure if I’ll review all of the episodes of this new series – but I’ll try to look at as many as I can.

But, before I go any further, I should point out that this review will contain MAJOR SPOILERS. You have been warned.

“Listen” is the fourth episode of the new series of “Doctor Who” and it begins with the Doctor wandering around the TARDIS and giving us an ominously theatrical monologue about nightmares and creatures lurking in the dark.

Then we see Clara finally going on a date with Danny Pink (the ex-military teacher at the school she works at). The date ends terribly and Clara goes home early after she starts an argument by making stupid comments about Danny’s military past.

But, when Clara gets home, the Doctor is waiting for her and asks her to join him in the TARDIS. He begins to tell her about a recurring nightmare (about something lurking under the bed) that everyone has had at some point in their lives before asking her to link her mind to the TARDIS in order to allow him to investigate this.

The rest of the episode is spent travelling through Clara’s timeline, the Doctor’s timeline and, unintentionally, Danny’s timeline too.

If this all sounds confusing, that’s because it is. Some parts of the episode (eg: the mysterious ghost under the sheet in the orphanage) aren’t quite resolved properly and they still don’t quite make sense. Not only that, the whole episode itself is more bizarre than anything else and not in a good way.

Whilst it starts out as an interesting horror episode and the first half of the episode is suitably ominous and creepy, it suddenly changes direction and just becomes a fairly ordinary “time travel” episode where all of the characters inadvertently end up changing each other’s timelines.

Yes, I understand that this was meant to be a clever plot twist and that many of the “mysterious” events in the episode are actually due to time travel, but some of them are still left unexplained and, all in all, this is kind of unsatisfying.

Don’t get me wrong, I love clever stories about time paradoxes, but the story in this episode just comes across as contrived and convoluted rather than sharply written and ingeniously-plotted.

Yes, a couple of the plot twists are quite clever (eg: why Danny decides to become a soldier and why the Doctor has nightmares about people lurking under the bed) but, for every clever plot twist, there’s at least one that doesn’t quite make sense.

In addition to this, “Listen” is also more of a character-based episode too and the emphasis is firmly on the characters rather than on interesting set design or on special effects (the less said about both, the better). Whilst this can be a very good thing for TV shows to do if the dialogue is well-written enough and the characters are interesting enough, this isn’t quite the case with this episode.

The Doctor is, well, the same as he is in every episode and so is Clara. As I’ve said in previous reviews, the chemistry between these two characters isn’t really as good as it was when Matt Smith was the Doctor. Not only that, Clara’s date with Danny near the beginning of the episode is so awkward that it’s almost painful to watch.

So, whilst I like “Doctor Who”, I think that this season needs to focus more on interesting stories rather than wallowing in the relationships between the characters.

About the only vaguely interesting character in this episode is probably Danny and, whilst we get to learn a little bit about his backstory, he still comes across as a fairly “ordinary” character for most of the episode.

All in all, this is probably one of the weaker episodes of the new series. Parts of the plot don’t make sense, the set designs are fairly boring and I’m hoping that this was the one “bottle episode” of the series, since this is the only possible explanation for its quality.

Still, the preview of the next episode shows the Doctor and Clara trying to break into some kind of futuristic bank – so hopefully the series will get back to form next week.

If I had to give “Listen” a rating out of five, it would get two and a half.

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