Doctor Who Recap: “Listen”
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This episode guys. THIS EPISODE. I’m not sure I’m the best person to write a recap, because I feel woefully uninformed. One time I read an interview with Steven Moffat where he said that he’s such a huge fan of the show that he never has to look up archives or anything when he writes. He can pull a reference from early Who right out of the recesses of his obsessive mind. His writing is problematic at times, but damn is he good at the timey-wimey twisting snake-eating-its-own-tail kind of thing. I admire that skill. I don’t have Moffat’s encyclopedic knowledge of the Whoniverse, but I do my best. I hope I can do Listen the justice it deserves.
The episode opens with the Doctor doing some casual meditation. In space. On the roof of the TARDIS.
He’s talking to himself when back in the control room.
Doctor: Why do we talk out loud when we know we’re alone? Conjecture–because we’re not.
He postulates (using his excessively ridiculous chalkboard) that there could be a being that has evolved “perfect hiding.” If there were a creature like that, how would we know it existed at all? We watch him convince himself that surely, a creature like that must exist. Fans of the show start to wonder–how long has he been goofing off by himself this time? He gets weird when he’s alone too much.
At one point, the Doctor sets his chalk down and asks the hypothetical being, “what would you do [if you could hide completely]?” When he turns back, the chalk is on the floor and the chalkboard has been erased, with one word written on it:
We return to another back-and-forth in time scene where we see Clara’s first date with Danny Pink go terribly wrong. Danny Pink is still uncomfortably attractive and even more uncomfortably adorable.
Danny: Straight to dinner. (as in, they skipped the drink idea from the last episode and went right for dinner)
Clara: I like a man who moves fast.
Danny: Yeah? I might go straight for extras. Afters. Dessert. Straight to dessert.
Most adorable and awkward award goes to Danny Pink. Cool. In between this banter we see Clara looking very put out at her house, smacking herself in the face with her own purse. I have been on that date, Clara, I feel you.
We see them try to make conversation, then Clara puts her foot in it:
Clara: She said she couldn’t concentrate on her work because my face was too wide. I could kill that girl some days. (Referring to a student)
Danny: Me too.
Clara: And coming from you that means something.
Record scratch, screeching halt to fun. Nothing kills a mood faster than mentioning how a guy used to kill people for a living. Danny takes offense, and tells her in clipped tones how he also dug wells and protected innocent people. Clara gets defensive, like you do, and eventually gets up and leaves the date in a beautifully written huff. I like her now, and I’m so very glad for it. She’s a person, not a plot device.
Danny headdesks the table. I loved him right from the start.
At home, she goes to her bedroom and discovers the Doctor and the TARDIS in her bedroom.
Side note: He proceeds to wonder why she has three mirrors and makes further disparaging comments about her appearance. PROBLEMATIC. This is starting to really annoy me, but at the same time I like how it parallels her earlier complaints about a student commenting on her appearance. I feel like we’re being told how juvenile the Doctor is right now. He’s functionally yanking on her pigtails. What I think Moffat might be missing here is that when boys do that to girls, girls learn that they must simply put up with this kind of treatment. It’s a part of rape culture in my opinion, and it isn’t all that cute. I wish he’d found another way to show us the Doctor’s childishness.
Anyway, he talks her into going with him even though she is reluctant. He starts ranting about this “being” he’s curious about, the one who can hide perfectly. She asks him how long he’s been traveling alone (see? We all wonder that when he’s being weird). He ignores the question and tells her about a nightmare that he’s been researching, a sort of universal bad dream.
Doctor: You wake up in the dark, and you don’t feel like you’re alone. You sit up, turn on the light, and the room looks different at night. It makes noises you don’t recognize. You tell yourself there’s no one there. You almost believe it–you really, really try. And then–
Clara asks the Doctor if he’s had that dream. He manages to turn it around on her and not answer the question. She admits sure, she’s probably had a dream about someone under the bed, everyone has. He’s like, EXACTLY.
So, he puts her hands in some goo on the control panel of the TARDIS. TARDIS control goo. The goo that controls the TARDIS.
Doctor Who long time fans: has this goo appeared before? I don’t know. The idea is that the TARDIS somehow uses the goo connection to Clara to go back to the point in her timeline where she had the creepy under the bed dream. I assume the Doctor wants to roll in and glance under her bed right then. Seems recklessly close to messing with the timeline of Clara’s life, but eh I guess he’s fine with it since the TARDIS has a Paradox Machine (I assume it’s fixed now, but what do I know?)
Just as he’s telling her she must concentrate very hard on this one point in time, her cell phone rings. She assumes it’s Danny and gets distracted thinking about him (naturally). As a result, the TARDIS lands somewhere Clara doesn’t recognize.
Side note: Right before they exit the TARDIS, Clara goes to pull her hands out of the goo but she can’t. It made me wonder whether the TARDIS ever decided she likes Clara–or not. At the beginning, she really didn’t, remember?
Side side note: while googling, I found this. You’re welcome.
So the Doctor ignores Clara’s protestations that she’s never been where the TARDIS landed, and Clara ignores the Doctor’s request to stay in the TARDIS. It’s good to know somethings never change, no matter which companion we’re talking about. Clara sees a tiny kid who looks a lot like grown up Daniel Pink in an upstairs window and realizes what’s happened–she gotten distracted and traveled to the wrong child’s nightmare.
She and the kid have a conversation–she on the grass, he in his window. He tells her his name is Rupert Pink but he hates the name Rupert. Someday, he says, he’s going to change it. We already know that, though.
While Clara sneaks upstairs to talk to baby Pink, the Doctor has a creepy conversation with the night watchman. The house seems to be some kind of orphanage/children’s home. He flashes psychic paper (yay) and tells the guy he’s an inspector. The Docotor asks the night guy if he’s ever put his coffee down and lost it, and if he ever talks to himself. The guy confirms that both things happen to people all the time. As they’re speaking, the television shuts itself off. The guy turns around, telling the Doctor it happens all the time too. When he looks back, the Doctor and his coffee are both gone.
Creepsauce. At least for a moment.
Clara finds Dan–I mean Rupert–huddling in the corner of his room. She’s super great with kids, which we’ve been told many times but haven’t had a chance to really witness. She asks Rupert if he had a dream about someone under the bed, he says yes. She comforts him, telling him dreams aren’t real, and gets under the bed herself. He joins her.
Rupert: Sometimes I hear noises.
Clara: It’s a house full of people, of course you hear noises.
Rupert: They’re all asleep.
Clara: They’re all dreaming.
Rupert: Can you hear dreams?
Clara: If you’re clever enough. They can’t harm you.
Just about now, something gets on the bed and it is fucking CREEPY. Clara starts to reconsider her whole “dreams aren’t real” stance. She asks if someone else is in the room, or if someone came in, and Rupert’s like “oh hells no get me out of here right now” and the audience agrees with him.
Clara climbs out from under the bed to see this:
Clara decides it’s another kid pulling a prank, so she’s not scared. She tells the kid this shit isn’t funny. Whatever’s under the blanket doesn’t respond. Eventually it stands up, and even Clara figures that kids pulling pranks don’t act weird like this. She starts to freak, and then the Doctor makes his presence known–he’s sitting in the corner of the room.
He gives Dan–Rupert–this beautiful speech. As a person who suffers from anxiety disorder, and therefore someone who is scared a lot, I think I might need this speech on a poster. Scared, he tells Rupert, is a superpower. Being scared makes you stronger, faster, and more alert. Only losers aren’t scared, being scared is bad ass. I might have discovered that some dust was making my eyes water during this speech.
The Doctor has everyone turn their back on the thing on the bed. He tells them not to look, not to peek or anything. Even the Doctor seems scared. As viewers, we see the thing, still covered with a blanket, get off the fucking bed and stand RIGHT BEHIND THEM.
Seriously I’m rewatching and pausing to write and I’m still getting a little freaked out. Anyway, the Doctor tells the thing they promise not to look, makes Rupert promise not to look. The blanket falls off the thing. There’s a brief flash of its face from the audience’s POV but it is not clear what we’re looking at. Eventually, it vanishes, slamming the door on it’s way out. Weirdly, even though the blanket came off, it is gone when the thing leaves.
Stone Cold Rupert: He took my bedspread
Doctor: Oh the human race. Never happy, are you?
The Doctor goes on to talk about creepy things in the dark and Clara tells him to shut up. She’s got it from here. She puts some army guys around the bed to “guard” it, and they name a special one the boss. He doesn’t have a gun, and he doesn’t need one because he’s super brave. Rupert says, “I want to name him Dan–Dan the solider man.” We all go “duh.” Rupert asks Clara to read him a story, but the Doctor uses his magic Time Lord powers to knock Rupert out with a touch of the finger. “Dad skills,” he calls it. We’re all reminded the Doctor has lived a long, long life.
Back on the TARDIS, the Doctor is finally wondering why Clara’s psychic goo connection landed them with Rupert. She hems and haws and finally asks him to do her a favor–give her another chance at that shitty date with Daniel. There’s another moment for the Doctor to insult her as they watch her walk away from the date (before she can re-enter, timey-wimey). I still hate this, but I do love that Clara’s like “fuck you dude I look awesome from the back.”
She finds Pink with his head still firmly desking on the table. She apologizes, and tries to talk to him about his childhood, calling him Rupert in the process. Understandably, he freaks the everloving fuck out because how did she know that? She’s a terrible liar (no like WOAH BAD LIAR), and he decides he’s had enough of this weird fucking date for one evening. At the same time, an astronaut shows up in the restaurant to beckon Clara back to the TARDIS.
She assumes it’s the Doctor in the suit, but it isn’t. It’s a guy named Orson Pink, from (according to the Doctor) 100 years in Clara’s future. He looks a lot like Daniel Pink also. Now we’re all wondering if Clara and Daniel do manage to hook up after all, and is this her many times removed grandson? Enjoy wondering, we are never sure. Neither is Clara–but she’s clearly freaking the heck out. Can’t blame her, really. The Doctor asks if she has any connection to him, and she’s like “how would I know,” but as we saw just a minute ago she’s a bad liar. The Doctor doesn’t seem to notice, though. He goes on to ask if Orson has any old pictures of Clara, probably fat-looking. I HATE this mechanic now, Moffat, can we stop?
The guy says he doesn’t. We are told he’s one of humanity’s first time travelers, meant to be sent a week ahead but accidentally overshot to the end of the universe and time itself. The Doctor tells us the TARDIS isn’t supposed to go this far, but some idiot turned the safeguards off. Sounds about right.
Side note: End of the universe, eh? Doesn’t this remind you of the planet of the Toclafane? Called UTOPIA? Connection with heaven or the promised land?!? Or am I just being too thinky? Or do I just really miss Jack Harkness and am I always looking for reasons I might see his beautiful self again? Probably that.
There’s nothing outside the time traveler’s capsule. The universe is mostly dead.
Doctor: This is the silence at the end of time.
All of us: AAAAHHHHHHHHH
There’s some awkward moments here where Clara privately wonders if she’s given birth to this kid’s grandpa or whatever. He whips out an old “family heirloom” and hints at the fact that time travel runs in his family. Family heirloom? Dan the plastic soldier man. Yep. So are they related? Isn’t it wildly irresponsible to introduce Clara to her own descendant? It could be that they’re just chasing Pink’s timeline with nothing to do with Clara. He decides to give her the solider. She’s like, dude it’s a family heirloom. He’s like, yeah. We all go “WHAT EVEN?”
The Doctor tells Orson they have to spend one more night on creepy end of the universe planet. Orson is like “no thank you.” He knows he’s alone, but he locks the door at night because he’s freaked the fuck out. After six months as the theoretically only living thing in the universe, I’d be freaking out too. He’s pretty damn glad someone came to get him.
The Doctor and Clara start to hear noises outside the capsule–hissing, clanking, etc. Creepy. Eventually, there’s what sounds like a knock at the door. It happens three times, then again, then again. It’s vaguely reminiscent of both Midnight and The Sound of Drums. The Doctor decides to unlock the door and see who’s knocking. He gets super bossy with Clara, who is trying to talk him out of opening the door. He ignores her as usual. She says why are you pushing this? He says that he needs to know. This seems to be his biggest weakness and coolest quality, really.
Doctor: What’s that in the mirror or the corner of your eye? What’s that footstep following, but never passing by?
Clara: Did we come to the end of the universe because of a nursery rhyme?
The Doctor tells her to get in the TARDIS. He’s scared, really scared. He yells at her, tells her to listen like no companion ever fucking will. He’s freaked enough to tell her if she doesn’t listen, he won’t take her anywhere ever again. She calls him an idiot. I hate it when mom and dad fight.
Doctor: Perhaps they’re all just waiting. Perhaps when we’re all dead. Out they’ll come a-slithering from underneath the bed.
Me: AAAHHHHHHH (meanwhile the door is opening itself, freaKY)
>>There’s a commercial for that U2 album everyone non-consentually got in their itunes and I laugh<<
Clara and Orson watch from inside the TARDIS, but of course the camera glitches and we don’t see what happens. Next we know, the alarm is going off and Orson says the air shell that was creating atmosphere around the capsule was breached and the camera cuts back in to show the Doctor barely holding on while everything is flying by him and out into the vacuum. There’s nothing else in there with him.
Orson goes to save him in the orange astronaut suit we’ve seen so often from that time in human history (like 100 years after us-ish). The Doctor sustains a bump on the head and passes out. I love it when the Doctor passes out in this show, because all the cool shit happens when he’s asleep.
The TARDIS starts to shake and there are banging noises outside, and instead of sticking around Clara decides to stick her fingers in the goo and fly them somewhere else. She doesn’t know where, really, she kind of lets the TARDIS decide. As if the TARDIS doesn’t always decide, heh heh. After convincing Orson to stay inside in case of other timeline-crossing mishaps, she emerges into a barn. There’s a crying child in a bed in the hayloft.
Is it Rupert? Is it baby Orson? No, just some mystery kid crying and hiding under his covers. Some adults come in, and Clara dives under the bed so they don’t see her.
Guy: Why does he have to sleep out here?
Gal: He doesn’t want the others to hear him crying.
Guy: Why does he have to cry all the time?
Gal: You know why.
They try to talk the kid in to going inside. The lady adult tells him he doesn’t have to be alone. The kid ignores them.
Guy: He can’t just run away crying all the time if he wants to join the army.
Gal: He doesn’t want to join the army, I keep telling you.
Guy: Well he’s not going to the academy is he, that boy? He’ll never make a Time Lord.
All of us: OHHHH MYYYY GOOOOOSHHHHH (well I might have said holy fuck. Either way.)
In pre-reboot Who, we are told that he’s not a very good student, our Doctor. (go here, scroll down to “personality.”) Evidently, even his caretakers knew it.
Clara realizes where she is the same second we do. Oh shitballs.
Baby Doctor cries some more, then goes to get out of bed. Clara panics–what if he sees her? Without another thought, she grabs him around the ankle, tells him she’s a dream and convinces him (through terror, I suspect) to get back into bed without looking.
She returns to the TARDIS with those wide Clara eyes and says “so, what if there was never anything in the dark after all? We should just leave.”
Doctor: I don’t take orders, Clara
Clara: Do as your told.
Aw yiss girl, get it. I am proud of her, and so must he be, because he consents. The TARDIS dematerializes.
They pull another timey-wimey thing where we watch Clara convince the Doctor not to go outside the TARDIS, and we watch her talk to his younger self while he hides under the covers, weeping.
Out of what can only be soul-crushing guilt for creating a 2000-year-old man’s darkest nightmare, she gives the baby Doctor the most beautiful speech about fear. Some of it is cribbed from what he said to Rupert earlier and some of it her own work.
You guys. THIS SPEECH. I want it on a poster so bad, and I want to hang it up where my anxious mind can read it every day. It’s beautiful, and powerful, and deeply touching. It got very dusty again in my house.
And that’s not even the coolest part. The coolest part is that she says a certain line, a line the doctor says in the FIRST GOD DAMNED EPISODE of the show (okay technically the third, because the show used to run in like six episode arcs but they were all one “episode.” So this is the third in the arc.) Check it out:
Fear makes companions of all of us.
Side note: Say what you want about Moffat. I will, too, because sometimes his portrayal of women bugs me. But his writing, guys. He doesn’t do things on accident, not ever. These last five minutes of the show were a love letter Moffat wrote to his Doctor, and I love it when he writes like this. I feel like I’m eight years old again; huddled on the floor in a blanket past my bedtime and struggling to stay awake to see what Tom Baker is going to do about those daleks. He writes to the Doctor what I want to say to the Doctor (and the people that bring him to life every week).
Interspersed with Clara’s monologue on fear (where she tells him–“listen”) are scenes where she hugs the Doctor and he runs away. He’s not here for hugging, apparently.
They take Orson home, and dude must be hella relieved.
And then this happens, which isn’t as annoying to me as I wish it were because I am SO HERE FOR DANIEL PINK.
At the end of the speech she mentions that “one day, he’ll come back to this barn.” We see this, briefly:
Oh right they’re in THAT barn. The barn he returns to in Day of the Doctor to decide what to do about the Time War.
Side note: Are we on Gallifrey? Is that even possible? Or did the Doctor grow up on some nearby planet, maybe a colonist? I don’t know and as far as I can tell the internet is divided on the issue. I thought maybe finding Gallifrey and bringing the Time Lords home might be a focus of this season and Capaldi’s doctor, and he has been doing an awful lot of mysterious calculations. Maybe he and the TARDIS have made some progress? I’m doing the over thinking thing again aren’t I?
In the very end she leaves Dan the plastic soldier man with the child Doctor and heads back to the TARDIS. It’s very lovely.
I’m left to wonder–did he recognize the soldier she left him? He was annoyed by it but he’s annoyed by everything that is cute and/or nice right now. I *think* they imply at the very end that he remembers clearly and puts the pieces together at the very end of the episode, because you see this scene:
In any case, the episode ends. I’m left with some questions.
Did the Doctor write the first “listen” on his chalkboard himself, drop the chalk, and then instantly forget the whole thing? (I still am kind of wondering if there isn’t a Silence thing happening here. Moffat certainly flirts with it.)
Did he remember her under his bed, and give up on his quest for the “being” who could “hide perfectly?”
What the everloving fuck was on Rupert’s bed? If that was a kid playing a prank (which most of the internet seems to believe right now), I’ve never seen a more stoic kid. Not one giggle or sigh, just dead silence and creepy shit behavior. I am not buying it.
Was there something banging on the outside of Orson’s pod?
Is Clara Orson’s great-great grandmother? Or when he referred to a family member who could time travel, could he have been referring to Daniel?
Does the TARDIS like Clara now? Or is she still not sure?
And of course–Where the fuck is Missy and all that heaven shit? Is Utopia/end of the universe related? Or just a coincidence. And can I get a nice rare steak there?
Next week: Gringots. Or maybe Ocean’s Eleven. We’ll see!
(images: screencaps from http://kissthemgoodbye.net/)