JON KANEKO-JAMES says Doctor Who’s ‘Listen’ is a tense and spooky episode
Doctor Who series eight has seen Steven Moffat’s production team try to return to many of the things that was good about the early Davies era, while developing many of the good things everyone hoped we’d get when Moffat took over, and so far they’ve succeeded.
I haven’t had this much enthusiasm for the show since the glory days of the Eccleston/Tennant era.
Episode four, titled Listen, is a return to the good old “Here’s the episode where Steven Moffat scares the pants off us” days.
Listen tries to evoke the lonely stillness of the early hours of the morning, the haunted hours where sounds seem strange and the stillness of an empty, well-lit corridor can seem sinister.
For the most part, as far as a I felt, it succeeded.
Listen doesn’t feel claustrophobic, it feels lonely.
There are several scenes that feel tense and very spooky, as if the characters were the only people in the world
(It should be noted there actually are a couple of scenes at the end of the world, but I’m not talking about those. Even the scenes where the characters are supposed to be on Earth succeed in evoking a sense of emptiness, which I was very impressed by.)
The premise is typical Moffat, taking something commonplace and rehabilitating it into something horrifying, and quite successfully.
Jenna Coleman continues to do well in the role of Clara, her purpose energised by the fact that the Doctor’s writing team have relinquished his omnipotence, and the relationship between her character and the ex-soldier Danny Pink continues to be excellently characterised (with hints that they might be linked by something more than just romance).
We also see a new use of the Tardis telepathic circuits, with Clara operating the ship (something that I’m fairly happy with, since the characters Nyssa and Turlough were completely able to operate it during the Davidson era.)
The plot itself is nicely creepy, exploring all the things that keep us awake and spook us in the early hours on the morning, giving them a spin that would have made The Silence much cooler than they actually were.
There are things that I could see aggravating die-hard fans. Some elements of the continuity from the Big Finish Audio Dramas and Virgin novel series are seriously overwritten… but I’m not that bothered.
If we’re being honest, while I thought there were some great Missing Adventures novels, there were also some pretty bad ones (like Strange England, or the phase where the Doctor was travelling with a Judge Dread ripoff for a companion.)
The particular storyline that Moffat has overwritten does have some followers, and does have a link to the Classic series… but I always found it troubling anyway.
Just like the TV Movie’s assertion that the Doctor was half human, some of the Virgin novels added backstory to the Doctor that I felt took away from the character.
If anything, other than a continuation of Clara’s ‘Impossible Girl’ plotline (which some will hate because they hate the character of Clara), Listen takes the continuity and very gently sets it back on track to where the Doctor stood on the 23rd of November 1963: a grandfather, who has presumably had a wife and children, and has a granddaughter.
Personally, I think that raises a much more interesting set of story questions than the alternative.
JON KANEKO-JAMES of Boo Tours, which runs ghost and supernatural tours around London, including talks about human skin covered books. Check out Boo Tours website is www.bootours.com.