Yeah. NOW we’re cooking.
After what, with the best will in the world, could be called a mediocre start to the season, Doctor Who finally delivered its first truly great episode.
Listen is a curious beast and all the better for it. We’re never quite sure whether we’re up against: is there an actual monster or are we just being paranoid? The sense of unease and dread is simply glorious!
Moffat draws us right in be doing what he does best: playing on childhood fears; dabbling with the edges of perception. Even the relationship stuff works incredibly well and is awkward and excruciating enough to have been culled from ‘Coupling’.
There are, of course, plenty of nods to many other stories. This is something I consider to be a touch masturbatory and clever-clever and has ruined previous episodes in this series. Some of the references have been outright steals, but for this episode it works. God does it work!
So we have references to previous Moffat stories: Angels (Look/don’t look), Satan Pit (Don’t Turn ROund (again), Girl in the Fireplace (something under the bed; a companion meeting a child version of the boyfriend? Straight from ‘Fathers Days’ and of course, Day of the Doctor. An unexpected body swap? Amy in The Pandorica instead of the Doctor/Orson Pink instead of the Doctor. There was even a Tom Baker reference in a snatch of dialogue.
This episode should have drowned in it’s own mythology. On paper it sounds like it should have been an appalling rehash of no value at all. But it wasn’t. More than the sum of it’s parts? Oh so much more…
Again, this episode belonged to Clara – this season seems to be an apology for making her so dull last season. Her handling of both the Doctor and Danny Pink is masterful, almost maternal in the case of the Doctor – both the adult and child versions.
We got a massive insight into the Doctor and his motivations; why the Doctor became the Doctor and why he goes on a quest to find out why we think we’re not alone. We also had a lovely nod to John Hurt and why the barn he took The Moment to was important.
I’d tired of ‘Timey Wimey’, but as a concept, it is absolutely nailed here.
Best of all, it’s pretty much unrepeatable as you can’t really repeat a monster that doesn’t exist – was that a monster, or another child playing a prank? By making it ‘solid’ you would completely destroy the concept. That said… Angels.
Again, there are hints of much strangeness to come. Soldiers, and disdain for the same, seems to be a recurring theme. Danny Pink, well there’s a lot more there than we’ve seen so far.
I’m reluctant, at the moment, to say this season has finally found it stride – one amazing episode isn’t proof of that – but if nothing else, this is an indication of how good it could be.
And no Missy, this week. Just as well. Her inclusion in this story would have been an unforgivable intrusion. SHe simply wasn’t needed to make this episode interesting.
It’s rare that I find TV truly scary but I found myself literally – not figuratively – clinging onto my partner during this episode. Actual clinging. The deftness of the writing and direction, the sheer depth of how far invested I was in this episode meant that on the close up of the ‘hairs rising on the back of the neck’ sequence, dammit, the hairs on the back of my neck rose too.
I’ve had numerous reports on my Facebook timeline of parents finding that their children have – after months of sleeping on their own – climbed into bed for comfort after watching this episode.
Now *that* is good telly.
It’s at times like this, I wish Mary Whitehouse still alive. She’d have blown a gasket!