DOCTOR WHO Series Eight Review: “Listen” (Co-written With Matt @ The Little Engine That Couldn’t)

Happy Saturday, everyone! Doctor Who is on tonight… so while you wait for the new episode, why don’t you read about something else Whovian? Today I’m co-reviewing last week’s episode, “Listen,” with Matt from The Little Engine That Couldn’t. He’s probably the funniest blogger I know, so I am VERY EXCITED to co-review with him!

P.S. You can find my earlier collaborative reviews of Doctor Who here.

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Matt is a teen blogger who likes to read, write, snowboard, and obsess over anything related to Game of Thrones. He recently got a job at McDonald’s, where he still hasn’t been able to make an ice cream cone without messing it up. He still thinks the scariest Doctor Who monsters so far were the peg dolls from “Night Terrors.” You can find his blog at The Little Engine That Couldn’t.

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Warning: Spoilers ahead, sweetie!

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Hey, guys. Engie here. Matt and I decided to make a list of ten observations we had after watching “Listen.” It’s not a top ten list, though, not exactly. It’s just five thoughts from Matt and five thoughts from yours truly… and as you can see, sometimes we didn’t always agree!

Oh, and by the way, Matt’s thoughts are in italics. The odd-numbered list items, basically. I let him go first because I’m nice that way.

But before we start, I’d just like to say: I CORRECTLY PREDICTED THIS EPISODE. I wrote in an earlier post that it would be fantastically creepy to have an episode where Clara and the Doctor heard a strange noise and realized they weren’t alone. AND I WAS RIGHT. Yay! I think this is why Matt wanted to review this episode with me, honestly. He likes creepy stuff, so I’m glad my prediction was right…

1. I’m sure many felt otherwise, but I really liked how this episode ended.

Some may have found the reveal anti-climactic, or cheating on Moffat’s part, but I’d have to disagree. I think that a reveal of any monster would’ve been disappointing, no matter how terrifying it may have been. The idea that it was all in the Doctor’s head was at once surprising and made perfect sense (to me at least), considering that after every single scary moment in this episode, the Doctor or Clara would give the audience a plausible explanation for what happens. (Though neither of them nor the audience would believe it at the time.)

And despite the fact that this has to be about the five-hundredth time a Doctor Who story has been resolved with a time loop, it still felt inspired, somehow. It felt earned. In “The Name of the Doctor,” Clara jumping into the Doctor’s time stream had no effect on me, because it felt like she only did it because the plot demanded it, whereas her comforting the young Doctor made perfect sense for her character, because it was consistent with everything we knew about her so far.

2.  The first third of the episode – the first story, the one set in the children’s home – was my favorite. After that, I felt the episode wasn’t quite as good.

Like… monsters under the bed? That’s relatable. Everyone’s thought about that, even if they refuse to admit it. I think the whole story should’ve been set in the children’s home. That story was super-creepy, and really-well-written, and then the other parts felt disjointed.

We don’t always need grand storylines, I guess. We don’t need to go to the end of the universe, where everything is dead, or even to the beginning of the Doctor’s life. I guess it just bothered me that Moffat was trying to make the story some big blockbuster thing. Keep it simple – that’s why “Blink” was so good!

If two-thirds of the story had to stay, though, I guess I’d pick the children’s home part and the part with the Doctor. But I realllllly didn’t like the Orson Pink thing.

3. Assuming that the thing underneath Rupert’s bedspread was, in fact, a child playing a prank, and not an evil alien thingy that will become of utmost importance in the final two episodes, I think I speak for everyone when I say: that was one strange kid.

I mean, I’ve tried to scare other people before when I was younger, but usually I’d finally make a sudden movement, or start laughing and give myself away. Basically, I can’t imagine any kid in such a situation staying quiet for so long. But I guess that’s still more plausible than it actually being a monster under the covers instead.

4. I checked under my bed after this episode. It’s kind of embarrassing, really.

Oh, well. I suppose it serves me right for watching a creepy episode late at night. WHAT WAS SITTING ON THE BED?! “Listen” really reminded me of “Midnight,” another scary episode, because we have no idea who or what the villain was and we can’t stand not knowing. Side note: Moffat likes to write creepy episodes about not doing things that are instinctive, doesn’t he? Don’t blink, don’t breathe, don’t look.

5. One thing I particularly liked while rewatching was this tiny exchange in Rupert’s room…

TWELVE: [Thumbing through book] Where is he?

CLARA: Doctor?

TWELVE: I can’t find him. Can you find him?

CLARA Find who?

TWELVE: Wally.

CLARA: Wally?

TWELVE: He’s nowhere in this book.

RUPERT: It’s not a Where’s Wally one.

DOCTOR: Well, how would you know? Maybe you just haven’t found him yet.

RUPERT: He’s not in every book.

TWELVE: Really? Well, that’s a few years of my life I’ll be needing back.

I thought it was a nice bit of foreshadowing there. It actually gave away the entire twist of the episode, but the first time through I just thought it was the Doctor being quirky. So… well done, Moffat.

(Also, only just after this episode did I realize that Wally is apparently the UK version of Waldo, or perhaps Waldo is the American version of Wally. I will never know which came first. Sure, I could probably just look it up, but that seems like a lot of work, even though it isn’t.)

6. Clara and Danny’s relationship is a foregone conclusion now.

Ugh. Why? It’s strongly implied that Orson Pink is one of their descendants, and… I don’t know, I think I’m just grumpy because THEY’VE BEEN IN ONLY TWO EPISODES TOGETHER and they’re already snogging?! It feels like they barely know one another, and they have no chemistry together. I can’t stand poorly-written romantic subplots, so please please please don’t let this become another sub-par Amy-and-Rory thing.

7. I liked the soundtrack for this episode, mostly because I barely noticed it.

Don’t get me wrong, I love Murray Gold’s score (I have jogged to “I Am the Doctor” many times) but there were times throughout the show where I’ve felt like it was played too loud, and the same themes would be repeated over and over again. In fact, I don’t remember a single moment throughout all of series seven where there wasn’t music thundering in the background. Sure, the soundtrack was catchy, but it was often distracting and a lot of times I felt the show relied on it too much to set the mood.

Here it was the lack of a score that caught my attention, particularly in the conversation between Clara and the Doctor at the end of the universe. It was one of those rare moments in the show where besides the Doctor and Clara talking, it was completely silent, which created a feeling of suspense and creepiness that no amount of “BAAA dum. BAAA dum. BA dum BA dum BA dum..” can more accurately purvey.

(I was trying to imitate the Jaws soundtrack, by the way. I’m not sure how clear that was.)

And the music that did play, like near the end when Clara was comforting the very young Doctor, was fantastic. Maybe it wasn’t as hauntingly beautiful as the soundtrack from, say, The Leftovers, but it was effective nonetheless.

8. I loved the episode’s intro, what with Twelve postulating ideas and all that.

It just felt so… Doctor-y. I like Twelve already, but I’m still getting used to him and I think this might have been the moment where he just felt right as the new Doctor. I love the science-y, theorizing side of the Doctor – and how, when Clara walked in, she said he’d been alone with his ideas for a little too long.

9. I think Capaldi’s going to end up being my favorite Doctor so far.

He’s definitely on his way there. He’s so much darker and crazier than all the previous versions I’ve seen, especially in this episode, yet he’s also clearly capable of being goofy and lovable. Like in that split second scene where Clara surprise-hugged him, something I could imagine Clara doing a lot to unsuspecting people.

10. I loved seeing Clara interact with kids. 

She’s been a nanny several times, and there was that great scene in “The Rings of Akhaten” where she talked to that little girl, and now she’s a teacher. She’s really good with kids, and it’s nice to see that she’s interested in something, because otherwise I have no idea what she likes. I LOVED her scenes with Rupert and the young Doctor.

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Hey, it’s Engie again. And I have one final question for Matt. Who do you think Missy is?!

I have no idea. I read this theory online a few days ago that she is actually Madame de Pompadour from “The Girl in the Fireplace,” but the more I think about it the less sense it seems to make.

Er. Yeah. That’s a really weird theory…

Thanks for reviewing with me, Matt!

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What is YOUR opinion on “Listen?” I’d love to know!

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About nevillegirl

Elizabeth, University of Iowa class of 2019. Double majoring in English & Creative Writing and Journalism. Twenty-year-old daydreamer, introvert, voracious reader, and aspiring writer. Passionate about feminism and lesbian positivity.
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9 Responses to DOCTOR WHO Series Eight Review: “Listen” (Co-written With Matt @ The Little Engine That Couldn’t)

  1. matttblack42 says:

    You’re welcome. 🙂
    Oh, and I just found the Madame de Pompadour theory. It was on the Doctor Who IMDb message board (link at the bottom). I’m still not convinced, but here it is:

    “- Reannette aka Madame de Pompadour was the king’s mistress, abbreviated “Missy”

    – It was never fully explained how or why the Clockwork men targeted Reannette’s mind for their “repairs”, other than the ship being named the SS Madame de Pompadour. Her mind was somehow unique.

    – Moffat wrote “The Girl in the Fireplace” and enjoys revisiting themes/characters

    – “Deep Breath” revisits the clockwork men, as the Half-faced man was shown to be on a sister ship to the SS Madame de Pompadour.

    – “Missy” is introduced in the same episode as the Clockwork men’s reappearance.

    – The Clockwork Men are left standing there, deactivated, at the end of “The Girl in the Fireplace”. Left available to be toyed and tinkered with.

    – When the Doctor shares and “walks among the memories” of Reannette, she gains a massive wealth of knowledge about him and potentially anything in his mind/memories.

    – If one knew they were dying and had 51st century Clockwork robots, short range transporters, and the knowledge and memories of a Timelord; one might be inspired to create their own way to cheat death.

    – The Doctor did not keep his promise to be back in two minutes. A lover scorned is capable of tremendous feats.

    – The Doctor makes a point of saying what a fantastic gardener the Madame de Pompadour is during her time.

    – “Heaven/The Promised Land” looks like an immaculate garden. ”

    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0436992/board/thread/234663519

    • nevillegirl says:

      …that is a very complicated theory. I mean, it could happen that way, but it also seems soooo complicated that… I don’t know if most viewers would even understand it. I dunno, though. I haven’t heard any theories that I really like.
      Of course, it’s possible that Missy is a completely new character, but it seems like disguising someone else as her is totally a Moffat thing.

  2. Pingback: Doctor Who Series 8, Episode 4: “Listen” Review | Sourcerer

  3. themagicviolinist says:

    This episode was actually my favorite from the eight season. I’m finally starting to accept that the Doctor has changed (something that always takes me a while), and Clara is continually growing on me.

    YES TO #1 YES!!! 🙂 I loved the ending! I thought it was so clever and so sweet.

    This episode was full of such fantastic quotes. My favorite quotes would have to be the Doctor’s speech to Rupert about how fear is a superpower. I also loved Clara’s description of the soldier so brave, he doesn’t need a gun (and she was totally talking about the Doctor there).

    To #6: Ah, yes, but we already know that time can be rewritten, can’t it? 😉

    GOD yes. I love the big, loud, soundtrack scores, but I can’t stand it when it overpowers the dialogue!

    Clara is great with kids. 🙂 That’s probably the biggest thing I love about her, how sweet and caring she is around them.

    • nevillegirl says:

      As I wrote above, I *loved* the first part, but the rest? Nah… not so much. So it’s probably my least favorite thus far, although it is nowhere close to being the worst DW episode ever. (I dunno what my current favorite series 8 episode is. The writing is much better than in series 7, but the first three episodes are all about the same in my mind. For very different reasons.)

      I like that we never actually found out what was under that blanket.

      I loved all those quotes! 🙂

      Yeah, I suppose. But Moffat has used that for each and every series finale since he’s become head writer, and he’s used it in many other episodes too. I may not like the consequences of the whole Clara/Danny thing, but I guess what I’m trying to say is that I’d rather have that than Moffat’s usual “actions have no consequences because the Doctor gets a do-over on everything whenever I’ve written myself into a plot corner.”

      *nodnod* I really liked the quietness of this episode. I didn’t get a chance to mention that in this post, because Matt and I didn’t write our bits at the same time (so we didn’t have a live conversation) but not hearing anything made the scary bits more intense.

  4. *screams loudly into the abyss* I’M SO UNSATISFIED BY THIS EPISODE. It may be very…childish, I suppose, of me to have desired a terrifying monster so much, but when the reveal came…it was interesting, but it left me with an empty, unfulfilled feeling in my stomach. And also…what the heck was on the bed? That was not a child. No child trying to joke would be that quiet. Where did it come in from? The door wasn’t open, it couldn’t have hid in the room…
    I don’t know. Ugh.

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  6. Pingback: “Doctor Who” Series Eight Recap: Reviews + Thank You + Lists + Analyses | Musings From Neville's Navel

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