Doctor Who Recap: Listen
By Edwin Davies
September 23, 2014
The episode doesn't offer any concrete answer; the shape that appears in young Danny Pink's bed is allowed to leave without being revealed, and Clara forces the TARDIS to take her and The Doctor away before we find out what exactly was causing that knocking at the end of the universe. But the resolution of the mystery isn't important. What is important is that this adventure, one borne out of idle speculation, ends up revealing things about the people who undertake it, and the way that the episode explores some of the unexpected side effects of time travel. By traveling into Danny's past, Clara and The Doctor give him the inspiration to change his name from Rupert to Danny and to become a soldier, a decision that continues to haunt him, and by accidentally entering The Doctor's past and becoming the monster under his bed, Clara creates one of his formative memories, one that allowed him to conquer fear by learning to embrace it.
To go back to The X-Files comparison, this felt like the equivalent of that show's mythology episodes. It was less about the central story, even though it was exceptionably well executed and had some wonderfully expressive uses of colour to represent the characters' growing fear, than it was about the way in which it filled in some details about the characters. By giving us glimpses of Clara's disastrous date with Danny, we learned that he was mainly responsible for digging wells while he was in the Army, but that no one talks about that because whatever terrible thing he did overshadows his other achievements.
We also learned that The War Doctor went to a barn in "The Day of the Doctor" because it was where he spent much of his childhood, which is a relatively minor detail, but it's still a nice touch. The idea of making an episode of Doctor Who that is more interested in providing background details while resembling a kind of intergalactic Beckett play might not work for everyone, but it's so unnerving, and such a bold break from what the show usually does, that I couldn't help but be awed by it. It's the very best episode the show has put out in years.
- I enjoyed watching The Doctor talking to the porter of the boarding school where Rupert/Danny was staying in order to provide a distraction for Clara, but I couldn't help but think that there is a very fine line between Peter Capaldi having a quiet chat with someone and Javier Bardem asking someone to "call it".
- Once again I liked Samuel Anderson in his dual role of Danny and Orson Pink, though I'm a little worried that the show is going to drag out the revelation of what he did that he's so upset about to a ludicrous degree. Hints are good at this point since he's only been in two episodes, but if he and Clara are going to be together and their relationship is going to get more attention, which seems likely, it'd be annoying to have it hinted at repeatedly rather than explored in some detail.
- Until doing research for this recap, I'd never bothered to look up whether "Where's Wally?" or "Where's Waldo?" is the original name for that particular book series. Turns out that they're British, and the name was changed for the American market. They're such a bigger deal in the States than they are in Britain that I always assumed it was the other way around.