If you have been waiting for an episode of Doctor Who that has it all, if you’ve been waiting for that feeling that the show gave you when Madame du Pompadour stepped away from the fireplace or Sally Sparrow stepped out into the rain, if you have missed Doctor Who even as you’ve watched it these past few seasons, then you need to stop what you’re doing, find a TV or computer, and watch “Listen” right now. It is the episode we have been waiting to see for over two years and will be a contender for best of the season without question.
In one of the best openers of any TV episode in recent memory, “Listen” opens with the Doctor doing a bit of thinking about people’s fear of the dark. These first three minutes are spectacular–we get a look at the Doctor in his TARDIS doing Doctor-y sorts of things: talking to himself, working on problems of theory and just being a Time Lord in his natural state (with no people around in grave peril). It sets up the chief inquiry of the episode, and what follows is a stand-alone story so superbly structured that I can’t go into it in too much detail lest I have to change the “No Spoilers” tag at the top of this post. There are trips back and forward in time, some genuinely interesting locations and discussions (including an orphanage after midnight), a solid Moffat-style creature feature, some twists on folklore and human experience, and one hell of a final movement–the last 10 minutes of the episode are everything you love about Doctor Who, everything that has been missing of late.
The chemistry between Jenna Coleman and Peter Capaldi couldn’t have more of an effect on this episode’s quality. The re-write of Clara’s character seems to be complete, as she is certainly no longer an “Impossible Girl.” What she has become is rather a new sort of companion worthy of this new sort of Doctor–I credit the writers for this, as they saw an opportunity to make her more relatable with the new-Doctor revamp and made the most of it. She’s been good this season, better in “Deep Breath” than in the others, but in “Listen” she complements Capaldi’s harsh, direct, and alien Doctor with a severity all her own. The characters work together and against each other as the story needs, elevating the entire episode above any we’ve seen in quote some time and cementing the Doctor-companion relationship.
10/10 – “Listen” breaks the mold of Season 8 with a episode that combines elements of horror, time travel, folklore, and character. It’s the best episode that Steven Moffat has done in years and showcases nothing but his strengths as a writer and a showrunner. Capaldi and Coleman steal the show in equal measure and their performances deliver a spectacular episode that demands your attention this week.