Doctor Who recap: 'Listen'
The Doctor hunts for the monster under the bed.
It’s been a long time since Steven Moffat has penned one of these kinds of episodes for Doctor Who: the self-contained episode that explores the darker and dingier side of human emotions. It’s been almost two years since “The Doctor, the Widow, and the Wardrobe,” which was the last episode of this kind. Let’s get this straight out there—this episode is sure to rock the fan base. Fans the world over are already flocking to their keyboards to let their thoughts out. It’s one hell of a ride.
The episode begins with a moody, nuanced soliloquy from the Doctor explaining the idea of the type of being that could be the “perfect hider”—a being that could be following each and every person throughout their entire lives without being noticed. (It does sound like he’s talking about the Silence again, though. Maybe he forgot about them.)
Many people have described Capaldi’s Doctor as being something of a scientist testing his theories so far, and we see that on full display here. His already signature chalkboard musings are front and center and his monologue sounds increasingly like a hypothesis as it goes on. It culminates with the spookily tantalizing revelation that someone, or something, has written the word LISTEN on the Doctor’s board.
Next we get a Pulp Fiction-like timeline account of Clara’s first date with Danny Pink. What starts as a fun and flirty date hits a few bumps and then eventually ends with Clara’s angry exit when her and Danny start to upset each other. As she retreats into her bedroom, she runs into the Doctor who is, once again, hilariously unsympathetic to Clara’s troubles and wants her help in tracking down this perfect hider.
The Doctor explains the origin of his curiosity for this potential being: the dream everyone has where something grabs his or her foot from under the bed. He describes it in such terrifyingly intimate detail—pretty much guaranteeing everybody watching this episode will have that dream if they haven’t yet. Talk about a self-fulfilling prophecy. Clara, meanwhile, plays the Scully to the Doctor’s Mulder and remains doubtful about there ever being such a being. To prove its existence, the Doctor hooks Clara up to the TARDIS’ controls and tells her to think about the time and place where she had that dream herself, but she gets distracted by the thought of Danny.
They wind up outside a children’s home that the Doctor insists is Clara’s because the timeline is right, despite Clara’s protestation that she has never been to such a place because, incidentally, she grew up with a loving family—which the Doctor has met. While the Doctor heads inside, Clara strikes up a conversation with a boy named Rupert Pink through his bedroom window. Inside the Doctor gets his spook on to creep out an unfortunate night watchman by regaling him with the possibility of the perfect hider being and then doing his Batman thing of disappearing into thin air.
NEXT: That which goes bump on top of the bed
Clara has crept upstairs to Rupert’s room to comfort him about the possibility of something hiding under his bed. She crawls underneath and invites Rupert under with her to get over his fear. As they talk about the silliness of the possibility, something gets on Rupert’s bed. Clara and Rupert crawl out and find a figure sitting on the bed, covered by Rupert’s bedspread. The Doctor appears suddenly behind Rupert and Clara (he really likes this whole Batman thing, doesn’t he?) and gives Rupert a stirring speech about why being scared is a good thing. He gets everyone to turn their backs on the being until it finally leaves the room without being seen.
Returning Rupert to his bed, Clara comforts him by pulling out small toy soldier figurines and giving them a story to show Rupert that he can be courageous. When presenting the leader, who is in that position because he’s brave enough not to use a gun according to Clara, the young Rupert names him “Dan the Soldier Man.” Clara comes to the shocking realization that Rupert Pink is the young Danny Pink. The Doctor puts Rupert to sleep with his “dad skills” and gives the boy a dream of Dan the Soldier Man being a courageous hero.
Clara begs the Doctor to return her to the exact moment when she left the restaurant, realizing that she has completely misunderstood Danny with her assumptions about him as a soldier. The date continues on happily for a while until Clara mistakenly reveals that she knows his name used to be Rupert. The Doctor then appears at the back of the restaurant in the TARDIS’ space suit, beckoning her to come to the kitchen. Danny, feeling weirded out that Clara knew his original name, leaves the date himself this time while Clara follows the space-suited Doctor back onto the TARDIS, yelling at him about how she’s trying to have a proper date.
But the man in the space suit isn’t the Doctor. It is… a haggard looking Danny? No, it’s Orson Pink, Danny’s descendant from 100 years in Clara’s future. The Doctor went forward to find him so that he could figure out why Clara’s thoughts sent them to Rupert’s past (since she didn’t tell him who her date was). They go back to where Orson Pink came from: the very, very end of the universe where there is nothing but Orson left. It seems he, too, is a time traveler—the first human time traveler. And he has been stuck there for six months, slowly losing hope until the Doctor shows up out of nowhere.
The Doctor says the TARDIS has to recharge overnight though. An obvious lie, as Clara instantly figures, but the Doctor confronts Orson about the possibility of him not being the last living being after all. Because his own personal perfect hider is still around. The Doctor points to the exit door being locked in Danny’s shelter, in an echo of Frederic Brown’s oft passed around intro to his short story “Knock”: “The last man on Earth sat alone in a room. There was a knock on the door…” Danny does not deny the notion but is visibly shaken about not being able to leave instantly. Clara takes him inside the TARDIS to spend the night, and Danny strongly hints that Clara is his great grandmother.
NEXT: Knock knock knockin’ on the shelter door
Outside the TARDIS, Clara and the Doctor wait for any signs of this perfect hider from outside Danny’s shelter. The shelter makes all kinds of noises until they hear what the Doctor is convinced is knocking on the door. He unlocks the door and tells Clara to get inside the TARDIS for her own sake with all the authority of a father for the second time this episode. Clara tries to watch from the inside, but the video cuts out. The next thing she sees is the Doctor struggling to hold onto a console as the air gets sucked out of the shelter into the barren wasteland outside. (Who would’ve guessed that there’s no air in a barren wasteland on a dead planet?) Orson rescues the Doctor and brings him back to the TARDIS, where the knocking begins again on the TARDIS’ door. Because the Doctor is passed out from his injuries, Clara hooks into the TARDIS again and flees.
Clara leaves the TARDIS to see where and when they’ve landed and finds herself in a rural barn where a child cries under his covers on a bed, up on the barn loft. Clara climbs up asking if it’s Rupert again, or Orson, but is cut short by the entry of two adults. She crawls under the bed and listens to the man berate the child for being too weak to go to the academy while the woman is more sympathetic to the child’s plight. As the adults leave, the bombshell is dropped. They’re not talking about an academy for education of military. They’re talking about an academy for Time Lords.
The child stands to get out of bed, but Clara, in her state of sudden shock about who the child is, grabs a hold of the child’s foot. And then Clara has her third revelation of the night: the perfect hider that the Doctor has been obsessed with the entire episode was Clara all along. Whoops. Clara convinces the boy Doctor that this is all a dream and that he should go back to bed.
When Clara goes back inside the TARDIS, she puts on her mother attitude (in a neat little reversal of the Daddy Doctor seen throughout the episode) and makes the Doctor promise to never look up where they are or what happened there. They drop Orson back to his home timeline, and Clara goes to Danny’s apartment to reconcile with him where they share a kiss, starting their romance. Here we get the moment that will send Whovians running to rant or rave. We see that when the child Doctor was back in bed, hiding under his covers, Clara gave him the same speech about being scared that we heard the Doctor give to Rupert, and much more. The Doctor has been driven to heroism by capitalizing on fear his whole life and we learn that the barn that the War Doctor sought refuge in is the very same barn to which Clara has navigated the TARDIS. The episode ends with the Doctor finding some serendipity in the culmination of his search for the perfect hider.
So it turns out that the mythical being the Doctor spent the entire episode trying to find never existed in the first place. He was chasing what turned out to be Clara all along. But then that does raise an important question: What happened to the poor kid playing a prank on Rupert? He must have been so very confused.