Doctor Who: Listen Review (Contains Spoilers)

One of the most hyped episodes of Series 8 hits our screens....

And that is the trouble with hype, ladies and gentleman. Ever since the script and rough cut were leaked, Listen has been quietly talked up in fan circles (and more recently in the press) as one of Steven Moffat€™s best episodes and also one of his scariest. A pair of accolades that it in no way lives up to. While there€™s nothing that makes Listen a noticeably bad episode, there€™s also nothing that really takes it above being average. And the thing that really holds it back from having the chance of living up to its hype is that it€™s far too scattershot Although the plotlines intersect most of the time and advance alongside each other, the choice of including the bootstrap paradoxes concerning the main characters takes away too much attention from the monsters when the only one that€™s really important to the plot is the one with Clara and the Doctor. Admittedly, the character stuff with Rupert is nice and feeds well into Danny and Clara€™s relationship but adding Orson into the mix is too much. Also, the much talked about fear aspect only comes into it significantly in two scenes: the figure beneath the bedspread and the life-forms outside the airlock. Other than that, the horror€™s just not really prominent enough. Even the conventional jump scares like €œListen€ appearing on the chalk board feel a bit weak. And let€™s not forget that the unseen monster aspect has been done before in 2008€™s Midnight, arguably with more atmospheric results. Almost all of it feels like a build-up, and the massive shift from the monsters to the barn on Gallifrey doesn€™t help matters. If anything it makes the monsters beneath the bed story end too abruptly and shift the tone from horror to paradoxes and mythology-building. Though credit does have to go to Steven Moffat for the tie-in to The Day Of The Doctor which is pretty ingenious.
Of course, it would be remiss when reviewing Listen to not to point out the good as well as the bad. The date scenes are pretty entertaining with shades of Moffat€™s BBC2 sitcom Coupling, namely Danny filling the role of social inadequate Jeff Murdock and Clara showing the wit and sarcasm of Susan Walker. The episode€™s paradoxes are well thought out and executed as well and there are some genuinely good scares here and there. Particularly the figure on the bed, which really has to be applauded since it€™s just dwarf actor Kiran Shah with a knitted blanket over his head and it still comes across as very creepy. The sound design also really has to be commended. Particularly in the spaceship scenes where sound effects editor Harry Barnes really brings his A-game; with some simple yet ingenious tricks being used to sell the ambiguity of whether or not the noises are just the spaceship going through its motions, or creatures outside of the airlock. It€™s remarkable how something as tiny as overlaying the sound of machinery on top of animal noises can create that level of atmosphere. While it has its good moments; the episode is stronger in parts than as a whole and doesn€™t focus enough on either the time travel or horror aspects, with the horror aspects getting the shorter end of the stick. And sadly, a best of both worlds approach doesn€™t pay significant enough dividends here. Listen is perfectly enjoyable but (possibly due to the hype around it) feels like a considerable missed opportunity more than anything else. What did you think of Listen? Did it live up to your expectations? Let us know in the comments section below...
Contributor
Contributor

James T. Cornish is a writer and filmmaker from the south of England. He also works as an editor and VFX artist, and has a BA in Media Production from the University Of Winchester.

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