There is every chance that in years to come, Can You Hear
Me? will be barely remembered. That isn’t meant to be a criticism of what was a
wonderfully effective episode. It’s just that behind the fine exploration of
the companions’ fears, lies a bare bones story that is all too quickly resolved.
The plot about the imprisoned god is perfunctory and the gorgeous animated
sequence couldn’t add colour to a backstory that, perhaps befitting the
unimaginative gods involved, is fairly rudimentary.
But for Doctor Who to be a success across an entire series,
it needs such changes in pace. With an explosive two-part finale just around
the corner, and the dramatic events of Fugitive of the Judoon still being
talked about, this was a welcome shift of gear.
Can You Hear Me? might not be ground-breaking, but it does
have one or two claims to fame. It is the first Doctor Who story to have a
question mark in the title, a frivolous observation that might only be of
interest to trivia fans. The other is anything but. The BBC deemed it
appropriate to advertise a helpline number for anyone affected by the issues in
the programme. Often seen as the credits of major soaps roll, this is the first
time we have seen such an announcement used in relation to Doctor Who.
The message might have been uncomplicated and the story left behind in the shadows, but as ever, the episode did throw up
plenty of discussion points.
Paul Driscoll is a freelance writer and author across a range of subjects from Cult TV to religion and social policy. He is a passionate Doctor Who fan and January 2017 will see the publication of his first extended study of the series (based on Toby Whithouse's series six episode, The God Complex) in the critically acclaimed Black Archive range by Obverse Books. He is a regular writer for the fan site Doctor Who Worldwide and has contributed several essays to Watching Books' You and Who range. Recently he has branched out into fiction writing, with two short stories in the charity Doctor Who anthology Seasons of War (Chinbeard Books). Paul's work will also feature in the forthcoming Iris Wildthyme collection (A Clockwork Iris, Obverse Books) and Chinbeard Books' collection of drabbles, A Time Lord for Change.