Listen. This is just a dream. But very clever people can hear dreams. So please just listen. I know you’re afraid, but being afraid is alright. Because didn’t anyone ever tell you - fear is a superpower. Fear can make you faster, and clever, and stronger. Fear can bring you home…You’re always going to be afraid, even if you learn to hide it. Fear is like a…a companion. A constant companion, always there. But that’s okay. Because fear can bring us together. Fear can bring you home…fear makes companions of us all.
I went into this episode with massive expectations. Oftentimes when one does that, disappointment is sure to follow. Not this time, however. I’ll be forthright: Listen exceeded my expectations in every way imaginable. Below I list the elements that combine to make Listen my new favorite episode.
What’s an episode without homage?
- "Fear makes companions of us all." The First Doctor utters these exact words to his companion Barbara Wright in the very first episode of Doctor Who: An Unearthly Child (1963). We now know who he heard them from.
- Coal Hill School: Teacher Conference. Danny and Clara discuss their most troublesome student just like Barbara and Ian once did concerning the Doctor’s granddaughter, Susan. This is again a reference to An Unearthly Child.
- "…perverting the course of human history." This references Robot (1974), the Fourth Doctor’s first episode. When the Doctor first regains consciousness after regeneration, he utters these words. In Listen, the Doctor says those very same words after regaining consciousness in the TARDIS.
- Silence. The Doctor asks Clara to listen to the silence at the end of time. Knowing Moffat, this was a line intended to trigger memory of The Silence. It most certainly worked on me.
- The Barn. In The 50th anniversary special, the Doctor retreats to a solitary barn to reflect and ponder over the looming decision he was being forced to make. I always questioned why he chose that particular place. Now I know why - that was his place of solitude when he was young.
I have loved getting to know the newest regeneration of the Doctor. Each week I’ve grown to appreciate his unique sense of humor, his gruff kindness, and his internal conflict. He’s a regeneration that I can really relate to. It was only in Listen, however, that it clicked for me. This man IS the Doctor. He’s kind, he’s compassionate, he’s daft, he’s analytical, he’s merciful - he’s everything that the Doctor was and always will be. I absolutely adore him, and I’m happy to say that I love him just as much as I do his previous regeneration.
Clara was beautiful in this episode. She starts out by making some mistakes with Danny, but she rights them in the end. That’s one of the things I love about Clara - she always fixes her mistakes and she always makes sure the recipient of them is alright and knows that it was her fault. I also love her interactions with the children in this episode. She reaches out to Rupert, anxious to erase his fears. She comforts the little Doctor as well, desperate to transfer the hope that he always speaks of into his small frame. Clara will make a wonderful mother, and if I’m interpreting this episode right…that might happen one day quite soon.
The Doctor and Clara
The Doctor and Clara’s relationship is incredibly reminiscent of how Jo Grant and the Doctor interacted. Jo and her Doctor were always teasing each other and were always a pair. They were lost without each other. They weren’t in love, however. No, Jo eventually married and built a life of her own. Fast forward to present-day. Clara and the Doctor are a team. They’re both so important to one another. They’re both lost without each other. And if the pattern continues and the foreshadowing in this episode is confirmed, then Clara will eventually marry and have a family of her own. That doesn’t mean the Doctor and Clara’s relationship will end, however. They will always be the best of friends, we can be sure of that.
Danny and Clara
Danny Pink and Clara Oswald. Their first date was a bit rocky, but this pairing is beginning to understand one another. Their awkwardness, their habit of retreating inside themselves, is slowly fading away. They’re visibly falling in love, and after the foreshadowing this episode gave us, I am convinced that we’ll see much more of them together.
Steven Moffat recently won an Emmy for his work on BBC Sherlock’s His Last Vow. In my opinion, however, Listen tops that Emmy-award winning episode. I was spellbound for the entire 47 minutes. Firstly the pacing is once again that of a classic episode. Secondly, there is the perfect combination of horror, hope, mirth, romance, friendship, and comfort. And lastly, the story is gorgeous. Yes, once again, we were left with questions - the figure in Rupert’s bed, the writing on the chalkboard - but that’s the point. Those things are either meant to be explained at a later time or meant for us as viewers to figure out. In my opinion, Moffat had a little of both in mind.
The message of the story, however, is what I love the most. Fear makes companions of us all. We can’t escape it; it latches onto us, never letting go and reminding us of its presence daily. So, unable to escape it, we have two choices: we can either fight fear or make it our superpower. It’s our choice, and what we choose can make all the difference in the world.
So, all that being said, I happily and decisively give Listen a 10/10. There is absolutely nothing I would change about it. For me, it’s on par with the 50th anniversary, and, for me, it is a great example of how wonderful a writer the Emmy award-winning Steven Moffat truly is.
And the reason she can jump is that she knows the Doctor will catch her. Her absolute trust that he will be there, he will catch her when she falls, is what enables her to prove there’s always a way out.
We’ve seen far too many fictional women made weaker by their relationships. Not River. Not ever. She gains strength from her unconditional love and trust.
A new update to my actual, like, writing of stuff blog, Philip Sandifer: Writer
"Yes, you’re right, there are an awful lot of recurring tropes of the Moffat era that appear here.
Because I liked it - I know I liked it (I honestly don’t think it’ll become one of tip-top favorites, but still very much enjoyed it). But there were a lot of themes thrown at us (fears, bravery, the dark, dreams, etc.) and it’s hard to sort of pull out what the point of the episode is. Some have claimed there was no plot, but I don’t think that’s true - the plot was that the Doctor, in his loneliness, started thinking about a topic that had always bothered him - what happens if we’re not actually alone - and decided to look into that via a child’s nightmare (Clara’s - not really, but that’s what he was aiming for). It was a very Doctor-y topic to pursue, I think.
Here are the things we know: Moffat didn’t tell us who was knocking on the door or under the blanket. This is a writer who brings back particular phrases or makes parallels years after he first writes them, so these were obviously not oversights or plot holes - he has a much better memory than some give him credit for.
So, if the (supposed) monsters aren’t important, what is? Listen.
Listening is important. In fact, that’s what the episode was based around. The Doctor had this deep fear of someone grabbing him from under the bed based on a dream from his childhood - a fear of not being alone when he thought he was. He wanted to find out who or what WAS with him in those moments of solitude. He wanted to apply logic to an illogical fear to make it go away. The whole point was that he didn’t need to know who this unknown entity was, or if it even existed at all. The point was that he needed to listen to Clara’s words. Even though he had taken some things that she had said and used them later in his own life, I don’t think he really remembered or listened to what she said, not completely. That is, until Clara came back into the TARDIS and said “Do as you are told.” She told him to listen.
And that’s why at the end, he was smiling to himself and underlined “listen” on the chalkboard. Because he had finally heard her.
So listen, if you listen to anything else, listen to this: you’re always going to be afraid, even if you learn to hide it. Fear is like, a companion, a constant companion always there. But that’s okay, because fear can bring us together, fear can bring you home.
I’ve gotten so used to one-off episodes this series that this throwback into an episode that had impacts on the past and future sent me for a timey-wimey loop. But from what I can tell, this was the point of the episode.
Today I spoke up to right a wrong. I was shaking and terrified, but Steven’s wondrous words — fear is my superpower — gave me strength.
Instead of running away, I used my superpower to take a stand. To be heroic.
Thank you, Steven Moffat, for Listen, and the gift of fear.
Thank you, Mark Gatiss, for Robot of Sherwood, inspiring heroes in the Doctor’s name.
And thank you, Doctor, for making me a better person.
I just want to thank Steven Moffat for that episode. People always are telling you to face your fears, and that once you realize they aren’t real or rational, then you can get over them. You always hear that it’s just like when you are a kid and you learn that there is no reason to be afraid of the dark. As if people who have phobias or anxiety disorders don’t know that.
We aren’t ever told that it doesn’t matter if it’s irrational or not. I don’t think I’ve ever been told that the fear will never leave me, but that it’s ok and that fear can make me better. No one else has called fear a super power, without sounding condescending and insincere. Clara’s speech is one of the most empowering and reassuring things I’ve heard in years, and it means so, so much to me.
Listen, at it’s core, works because it’s fitting for Clara’s character. With someone else, it would have felt contrived, but with Clara, the examination of fear felt genuine. Because not only did it build on her previously shown ability to relate to children, but also on how she herself deals with fear. She was not merely parroting the Doctor’s words - it’s clear that these are her words. The words of someone who faced down the Old God, who confronted the Ice Warrior, who explored a haunted house… who held her ground against the Half-face Man with tears in her eyes. Clara knows, intimately, that fear doesn’t make you weak, that you can be strong with it. Because she herself is.
Fear can be a superpower. And Clara has it.
OMG, please link me when it’s up and running! Please, please, please, please. I’ll advertise it over here and everything. (My work here is done. My legacy is ensured. I know I’m being ridiculous, but this makes me so happy! !)
Get to Know Clara - #10 It’s not just the leaf that Clara feels she inherited - it’s the life left to be lived. Her mother started the story the day that leaf fell from the tree and she met Clara’s father, but Clara inherited the rest of the story and the endless possibilities the day her mother died. The leaf is page one which she keeps in her mother’s book of 101 places to see because she’s still planning to see them and live the rest of the story.