September 16, 2014

Fear Is A Superpower - LISTEN Review

By now, you've probably read plenty of online reviews (or heard them via podcast) about this episode. There's a kind of split about Listen amongst Who fans: some believe that it's Moffatt's finest episode since Blink; others feel that it is a meandering, not-very-cohesive story.

The truth, actually, lies in between - there are some good, creepy moments....but then the plot gets a little too timey wimey.   

Much like Midnight, the main story concerns a Moffatt-esque idea about a creature that has perfected hiding. Many of these sequences focus on building tension, and in that regard - they're rather successful. Moffatt also takes a slightly interesting approach to Capaldi's Doctor in giving him an almost fatal curiosity. When not travelling with someone, he doesn't go over the edge (like the Tenth Doctor) or even become moody and depressed (like the Eleventh) - the Twelfth Doctor rides the edge of that curiosity, making his behavior potentially monstrous.

(A later scene in which he snarls at Clara to get into the TARDIS is key - this is a man who is letting his curiosity get the better of him, who can't wait to see what's "in the dark").

Many fans will probably balk at that last sentence - or sentiment - but it works. Even though the Doctor is never "cruel or cowardly"....pushing this particular Doctor towards being either (or both) of those is a slightly dangerous and alienating step. Thankfully, Capaldi provides enough emotional grounding for this Doctor that it never seems to go too far.

But it's the plotline around Clara that really lessons the dramatic impact of the episode. It's not that I'm against showing a companion's home or romantic life - I like the fact that travelling with the Doctor is "one of (Clara's) hobbies"). But it's the timey-wimey, plotty-wotty situation that Clara is put in; being forced to confront her own time line...and then suddenly finding herself in a barn.

I'm sorry, it's all too impossible, even for the Impossible Girl. Even though her final monologue is touching and poignant, there's a little bit of contrivance to the ending. Learning about a potential suitor by accidentally encountering him in the past is one thing; having an influence on the lead character is quite another. I'm not offended by the prospect - it just seems a little too contrived.

Fandom is split between this being an all-out failure and an all-hour masterpiece. For some, this season - which is intentionally going against the high drama of Day of the Doctor/Time of the Doctor - has been relatively "meh", which is the last refuge of the critical scoundrel. Let me propose this - Listen has some good ideas, and some very creepy moments focusing on the need to be afraid....and the willingness to learn what's behind thedoor.

But in execution, its pieces don't fall into place. It is, however, still worth watching.

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