I hadn’t enjoyed Series 8 of Doctor Who up until this point. I thought “Deep Breath” was a bloated mess of pacing, “Into the Dalek” was too derivative to be compelling, and “Robot of Sherwood” was barely watchable garbage. “Listen” is so much better than those three preceding episodes that even comparing it to the previous parts of Series 8 is insulting to its pure awesomeness. What “The Girl Who Waited” was for the Eleventh Doctor, I feel that “Listen” is capable of being for the Twelfth, when all is said and done.
Spooky has been something that Doctor Who has done well since returning for the new series. Steven Moffat’s Weeping Angels are easily the greatest villains of the new show, and in general, Moffat has done creepy super well. “Listen” is arguably the scariest episode so far, and yet has so much more to it than most of the episodes that are just scary for the sake of creeping you out. “Listen” is about fear as a thing, and specifically the fear of nothingness. In some cases, this is the fear of what could be out there in the dark, and in others, it’s illogical anxiety and fear of simple social situations for no reason whatsoever. It has real backbone and substance to go with the thrills.
This episode wasn’t enough to singularly convince me that Peter Capaldi is awesome as the Doctor, but this is definitely the best he has been. He seems to flourish when things get scary and serious, whereas he comes across as clumsy when the humor is the focus; this is essentially the complete opposite to my opinion of the Fourth Doctor, who I like for comedy but groan about when gravitas is necessary. This episode doesn’t use much humor at all, and instead relies on good ol’ drama and horror elements to be compelling. More of these kind of stories is definitely something that Capaldi can knock out of the park. This episode is the first of his run that I felt had genuine wonderful and memorable Doctor Who moments, which is nice. Finally, something for his highlight reel.
Jenna Coleman is once again completely amazing and perfect. Although I adored the TARDIS team of the Eleventh Doctor, Amy, and Rory, I would say that I think Jenna as her own character may be my favorite Doctor Who companion ever. She has such versatility and the ability to carry entire episodes on her shoulders, something I don’t think we’ve ever really seen from a companion on the show. As much as I love past companions like Zoe Heriot, Sarah Jane Smith, and Ace, I think that Jenna Coleman as Clara is genuinely even better and more capable. She may not have the benefit of the chemistry of a combination like the Fourth Doctor and Sarah Jane, or the Seventh Doctor and Ace, but as an actress she has just completely nailed it every single time. If there was a spinoff of “The Clara Oswald Adventures” I would not hesitate for a second to watch.
It seems ridiculous to recap the story of “Listen,” because the chances are you have already seen it or plan to soon. I thought it was wonderful, compelling, creepy, and just plain pure awesomeness from start to finish. I was starting to get bummed out about this year of Doctor Who, but I am pleased to report that Doctor Who is still completely capable of being amazing when everything works. This time, everything worked.
Final Grade: A