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Thursday, September 18, 2014

Doctor Who: I'm Not Hearing Voices

Listen Carefully: Spoilers as usual.

     Mark Gatiss is one of the most frustratingly incon... wait, no, that was last week. After my lingering and aforementioned frustration over last week's episode, I needed this one. Listen is, possibly, the best piece of writing Moffat's delivered for the series to date, and that's including my (former? ..nah) favorite, the two parter Empty Child/Doctor Dances. I won't quite give it that top spot, as the “Everybody lives” speech still renders me a blubbering, weepy mass.

     The Doctor's Strax-ish bickering with Clara returns in full-force, as well as the hilarious blink-and-you'll-miss-it explanation of parking in the bedroom because he suspected Clara might bring a date home. Either Twelve's brain just doesn't make those sort of connections anymore, or he's being terribly spiteful. I like to think it's the former, but I'm still not sure. Twelve is more and more reminiscent of what Gregory House would be, if handed a time machine. We're also given the birth of a new running joke: Clara's wide face. It's so wide. She's all eyes. She even needs three mirrors. She can't just turn her head, after all, it's too wide. Speaking of Clara, her character is fleshed out even further, showing us that when she's away from the TARDIS, away from 'adventure mode' she's pants-on-head stupid when it comes to flirting and relationships, but when there's a scary monster or a scared little boy, she's confident, compassionate, and fearless. Misters Pink make for a great foil for Clara, as well, with good chemistry and reciprocal awkwardness, even when pulling a Rose Tyler and imprinting on her boyfriend when he was a child. Colonel Pink also ties in nicely with last year's episode, Hide. Looks like he was the Alpha test flight for human time travel. When his attempt failed, they likely went back to the drawing board when the Doctor delivered him home, and then quite some time later, Hila Tacorien was sent with slightly less terrible results, eventually resulting in Earth having a rather active Time Agency centuries later.

     What makes this episode special, though, what really makes it shine, is the monster. The monster, and the fact that there may actually not have been a monster. Debate has been raging since this episode aired. What was that monster? Was there a monster at all? What was under the sheet? What was banging on the airlock at the end of the universe? Was it, as the Doctor theorized, the ultimate hider? Someone that follows us around from birth to death, and never comes into our view? Two completely unrelated monster that the Doctor just stumbled on? Personally, I think the answer was there all along. The Doctor literally explained it, but we were too busy looking for something fantastic. In young Rupert's room, it was just another child playing a joke. At the end of the universe, it was the ship settling, and the atmosphere escaping. Our minds, like the Doctor's thanks to Clara, filled in the rest with scary, unimaginable bits, painting a much more horrible picture.
I think it looks like a giant grey penis. Penis courtesy BBC.
     And speaking of Clara's actions: In a way, this story acts as an origin story for The Doctor, albeit one that it took 50 years and 12 incarnations to finally reach. It shows as an origin that started way back when Jack, Martha, and the Tenth Doctor were hiding from The Master's Archangel Network, and he regaled his companions with stories of his childhood, of looking into the Untempered Schism, where raw temporal energy threatened to tear into our universe, and of how he ran, scared. The trauma caused him to run to his family's barn and hide under the covers at night, and caused his parents to fear he'd never enter the Academy of the Time Lords of Gallifrey, and he'd be relegated to the Gallifreyan Military. Until Clara, not the Impossible Girl, but just Clara Oswald – socially clumsy, foot permanently wedged in her mouth when not in the TARDIS Clara – piloted the TARDIS accidentally into that barn, not only giving him that dream of fear that was the apotheosis of his very character, but the vision of the blue box that may well have influenced the chameleon circuit when landing in a junkyard in London in the 1960s. As I saw someone put it, “It seems that throughout the many projections of Clara that have influenced the Doctor's life, the one that mattered most in the end was still the Clara.”

     This is the strongest episode so far of the new series, possibly one of the strongest episodes of the entire relaunch series. Given the chemistry of Capaldi and Coleman, I'm hoping that this is the point where the new series gels, where everything comes together, and we get some of the best science fiction that we've had in years.

I just hope the Chalkboard plays into the finale. It's my favorite character so far.

Next week: Ocean's Twelfth

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