Doctor Who: “Listen” Fear, and Danny Pink


S08x04 “Listen”

My British cohort, I call her Dame Dear Collectress, text me Saturday evening asking if I’d watched Doctor Who yet. I was driving home from LA, so I hadn’t, but she assured me it was very “ooooohhhh wweeeeee ooooohhhhh”, I believe were her exact words.

And so it was.

This week, the Whoniverse went crazy over the fourth episode from the 12th Doctor, and for good reason. “Listen” took us to the great mytharc that is the Doctor’s history, it took us to Gallifrey and it showed us that Clara may have had more of an impact on the Doctor’s timeline that we originally believed.

Spoilers ahead Sweetie!

The Danny Pink Conundrum

Ever since the news was announced that we were to have a recurring character of color in Danny Pink, I’ve been excited to see where he might fit in the Whoniverse, and I was not disappointed. Although we found out pretty early on that Danny is a soldier-turned-teacher who works with Clara and he seems to suffer from a mild-to-severe case of PTSD, it is unclear how he and Clara have interacted since “Deep Breath” and the invitation for a drink. Unfortunately, the pair’s chemistry seems off on their first date, and, even though Clara tries to back and fix it, the romance doesn’t seem to be there. When the Doctor picks her up (in the middle of said date) and asks her to interface with the TARDIS so they may travel on her timeline, they end up at the orphanage where a young Rupert “Danny” Pink is frightened and accosted by the thing under his bed, the very “monster” the Doctor has been trying to find. The second time she goes back to “fix” the date, she ends up whisked away by Orson Pink, Danny’s great-great grandson, who is also terrified of the thing outside his door, at the end of the earth. The themes of fear, not knowing and the connection of Danny to Clara are woven throughout this episode, but why?

Now, let me backtrack a bit. This storyline is interesting for a number of reasons, but what I’m interested in not where this new interface apparatus came from or why, I don’t even care about the thing under the blanket and where it went or what it was. To use Twelve’s catchphrase (we will make it happen) my QUESTION is, why the Pink family? Clara goes on one date with the guy ( a bad one, at that) and all of a sudden she’s telepathically connected to not only his history but his future, as well? Also, why did Clara keep the fact that she knew Rupert Pink a secret from the Doctor? It’s intriguing, because some fans have been complaining that Clara isn’t interesting and that she hasn’t done anything to show us that she was even really capable of saving the Doctor as she supposedly did when she hopped into Eleven’s time stream back in “The Name of the Doctor”. Now, all of a sudden, she’s keeping secrets from the Doctor, manipulating the TARDIS (which always takes the Doctor/his companion where they need to go), and meeting potential future great grandchildren? Wait. What? How is this all connected?

My theory? She will develop a longterm relationship with Danny at some point, and so her timeline is connected to his, which is why she ended up traveling up and down in so easily. From the moment she accidentally thought about him while interfacing with the TARDIS to when she gave a young Rupert “Danny” Pink a pep talk on bravery and the (family heirloom) toy soldier, she was connected to Danny Pink. If we think of how time and space works, besides the fact that it’s wibbley wobbley, we know that once a moment in time is changed, it effects everything along that timeline. By giving Danny the toy soldier, she implanted the idea that soldiers are brave, and he became one, forging a path that would lead him to the exact school where Clara worked, and then on a date with the insufferable teacher/space traveler/liar (he calls her out).

The Monster Under the Bed

So, then, what about this mysterious invisible monster the Doctor chases throughout the episode? Well, like all things ancient and confusing, this bedtime nightmare leads us back to Gallifrey, where we see a child Doctor, weeping, afraid of seemingly everything. Clara hides under the bed and, when the child Doctor tries to get up to see what the noise is (it’s the TARDIS), Clara grabs his ankle, thus starting the Doctor’s obsession with the monster under the bed. This was an eloquent addition to the Doctor’s time line and also an interesting look into the psyche of the Timelord. He has encountered so many terrifying monsters he could not see (the Weeping Angels, the Silence) over the years, that he believes if he hears something in the dark and it scares him, it must be a tangible entity out to do some sort of harm. When he tells Rupert “Danny” Pink to harness his fear and use it as a strength, we know he advises this because it is what the Doctor has done since he was a child in that barn, terrified of everything. When Clara tells the child Doctor that fear should make him be kind, we see that advice shining through, as well. The Doctor saves people, he saves planets; that’s his self-appointed job. Even after the Time War and all the mistakes he made as the War Doctor, he continues to work toward healing the universe rather than terrorizing it (as the Timelords and the Master tended to do).

“Listen” reminds us that there is a larger narrative, even beyond the seasonal story arcs, and it is the story of the Doctor. Within this episode, audiences are led to ask the question of how Clara Oswald, the Impossible Girl whom the Doctor has known and not known his entire existence, fits into his big picture.

Your Friendly Neighborhood Wholigan

The Collectiva Diva



  1. Bec Graham

    The way Clara interacts with Twelve gives me hope for her. It reminds me of who she was in Asylum of the Daleks and The Snowmen. That Clara has fire and it’s been missing until now. Now she’s fiesty and I like it.
    Though, I really wish they’d explain what the thing under the blanket was. UNLESS the point is to conquer fear and, though Clara convinces Rupert/Young Doctor that what they fear is simply the dark, and that cheers them up, there is actually something in it. Because there WAS something under the blanket. We saw it, and they saw it.
    Moffat, what are you playing at?!?!

    1. The Collective Blog

      I’m hoping Moffat keeps up with Clara’s storyline. It’s finally getting good and there is some depth to it, which was lacking through all of series 7 since “Asylum” and “Snowmen”. I need my companions to have their own story and background, and Clara is barely started to get that. I’m really loving the “Danny Pink” connection, too!
      Thanks for commenting and reading, as always, darling.

      1. Bec Graham

        Same! She was so bleh with Eleven. That one scene where she elects to stay behind instead of helping Eleven (either the ghost ep or the one with the ice soldiers) just spoke volumes. But she’s so fun now! And she talks back! You can’t go from Amy Pond to someone who doesn’t have any fire. And Clara is FINALLY finding hers.
        Danny Pink is definitely an interesting character. He’s got that whole awkward thing going on, like Rory used to.
        And no worries! Thanks for keeping us all in our nerdy updates! 😀

  2. slivarth

    Hello, great blog you have.

    Best episode of the season so far, although Capaldi has been steadily good and even since Deep Breath. Best Clara so far as well, and Danny might become my favourite male companion of the renewed series. I think it’s good their relationship evolves at slower pace, since I am not a fan of too obvious ‘love at first sight’ cliches, and in this case I can see some attraction thas builds up gradually, but not without some doubts or misunderstandings, like it would happen in many real life romance scenarios.

    @the whole plot – I think this episode was surprisingly ‘Moffat-conundrum-free’, so to say. It might be my rationalist mind speaking, but I can summarise the whole premise of the episode as: “there was no monster this time, it was just us all along” – we (and both Doctor and Clara tried and said this) can explain any weird stuff with more or less mundane reasons. ‘Ghost’ under the blanket? – other boy trying to scare Rupert. Knocking on the door? – hull is cooling down and expanding. ‘Monster’ under young Doctor’s bed? – Well, self-explanatory if you saw Listen. The real villain and/or friend? the Fear itself.

    I might be wrong, of course, and at the finale we’ll be treated with more of the usual wibbly-wobbly adventure, but I do hope this episode means we can expect a little bit more of deep thoughts actually put into writing. Well, the incoming one is a heist scenario, so I have some doubts about that… 😉

    1. The Collective Blog

      I watched this episode(Listen) a third time before “Time Heist” on Saturday and I’m more convinced that the Doctor is revealing his social ineptitude more and more. He is terrified, paranoid, violent and runs away from his personal issues, focusing on the larger universe instead of facing his own fears. I agree that this was a very straightforward episode while also giving audiences a new perspective on who the Doctor is and who he has been in the past. I guess when it comes to the Doctor, we are so used to complex answers that the simple and easy answer seems so very unlikely.

  3. andreablythe

    Fantastic analysis of a great episode. Orson Pink seemed to hint that Clara might be his great-great-grandmother or something, that he had a family member who told stories about time traveling, which would show her connection to Danny all the more clearly. I’m thinking I may have to go back and watch it again.

    1. The Collective Blog

      It seems that Clara and Orson are connected by more than just Danny–as if she has her own connection to his timeline and isn’t just hopping around on Danny’s anymore. It’s an interesting situation and I’m excited to see how it plays out. Come on, Moffat! Don’t disappoint.
      Thanks for reading and commenting!

  4. K.M. Shelley

    Clara is the great grandmother of Orson (I believe a derivative of Oswin) Orson was the first time traveler. I believe Orson precedes the Doctor, Follow the thinking when the Doctor and Clara meet him at the end of time it is really beginning of time before the time of the Time Lords. In effect Orson is the first Time Traveler (Time Lord). Clara is Orson’s great Grandmother thus the mother of all Time Lords.

    1. The Collective Blog

      Interesting theory! So, did the Doctor make a mistake/lie when he told Clara they were at the end of time? Also, how is Orson, a human, also a TimeLord? Time Travelers are not always Time Lords–Captain Jack traveled through time and he wasn’t a Time Lord, although he did live forever, but that was something different altogether. Also, the folks piloting the teselacta time traveled and weren’t Time Lords.
      This is why I love Doctor Who.
      Thanks for reading and commenting!!

      1. K.M. Shelley

        I do not think the Doctor knew he assumed Clara had taken him to the end of time. Throughout Dr. Who the doctor has hypothesize and has been wrong only to come up with a new hypothesis. (the scientific method) The Dr. at the end of one time line but not the end of all time. Orson may or may not be fully human we do not know. Clara may or may not be fully human. My hypothesis is that Clara is in effect the mother of all Time Lords and Orson is the First time traveler before the Time Lords. The end of time for the the human race is the beginning of time for the Time Lords. I thought it interesting the first word on the Chalk Board was Evolution. I thought it interesting the Dr. said I thought I would be the last MAN at the end of time. The Dr. is not a man he is a Time Lord is there a genetic connection between humans and the Time Lords? Is Clara really the Mother of all Time Lords thus the Eve of a new race the Time Lords at the eve of a new age. The end of one time could be the beginning a new time.

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