Listen (Doctor Who)

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245 – "Listen"
Doctor Who episode
Promotional image for the episode
Writer Steven Moffat
Director Douglas Mackinnon
Script editor David P Davis
Producer Peter Bennett
Executive producer(s) Steven Moffat
Brian Minchin
Incidental music composer Murray Gold
Series Series 8
Length 45 minutes
Originally broadcast 13 September 2014 (2014-09-13)
← Preceded by Followed by →
"Robot of Sherwood" "Time Heist"

"Listen" is the fourth episode of the eighth series of the British science fiction television programme Doctor Who, first broadcast on BBC One on 13 September 2014. It was written by Steven Moffat and directed by Douglas Mackinnon.

In the episode, alien time traveller the Doctor (Peter Capaldi) attempts to track down a creature with the perfected ability to hide, while his companion Clara Oswald (Jenna Coleman) struggles with her relationship with her boyfriend Danny Pink (Samuel Anderson).

"Listen" was originally watched by 4.81 million viewers in the UK and received critical acclaim for its script, direction and performances.


Clara Oswald meets with fellow Coal Hill teacher Danny Pink for their first date at a restaurant. They mutually offend each other due to a lack of understanding regarding Danny's army career, and she decides to leave to avoid further confrontation.

Clara returns home to find the Doctor waiting for her. The Doctor would like Clara's help to investigate why every living being in the universe, including himself, seems to have a dream about a hand reaching out from under their bed for them. He asks her to use the TARDIS' telepathic link to take the time machine back to her youth, but her errant thoughts on the failed date with Danny lead them to landing near a children's home in Gloucester in the 1990s. They find one of the children there is young Danny, at that time going by the name Rupert. Rupert is frightened by something he believes is under his bed. They witness a figure under the bed that scampers out of the room when they look away. Though the Doctor suspects it is a fellow child teasing Rupert, he tells Rupert that he should use his fear to enable himself, allowing the adrenaline to overcome his obstacles and fears. Clara further suggests Rupert should place his toy soldiers around his bed for protection, unintentionally giving Rupert the idea of changing his name to Danny and joining the army when he identifies the lead soldier as "Dan the soldier man". With Rupert drifting off to sleep in his bed, the Doctor wipes his memory of the night's encounter.

Inspired by this event, Clara asks the Doctor to return her to the restaurant shortly after she walked on Danny. She is able to apologise but inadvertently reveals her knowledge of Danny's past which he has not shared with her. Danny is offended and leaves. Clara sees a spacesuit-wearing figure step out of the TARDIS and beckon her. Inside, the figure is revealed to be Orson Pink, one of Danny's descendants from 100 years in the future. The Doctor explains that Orson is one of mankind's first time travelers but became stranded at the end of time, and the Doctor has recovered him. Orson proves his identity by speaking of stories told by his great-grandparents about time travel, and that he possesses one of Rupert's toy soldiers, an heirloom that he passes on to Clara as a worthy recipient.

The Doctor takes them via TARDIS to Orson's ship at the end of time, as the Doctor believes the entity that represents his fear had followed Orson there, being the only life remaining in existence. They witness strange events that could be easily explained but the Doctor remains wary. The Doctor sends Orson and Clara to the TARDIS as he faces this entity, but Orson is forced to rescue him when the air containment seal is breached and the Doctor loses consciousness. Clara decides to use the TARDIS telepathic link to return them to her time.

When the TARDIS lands, they are in a strange barn. Clara explores to find a child along by his bed, crying to himself. She tries to approach him, but is forced to hide under the bed when two adult figures enter the barn, observe the child, and agree that he will become a soldier, lacking the potential to become a Time Lord. Clara suddenly realises that the child is the Doctor, the TARDIS link having centered on him. When the figures leave, the child gets off the bed, but Clara grabs at his leg - recognising that she is the monster under the bed that the Doctor had feared. She is able to convince the child that he is dreaming, helps him return to bed, and provides similar advice that the Doctor had provided Rupert on empowering himself through his fear. She also promises him that he will return to this barn at the time of his greatest fear ("The Day of the Doctor"). With the child asleep, she returns to the TARDIS and has the now-conscious Doctor promise to not look outside as they depart.

After returning Clara to Earth and Orson to his original time period, the Doctor seemingly rejects the notion of the entity's existence. Clara goes to Danny's home and they mutually apologise and share a kiss.


Samuel Anderson makes his second appearance as Danny Pink, a troubled war veteran turned maths teacher and Clara's love interest. He also portrays his descendant, Orson Pink, the first Earth time traveller. Danny's birth name is revealed to be Rupert, and his reasons for becoming a soldier are explored.

The reason for the War Doctor choosing an abandoned barn for his activation of 'The Moment' in 2013's "The Day of the Doctor" is revealed, as the barn is shown to be the Doctor's childhood home on Gallifrey.[1] Archive footage of John Hurt from the fiftieth anniversary special shows the War Doctor approaching the barn.

The Twelfth Doctor, upon awaking in the TARDIS, mentions "Sontarans perverting the course of human history" to Orson Pink, repeating his first words as the Fourth Doctor in Robot.[2] The line itself is a nod to the Third Doctor serial The Time Warrior.[3] There are similar nods to previous stories within the dialogue. The Twelfth Doctor states there is nothing to hear, "not a click or a tick" - a Third Doctor line from Death to the Daleks. The episode's final line, whispered by Clara to the young Doctor, is "Fear makes companions of us all" - a line originally spoken by the First Doctor in the third episode of the very first Doctor Who serial, An Unearthly Child.[2]


Steven Moffat discussed the episode in an interview, saying: "my impulse starting in that was just the idea, 'What does he do when he’s got nothing [to] do?' Because he’d throw himself off a building if he thought it’d be interesting on the way down ... he’s fascinated by anything. And here he’s with nothing to do, so he just goes out poking things with a stick until something bites it. And I think that’s quite interesting, isn't it? Sort of, there’s a thrill seeker aspect."[4] In a Doctor Who Magazine interview, Moffat revealed that the episode originated with the decision, "I'm going to do a chamber piece, with no money, in the middle [of the eighth series], because I haven't done one in ages and I'd like to prove that I can actually write."[5]

The read-through for the episode took place on 11 February 2014, with filming beginning on the 17th,[3] and taking place at The Rest in Porthcawl.[6] Filming continued at the Mimosa restaurant in Mermaid Quay, Cardiff Bay, on 24–25 February 2014.[6][7][8] Filming also took place in Bute Park and Whitchurch, Cardiff.[3]


As part of the series 8 leaks, "Listen" was one of five scripts to leak online from a BBC Worldwide server in Miami.[9] This was followed on 23 August 2014 by the leak of the episode itself - missing ADR and visual effects.[10] The leak followed similar leaks of the preceding episodes "Deep Breath", "Into the Dalek", and "Robot of Sherwood", and the following episode "Time Heist".[11]

Broadcast and reception


Overnight, the episode garnered 4.81 million viewers in the UK – a live audience share of 23.5%.[12] Adjusted for non-live viewings, the episode was watched by a total of 7.01 million viewers,[13] which led Doctor Who Magazine to tweet, nine days after broadcast, that in the UK, "Doctor Who: Listen was the seventh most watched TV show of the week, behind only Bake Off, Χ Factor (×2) & Corrie (×3).".[14] In the United States, the original broadcast earned a total of 1.13 million viewers.[15]

Critical reception

"Listen" received critical acclaim from critics and audiences alike, with many praising Moffat's script, Mackinnon's direction, and the performances of Capaldi, Coleman and Anderson. The episode achieved an Appreciation Index of 82 out of a possible 100.[13]

Labeling the episode as "possibly Steven Moffat's most terrifying episode to date", Neela Debnath of The Independent praised Coleman's performance, stating that "Clara was back on the top of her game". They called it "the most powerful episode of Doctor Who from Moffat to date ... a moving piece of drama as well as a terrifying piece of Saturday night television".[16] Digital Spy praised the episode, awarding it a perfect 5 out of 5 and summing it up as "smart, scary [and] superb". They praised Moffat's script and the development of Clara's character, and closed their review by stating, "Intelligent, romantic and just scary enough, 'Listen' is either a moody tale of the supernatural or it's a clever reflection on the mind's own ability to fool and govern itself, but either way it's brilliant".[17] Radio Times labelled the episode as "the most conceptual episode in the entire history of Doctor Who", and stated, "You're blowing our minds, Moffat".[18] Writing for The Guardian, Dan Martin called the episode "phenomenally good", and suggested its script was one of Moffat's best ever.[5]

The A.V. Club awarded the episode an "A" grade, calling it "the best episode in years" and saying that "[they] might run out of superlatives for this one". They stated that "it is the best story Steven Moffat has written for the show since "The Eleventh Hour", and [that they] might be willing to go still further back than that in search of an episode of his that outdoes tonight's entry". They praised the analysis and development of the Doctor's character, and closed their review, saying, "'Listen' is just about the most honest exploration of the Doctor we've seen in 51 years. That it does all this without judgment, but rather with love and understanding, is what makes it special. It's what makes it Doctor Who."[19] The Daily Mirror awarded the episode a 4 out of 5, stating, "Doctor Who should be about tapping into your fears, making you hide behind the cushion on the sofa. And 'Listen' delivers this in spades."[20]

Mac Rogers of Slate praised "Listen" as "the best Doctor Who episode in years", arguing that it "proves that, deployed cleverly enough, Doctor Who can do anything."[21] Similarly, writer Paul Cornell praised the episode's interrogation of the Doctor's character and inversion of series clichés, suggesting that it "might be the best Doctor Who story ever."[22]

In 2015 the episode was nominated for a Bram Stoker Award, becoming the first Doctor Who episode to be nominated for the award.[23] "Listen" was also nominated for the 2015 Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation (Short Form).[24]


  1. Mulkern, Patrick (13 September 2014). "Doctor Who Listen review: "A classy, creepy study of fear and loneliness"". Radio Times. Retrieved 14 September 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. 2.0 2.1 Allen, Christopher (16 September 2014). "In Case You Missed It: Listen". BBC Worldwide. Retrieved 18 September 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 "Listen: Fact File". Doctor Who. BBC One. Retrieved 13 September 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. Rob Leane (27 August 2014). "Doctor Who update: Jenna Coleman on Clara, Moffat on Listen". Den of Geek. Retrieved 30 August 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. 5.0 5.1 Martin, Dan (13 September 2014). "Doctor Who recap: series 34, episode four – Listen". The Guardian. Retrieved 17 March 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. 6.0 6.1 "Autumn 2014 Series: Series 8". Doctor Who Spoilers. Retrieved 13 September 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. Danielle Gusmaroli (26 February 2014). "Doctor Who star Peter Capaldi smuggles a hot water bottle... while Jenna Coleman struts in a black minidress and patent heels on set in Wales". Daily Mail. Retrieved 29 August 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. "Series 8 Filming: A Night Out". Doctor Who TV. 26 February 2014. Retrieved 29 August 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. Ben Dowell (7 July 2014). "Please don't share secrets of Doctor Who series 8 - BBC Worldwide "sorry" for five leaked scripts". Radio Times. Retrieved 29 August 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. "Doctor Who Series 8 Leak Update: Episode 4 Listen Now Available". Combom. 23 August 2014. Retrieved 29 August 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  11. "Doctor Who Series 8 Leak Update: Episode 5 Time Heist (But NOT Ep 4) Now Available". Combom. 21 August 2014. Retrieved 29 August 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  12. Louis - TGT. "The Gallifrey Times - Bringing you the latest Doctor Who news daily!: Doctor Who: Listen - Overnight UK Viewing Figures".<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  13. 13.0 13.1 "Doctor Who Series 8 (2014) UK Ratings Accumulator".<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  14. "Doctor Who Magazine on Twitter". Twitter.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  15. "SHOWBUZZDAILY's Top 25 Saturday Cable Originals: 9.13.2014".<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  16. "Doctor Who, Listen, review: Possibly Steven Moffat's most terrifying episode". The Independent.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  17. "Doctor Who series 8 'Listen' recap: smart, scary, superb". Digital Spy.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  18. Jonathan Holmes. "Doctor Who series 8 episode 4 Listen: Is the monster real?". RadioTimes.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  19. ""Listen" · Doctor Who · Review".<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  20. Chris Pyke (13 September 2014). "Doctor Who Listen review: Peter Capaldi, Jenna Coleman and now Samuel Anderson on top form". mirror.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  21. Rogers, Mac (16 September 2014). "How Steven Moffat Made the Best Doctor Who Episode in Years". Slate. Retrieved 18 September 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  22. Cornell, Paul (15 September 2014). "Five Brilliant Things About Doctor who – Series 8 Episode 4". Retrieved 15 September 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  23. Kanchan, Suman (25 February 2015). "Doctor Who: Listen Nominated For Bram Stoker Award". The Gallifrey Times. Retrieved 26 February 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  24. "2015 Hugo Awards". The Hugo Awards. 4 April 2015. Retrieved 5 April 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links