Question: why do we talk out loud when we know we’re alone?
Conjecture: because we know we’re not.
These are the Doctor’s opening thoughts, after a lovely spell of seemingly meditating on the Tardis in outer space. He poses that evolution has made the ultimate hunters, the best defenses, but has it produced a being that’s perfected hiding? Well, we’d have no way of knowing.
“Listen” looked delightfully scary from the preview, and at the beginning I thought I shouldn’t be watching it so close to bed! It’s more about the Doctor’s past than you would think, with some interesting implications about Clara’s future…
Clara and Danny Pink are on their date that does not go well. It goes so poorly that Clara decides to make an exit. When she gets home, she can barely open the door because the Tardis is blocking her way. “I need you for a thing,” the Doctor says.
The Doctor tells her his theory about the thing that wants to remain hidden. He tells her that he thinks everyone has had the same nightmare— they wake up in the dream, turn the light on and try to convince themselves they’re alone; when they step from the bed a hand reaches out from under it and grabs their ankle. The Doctor wants to visit the time Clara had this dream. He patches her into some telepathic circuits, which is achieved by sticking her fingers in some honeycomb-like goo.
Clara is distracted by her bad date. She instead ends up in Mr. Pink’s childhood. She sees a young Rupert Pink (who protests that he wants to change his name) through the window.
The Doctor shows the proprietor of the children’s home his psychic paper, and the proprietor sees an inspector’s badge. Meanwhile, Clara sneaks up past. She meets young Rupert and asks him if he’s had a nightmare— the nightmare.
Clara tells him dreams aren’t real and looks under the bed. She crawls under herself, inviting young Pink to do the same so he can’t be scared anymore. They do, and there’s a spot of calm. Then, there’s some creaking from atop the bed. Rupert says no one has come in, and Clara comes out to see a figure under the bedspread. Unsure if the quiet figure is a mean-spirited child playing a prank or something that wants to stay hidden, the Doctor flicks the light on from the side of the room. The Doctor asks Rupert if he’s afraid. Rupert says he is, and the Doctor tells him that it’s a superpower— he can run faster, fight harder. The Doctor tells Clara and Rupert to turn their backs from it, to close their eyes and promise never to look at it. It leaves.
Clara asks for a favor from the Doctor— she sees herself walking away and walks back in after. She apologizes and things go well for a while, but things get weird once she accidently lets slip that she knows his name was Rupert. He then realizes that she doesn’t have her jacket with her as she did when she left. Meanwhile, a spaceman walks through the restaurant and beckons Clara into the Tardis. Inside he takes off his helmet to reveal another Mr. Pink— Orson Pink from 100 years in Clara’s timeline.
The Doctor, Clara, and Mr. Pink go to the end of time, where Orson had been accidentally sent in the first time mission. Orson says there’s time travel in his family line. The Doctor cryptically says the Tardis needs to charge overnight and they three of them must spend the night on the edge of time and space. The Doctor has brought them here because at this moment, Orson is the last living thing left. He wants to know what these things who’ve remained hidden will do. He unlocks the door and sends Clara to the Tardis. The door’s airlock sends everything, including the Doctor, flying. Pink saves him, and Clara patches back into the telepathic goop to get them away.
She ends up in a barn, where a boy is crying from his bed. She hides under her bed as two people come to talk about the crying boy. She overhears that he’ll never make a Time Lord… The boy wakes, and as he steps out of his bed, Clara grasps his ankle. She whispers to the scared boy that it’s a dream and it will be okay if he goes back to sleep.
Back in the Tardis, Pink asks the Doctor what he saw out there. Clara comes back in asking, what if it were nothing? What if the big bad Time Lord is just afraid of the dark? Clara makes the Doctor promise not to look at where they are. We fade out on Clara’s words to the young Doctor, on how fear makes companions of us all. Her words meld with the present, where Pink has come to apologize to Clara and they end in a kiss.