Previously on Doctor Who, ‘Robot of Sherwood’
After last week’s jaunt into Clara’s historical fantasy, we delve this week into one of our oldest fears: What’s hiding in the dark?
Writing on his chalkboard, the Doctor posits that the reason we talk out loud to ourselves when we’re alone is that we’re not, wondering how we would know if there was a creature who had perfected hiding. “What would such a creature do? Well?? What would you do?” he shouts to the empty TARDIS, amused. Turning back, he finds a word written on the chalkboard: Listen.
Clara sits down to that drink with Danny Pink. They’re awkward, but adorable until he takes a joke about “killing” too seriously, protesting that he doesn’t want “people like you” to misunderstand and make stupid jokes. Offended, she leaves as he slams his head on the table.
Arriving back home, Clare finds her bedroom door blocked by the TARDIS. The Doctor believes everyone has the same nightmare at least once: You tell yourself there’s nobody there, then someone grabs you from under the bed. He slaves the TARDIS to Clara telepathically to find the moment she first had the dream, telling her to concentrate so they don’t get waylaid. But in that instant, Danny calls her phone and she pictures him at the table, waving at her, smiling.
They end up in Gloucester at a children’s home at 2 AM, although she claims she’s never been there. But a little boy in the window catches her eye, waving the same wave, and opens the window to chat, mocking his own name, Rupert Pink. Meanwhile the Doctor uses his psychic paper to feign an inspection.
Using the distraction, Clara sneaks in to talk to Rupert, finding him sitting on the floor, staring under the bed. She climbs under there to show him it’s fine, but as they lay on the floor, the bed suddenly sinks over them. A shape under his red blanket turns clearly to them, rising. The Doctor snaps on the light, encouraging Rupert, “Scared is a super power!” Turn your back on it, he tells them, telling it to leave in peace as it looms closer and closer. The blanket slowly slides off the being. Is it another little boy? In a flash, it’s gone.
Clara sets up army men around the bottom of Rupert’s bed, including one missing a gun. “A man so brave he doesn’t need a gun,” she explains. He names him Dan the Soldier Man and asks her for help getting to sleep.
Back on the TARDIS, Clara asks for a favor. They arrive back at the restaurant and she sits as Danny lifts his head from the table, apologizing. They continue the date, laughing, when she blurts out his real first name. He freaks out and leaves. Behind him a space suited person appears, flagging her into the TARDIS. Thinking it’s the Doctor, she yells at him, “Is there any way you could make this more surreal than it already is?!”
Yes. It’s Orson Pink, an astronaut 100 years in the future in her telepathic timeline. Her eyes bug out. “What’s wrong with your face?” the Doctor demands, “It’s all eyes. Why are you all eyes? Get them under control.”
Orson, a pioneering time traveler, accidentally found himself at the end of time. The Doctor offers to take him back home, if only he agrees to stay one more night. He agrees, but is clearly scared. Even though the universe is empty, the door is locked. At the end of the universe, “That’s a hell of a lot of ghosts,” the Doctor says.
As Orson prepares for the night, a family heirloom falls out of his bag–Danny the soldier man. Clara tells him to stay away from time travel, but it runs in the family, according to stories about his great grandparents. He smiles knowingly.
Clara and the Doctor sit on the base as it turns to night lighting. “Don’t open the door” is written on the door, visible only at night. The ship creaks and settles, and there’s a knocking, so he unlocks the door, reciting…
The door begins opening and he barks for her to get in the TARDIS, but he has to know. As far as anyone sees, there is nothing, but the air shell breaks and Orson must rescue the now unconscious Doctor. Clara fires up the telepathic circuits again to move the TARDIS.
Unsure of their location, she goes out alone, finding a barn with a child crying in the loft. “Rupert?” she asks. “Orson?” No response. At the sound of voices, she dives under the bed. The boy’s foster parents come in, telling him he can come in to the big house with the other boys any time. The man says, “He’s not going to the academy, is he, that boy. He’ll never make a Time Lord.”
SHUT THE FRONT DOOR.
The Doctor wakes suddenly in the TARDIS and calls for Clara, startling the boy who hops out of bed. “Hello, who’s there?” Instinctively, she grabs his foot, then gasps, realizing what she’s done. Thinking fast, she tells him if he just lies down and sleeps, it’ll all be okay. He does, but keeps crying in fear, burying his face, so she sits on the bed, patting his hair. “Listen,” she whispers.
Returning to the TARDIS, she asks, “What if there was never anything? What if the big bad Time Lord just didn’t want to admit he’s afraid of the dark?” She tells him never to return to this point. He says he doesn’t take orders. “Do as you’re told,” she replies.
It flashes back to her talk with the little Doctor, as we see Orson returned to Earth, Clara’s first kiss with Danny, Clara watching the Doctor affectionately on the TARDIS and giving him a huge hug against his protests, the Doctor underlining, “Listen” on the chalk board, smiling now.
The sound he hears in the dark is the familiar moan of TARDIS dematerializing. Clara has left Dan the soldier man with the little Doctor.
- Sending Clara to the Doctor’s childhood materially changes their relationship, although in the opposite direction of Deep Breath. After finally coming to see him as a being far removed from human experience, she now has literally seen the frightened child in him. Was it this moment that “companion” was implanted in his mind as the balm to his fear?
- It makes sense that besides the fear of death, a Time Lord would fear outliving everyone else. And onto that fear, an additional fear: What if there was something even scarier than that? What if there was something that wouldn’t show itself until he was the only person left? Does this fully calm that fear?
- This episode’s comparison for our new Doctor: an orphaned soldier.
- Listen ranks with the other infamous Fears episodes on chill factor, but falls a bit short of the final punch when it feints on the big bad: nothing is probably just nothing, even when you’re a Time Lord.