Clara: You’re being mysterious, and do you know what means?
The Doctor: I’m a man of mystery.
Clara: Hmm. It means that you are a very clever man making the mistake, common to very clever people, of assuming that everybody else is stupid.
Doctor Who Season: S34 (Ep6).
Story Number: 247.
An even-numbered episode…
They say the even-numbered Star Trek movies are the good ones. For this season, (which is all good, sometimes fantastic, so far) it’s the even-numbered episodes (so far) with substantial Danny Pink scenes. (Last week doesn’t count.)
It’s fascinating how these scenes have been introduced to the programme. As a character he’s becoming more and more integrated into what we understand as a regular Doctor Who story. For Episode 2, it was almost as if a minisode had collided with the precredits sequence, only kept apart by the Doctor Who title credits. Clara could flutter between each narrative “world”.
For Episode 4, the Danny Pink scenes were (literally for the runtime) the centre of the episode, while Clara was still fluttering between TARDIS-land and the restaurant. There was still a division and Clara would be stepping across that divide.
For this, Episode 6, it begins with Clara whizzing between each part of her life – it’s a great visual gag to have the “running down corridors” as a Generic Doctor Who adventure, then Clara going running with Danny meaning this is an exhausting lifestyle for her, two worlds. After the title credits though, the Danny Pink scenes and “regular” Doctor Who scenes have fully merged. When worlds collide.
The monster of this Doctor Who story, the Skavox Blitzer is actually a fascinating exercise in providing a skeletal minimal framework for a “regular” Doctor Who story while the other scenes, which are subtle mini dramas and comedies on the intricacies of human interaction, like the Danny Pink scenes of Listen, fill out the rest of the story within that skeleton outweigh any “regular Doctor Who-ness”.
The Skavox Blitzer elements are there to anchor this story with some tradition before the episodes floats off into too-radical shapes: the potential threat to the main characters demonstrated by the monster devouring a hapless this-episode only character; a monster to be vanquished by the episode’s end.
Shakespeare’s play The Tempest is mentioned obliquely during this episode – by the English teacher the Doctor believes his Clara’s beau – though some of the ideas of it are actually central to this story.
In The Tempest a magician has a guiding hand over who his daughter will marry – though Clara isn’t (obviously) literally the Doctor’s daughter, Danny does question if the Doctor is her “Space Dad” and in a way, (in this version of himself), he is: he wants what’s best for her and wants any boyfriend of hers to meet his high standards.
Danny needs to be good enough for Clara.
Halfway through the episode the Doctor is already very happy with what he thinks is her choice, and it’s the “dashing young time traveller” line of this –
“Go and canoodle with your boyfriend. Come on. I wasn’t born yesterday. Far from it.”
“You did recognise him.”
“Possibly reminded me of a certain dashing young time-traveller.”
“Oh, of course you recognised him. I. Sorry. Stupid. I, I underestimated you.”
“It’s easily done. There’s a lot to estimate.”
“And you, you like him?”
“Yes, I like him very, very much.”
– that is the cleverest element of that scene, as Clara thinks the time-traveller he means is Orson Pink of the previous episode, (who of course has a strong resemblance to his ancestor Danny).
This episode has some fun gently being cheeky about the Doctor
Who that has gone before, from this doppelgänger of the Eleventh Doctor, Adrian, to Clara exasperation at the Doctor showing off at with her caricature of his usual style of anecdotes “Boggons from space and then you all formed a band and met Buddy Holly” a hilarious moment. Courtney Woods and her novel reaction to the universe-by-TARDIS, and her dialogue with the Doctor – “It says, Keep Out.”, “No, it says, Go Away Humans” – are more comedic scenes for Capaldi’s Doctor.
It’s not all comedy though, and the confrontation between Danny and the Doctor in the Console Room is very dramatic. The man that doesn’t like soldiers meets the man that has had enough already of aristocratic officer-types.
The season’s theme of how the Doctor regards himself means then another character prompting the Time Lord to consider more self-reflection.
“If he ever pushes you too far, I want you to tell me, because I know what that’s like” – these words of the second-last scene (before another Missy appearance) seem to be quite ominous. More than the Missy scenes (which are delightful though), it’s Danny Pink’s relationship with Clara which is giving this season a fascinating ongoing storyline.
(The Caretaker on bbc.co.uk/programmes/)