The seventh episode in Series 12 of Doctor Who promised to get spooky, and it kind of did—but not in the way I was expecting.
In this episode, the Doctor drops Ryan, Graham, and Yaz back at home and goes by herself to investigate something strange in 1380 Aleppo. The fam is brought back together again when the Doctor is called with complaints of strange nightmares and visions. Graham’s vision in particular leads the team (plus Tahira, who the Doctor picked up in Aleppo) to a location in space where two planets are about to collide, but never touching—because there’s a woman trapped in between them. As the Doctor and friends try to free the prisoner, they soon have to face the fact that in a world of nightmares, not everything is as it seems.
With the way this episode was advertised, I was expecting more of a The Stealers of Dreams kind of deal, with the focus being on the horror of nightmares. My hope was that this would serve to bring the TARDIS fam closer together before the big finale storyline, where their friendship will inevitably be tested.
As it happened, the creepiest thing for me in this episode was that dude’s fingers sticking in people’s ears. Ugh. The actual nightmares that the TARDIS team experienced ended up not even being a hugely important part of the episode, and really the only development in their friendship took place at the very end with Graham confiding in the Doctor (more on that later). Instead, the episode’s focus was more on how to deal with fear and on the two interesting baddies.
My favourite things about the episode were 1) the villains, who were fun and unlike anything we’ve seen in a while and 2) the insight into Yaz’s past. It was really, really nice to finally get a bit of backstory that added some depth to Yaz’s character. While all of the novels that have come out over the past two seasons have really let Yaz shine, I think the show has neglected her a bit; this addition to the episode was very welcome!
And, contrary to popular opinion, I really liked the scene at the end with Graham and the Doctor. People who are saying that the Doctor “dismissed” Graham’s fears about his cancer returning make me wonder if they even watched the episode. Actually, I think there are more than a few incarnations of the Doctor that would have dismissed him. But instead, the Thirteenth Doctor did something I’m not sure we’ve ever seen her do: she listened. For a Doctor who moves constantly and gets distracted as easily as a puppy, it’s quite something to see her stand still and silent, completely focused on what Graham is saying. Though she didn’t have the words to comfort him at the moment—which is something I can relate to—she admitted to the weakness and, like I said, still gave him her undivided attention. It was actually pretty nice to see this idea backed up by Sophie Aldred (and company) in At Childhood’s End, where the Thirteenth Doctor struggles with what to say to Ace when she knows she has a lot to answer for. (But that’s a whole other review! 😉 )
All in all, Can You Hear Me? was a perfectly adequate episode, similar to the other episodes this season that haven’t been essential to the overall plot. It had some interesting bits, like the bad guys and some character insights, but was pretty much just another fun Doctor Who story to enjoy on a surface level.
Next week the TARDIS fam meets Lord Byron and the Shelleys, and I’m so excited!!!!!