It wasn’t my original plan to have these reviews go up the same day as the next episode, I swear! Anyway, Can You Hear Me? was a good episode, with the rarely-if-ever-used in the revived series idea of a God-like immortal villain walking around and hamming it up a bit, plus a look at mental health that while not as good as a certain past episode that tackled the subject, was still handled well. What’s my overall view? Read on!
What connects the nightmares of a young girl from 1380 Aleppo to strange happenings in the present day? Who is the shadowy figure who appears in the night? And what have they got to do with a young woman in the far future, trapped in an impossible prison? Time catches up to the Doctor’s friends, whose wants and dreams are set on colliding. They must now embark on a mission that will draw out their innermost fears, to be confronted.
*spoilers appear from here on out!*
“Am I seeing what I think I’m seeing?” “Yeah… Bloody Earth, AGAIN?!”
While I found “Vincent and The Doctor” a far more interesting look at mental health, this story did at least tackle the rather tricky subject well. Tahira, a lady from 1380 Aleppo, had monsters “only she could see” that kept her awake at night (admittedly these monster were brought to life via our villains of the weak, but still…) Ryan’s friend Tibo was having nightmares that kept him from sleeping and so his flat was becoming a wreck and he was losing control of himself, and finally it was revealed that Yas was bullied at school bad enough that she ran away, potentially even with the intention of killing herself, until a friendly policewoman was sent to get her by her sister. Now, in the end, Tahira conquered her fears (literally), Tibo found a support group and Yas is a police officer herself and obviously fine, so hooray for them (unlike poor Vincent in the aforementioned 11th Doctor story) but it was still a good spotlight and handled with far more grace than the environmental message from Orphan 55…
On the other side of the seriousness scale, the lead villain, Zellin, is straight out of the older Who playbook, a wondering immortal from another universe just playing around with mortal lives for the hell of it. He even mentions the Toymaker, the Guardians and the Eternals in his opening monologue to the Doctor, just to put himself amongst the pantheon of slightly bored immortals in the Whoniverse. He’s also Black Guardian-level cheesy evil, finding human nightmares entertaining and taking great pleasure in creating them via… making his fingers detach and then pop into their ears as they sleep… Hmm.
At the start of the third act, so to speak, we see an innocent girl called Rakaya that Graham has been having visions about that the Doctor frees is actually Zellin’s ally, if not superior, and fellow immortal git. She’s more plain, less hammy, but nonetheless the chaotic duo were very entertaining baddies.
Sweeping shots of Aleppo (modern day Syria) were great, it’s a shame more of the episode didn’t explore it… not that I didn’t welcome a bit of sci-fi scenery for a lot of the final half. We also got another tease for the whole “Child of Time” story arc that’s been going on, which is still… well, not much, other than interesting enough to genuinely want to find out what it is. I hope it lives up to the hype!
He likes taking the form of a older mortal man, in case you’re wondering. Don’t know why, but he does (he says so in the script!)
My main dislike is how Zellin and Rakaya are defeated. They get called to The Doctor and co., Yas reveals that Tahira has conquered her fears and can now control the beasts that were plucked from her head, and then The Doctor just sticks her sonic screw driver in an orb she’s carrying and suddenly the duo are in Rakaya’s prison and trapped with Tahira’s monster. That was it! We didn’t even get a “villain is angry at being bested” scene, just the duo are suddenly teleported to the floating prison cell screaming. Very disappointing.
While it’s been blown out of proportion a bit (on the internet?! I know! Weird!), I will side with the general public that a scene where Graham spills his heart to The Doctor about always being worried that he cancer will be back being met with The Doctor saying “Yeah, I’m not great at these things, I feel a bit awkward so I’m going to over to the console and not say anything comforting” was completely out of character. Some incarnations would have called him stupid for worrying about it, others would tell him to live his life because anyone can go at any time, others would tell him the TARDIS has scanned him and he’s definitely fine, or that it’s normal to feel that way but things will be okay… Anything other than jokingly brushing him off. Bizarre how nobody picked up on that at any point while this was being made / filmed.
“Oh, hang me up and make me have nightmares? That’s a bit crap. At least the Toymaker made me play boardgames and stuff…”
As previously mentioned, Zellin mentions the Eternals (first appeared in Fifth Doctor TV story “Enlightenment”, also appeared in Seventh Doctor comic “Uninvited Guest”), the Guardians (first appeared in the Key to Time season of the Fourth Doctor’s TV run, plus appeared in several Fifth Doctor TV stories and audios), and the Toymaker (first appeared in First Doctor TV story “The Celestial Toymaker” and has appeared on Audio and in Comics several times).
Apart from that and the ongoing series arc, that was it!
A younger Yas potentially on the verge of doing something stupid. Maybe. Possibly.
Can You Hear Me? was a fun story, with some very old school villains and a very current day message about a very real issue. Sadly the ending was a bit crap and The Doctor was a complete bastard (or… bitch, I guess?) to Graham for no reason, but I still enjoyed the story enough to give it another watch a good way down the line…