Doctor Who recap: Season 12, Episode 07, “Can You Hear Me?” Aired Feb. 9, 2020
Based on the trailer and opening scene of “Can You Hear Me?,” I was hoping for some nightmarish monster to give some genuine scares – not so much. Rather, the characters all deal with their own versions of nightmares, which doesn’t quite translate into terrifying for us watching. Plus, we get another message about humanity at the end. Big shocker.
Our companions are all visiting home, and the TARDIS is strangely quiet without them. I personally wouldn’t have minded a Doctor solo adventure, but she couldn’t quite cope without her “fam,” twiddling her thumbs until their return and talking to herself when she couldn’t resist a trip in the TARDIS.
The Doctor ends up in a mental hospital in 14th century Aleppo where werewolf-ish monsters are running rampant, taking the patients. Only one person, named Tahira, remains. Why her?
All the while, Graham’s playing poker with his buddies, Ryan’s playing video games and eating chips with his best friend, and Yaz is catching up with family. However, this is Doctor Who, and no one is going to have an easy episode.
“Can You Hear Me?”
The villain in the episode appears to be Zellin, who extracts nightmares, paranoia, doubt, etc. from humans, and he feeds them to a prisoner trapped between two colliding planets. Naturally, the Doctor sets her free. The only problem is Rakaya is not Zellin’s prisoner. Rather, they were partners, and since she was the smarter and more dangerous one, she was the one imprisoned. And now that the Doctor let her out, she’s not going to waste a moment. The pair head to Earth to feed off the entire populations’ worth of fear.
Meanwhile, imprisoned and under extraction for Zellin and Rakaya, Graham is haunted by memories of Grace and how he couldn’t save her. He’s also got nightmares of his cancer returning. Ryan is certain his best friend, Tibo, has fallen into a depression, and he’s concerned it’s going to get worse if he keeps leaving to travel with the Doctor. Yaz is haunted by memories of a past traumatic event, perhaps related to the bullying she’s experienced. Even the Doctor is suffering, visions of the Timeless Child serving as her nightmare.
“The cruelty of their own minds directed toward themselves”
Turns out Tahira was left alive by Zellin because she was the initial human nightmare. She feared the werewolf-looking thing, and Zellin manifested it. This, of course, makes it all too easy to defeat Zellin and Rakaya, as the Doctor turns their tech around on them, including their detachable fingers – creepy. Tahira confronts her manifested nightmare and traps Zellin and Rakaya. At this point, there are still 15-20 minutes left in the show, and it all feels a bit too simple.
Oh, and before Tahira trapped the bad guys, the Doctor gave them a speech about how strong humans are because we live through our fear and doubts and nightmares. The inspirational speech feels a bit forced here.
The end of Team TARDIS?
At the end of the episode, Tibo gets help for his depression. Graham and Yaz also talk about their fears, Graham about his health concerns and Yaz about that incident I haven’t quite worked out yet. Graham sought out the Doctor to talk about his fear of his cancer coming back, and she didn’t know how to approach the conversation, so she pretty much just ended it abruptly. Gotta say I didn’t love that. Seemed out of character for the Doctor to just say she’s socially awkward then not address the very real concern Graham had.
Finally back on the TARDIS, Yaz and Ryan have a chat where he asks her if this is their life now, leaving everyone and traveling. Also, there was some talk about not returning back the same. Between Graham’s concern that he’ll experience a health tragedy and Ryan and Yaz talking about going (and staying) home on Earth, I’m not sure Team TARDIS is going to stay together too much longer. Also, seriously, what’s the tragic/sad anniversary Yaz doesn’t want to commemorate with her sister? I feel like I should have put something together there but just missed it completely.
Oh, boy – parting thoughts
Yet again, Doctor Who is sending a message to viewers. First it was climate change and the environment; now it’s about mental health. These are all important topics, but Chibnall keeps taking these things a step too far for me, and it comes off as, well, preachy rather than inspirational. I did see some very positive things on Twitter about how tonight’s topic was handled, but I was so distracted by getting preached to every Saturday night to see it as anything but crammed down our throats. “Can You Hear Me?” Yes, we can, Chibnall.
That said, we are two weeks away from part one of the finale, and next week’s episode looks promising. Storytelling with Byron and the Shelleys, here we come! I am so looking forward to this!
What did you think of “Can You Hear Me?” Let us know at @PureFandom on Twitter!
Doctor Who airs Sundays on BBC America at 8/7c.