Sunday, February 16, 2020

Doctor Who 12x07 Recap: “Can You Hear Me?” (Nightmare Fuel) [Guest Poster: Stephanie Coats]

“Can You Hear Me?”
Original Airdate: February 9, 2020

The Doctor lands back on Earth for the Fam to have some time to reconnect with friends and family. Impatient to meet up with the trio the next day, the Doctor decides to jump ahead but is interrupted by a strange noise echoing from Aleppo. Back in 14th Century Syria, a woman named Tahira warned others about creatures that come at night. Everyone dismissed her claims but at nightfall, she was proven right. Beasts with long claws attacked everyone except Tahira. The Doctor tries to get a read on the situation and even encounters one of the beasts, though they aren’t familiar to her.

Just as it seems that this episode may be light on companions, each of them experiences something strange. Graham has weird visions of a woman trapped and two planets colliding. Ryan’s friend, Tibo, describes a recurring nightmare of a man watching him, even when he’s awake. When Ryan stays the night, he witnesses a strange man detaching his fingers and attaching them to Tibo before disappearing along with Tibo. Yaz sees the same man in her flat after waking from a nightmare.

All three companions call the Doctor about these experiences so she grabs Tahira and heads back to Earth. Since the monsters from Aleppo don’t exist, at least according to the TARDIS, the best option to solve this mystery is plugging Graham into the TARDIS’ telepathic circuit. This way, the Doctor can lock onto a location for the planets from his vision. That’s how they end up in deep space on a platform monitoring the collision of two planets. Zooming in, the Doctor sees an orb caught between the planets that’s barely keeping them apart. Graham realizes the woman from his vision is trapped in that orb, which leads the Doctor to deduce that the orb is a prison.


Tahira wanders off while the others are talking and sees one of the beasts from Aleppo on the platform. The man everyone has seen is also there. He is responsible for creating Tahira’s beasts and everyone’s fears. Detaching his fingers again, he puts each person into a dream state and handcuffs them. Yaz dreams of something from her past, Ryan sees the Earth burning, and Graham’s cancer returns and Grace blames him for her death. The Doctor, meanwhile, is oblivious as she solves the prison puzzle. Just as she’s breaking the lock, the mysterious man appears to her. He is Zellin, a mythological god who is extracting nightmares from across time on Earth and feeding them to the prisoner.

Now that prisoner is freed... just as Zellin planned. He lured the Doctor there knowing she could break the lock. The prisoner is Zellin’s immortal partner, Rakaya. Together they messed around with the people of the two colliding planets to see which civilization would be destroyed first. When the people figured out the game, they trapped Rakaya between their planets. Since then, Zellin has been feeding her nightmares to keep her strong. After putting the Doctor into her own nightmare of the Timeless Child, the two gods head to Earth to spend eternity feeding off of fearful humans.

But the Doctor is smarter than they thought. She wakes herself up, undoes her own restraints, and frees the others. Using the beasts Zellin made from Tahira’s fears, the Doctor lures the gods back to Aleppo. With Tahira demonstrating mastery over the beasts and her fears, the gods are imprisoned together in the orb between the two colliding planets, with a beast there to scare them for eternity.

The Fam prepares to leave Earth once more. Ryan encourages Tibo to join a support group and Graham confesses to the Doctor about his worry his cancer will return. Yaz recalls three years ago how she had run away from home only to be found by a kind policewoman thanks to her sister. The officer convinced Yaz to keep trying because things get better, even placing a wager that in three years Yaz will feel that way. Knowing the woman was right, Yaz visits her to hand over the winning amount. But while she may feel content with life on the TARDIS, Ryan is starting to wonder how long they can keep growing older while their friends and family live their lives without them.

Final Thoughts:

  • At the start of the episode, I thought we were in for a story filled with horror and monsters of the week. Instead, the plot was more wandering and philosophical as it tried to tie mental illness and horror together in ways that didn’t quite work. 
  • That’s not to say Zellin and his floating fingers that he sticks in your ear to give you nightmares and steal your fear wasn’t scary. Because it WAS.
  • I’m almost certain Rakaya’s name was never said in this episode (IMDb lists the character). Was a scene left on the cutting room floor where Zellin or the Doctor names her?
  • What does Graham have to do to get a dang hug?
  • Ryan’s worries about the sustainability of traveling with the Doctor confirm a growing worry I have that we may see one or more companions depart after series 12. The show isn’t making very good use of them this season anyway.


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