Steven Moffat Has Conflicting Thoughts About His 'Best' Doctor Who Episode

When "Doctor Who" fans talk about their favorite episodes of the show, season 3's "Blink" is an obvious choice. The standalone episode introduced some of the most memorable aliens of the whole show, the Weeping Angels, who can only move when you're not looking at them. It's also one of the first episodes to really expand on the time travel aspect of the show, centering its plot around a time paradox that seemed really fresh at the time. Add to that a standout performance from a not-yet-famous Carey Mulligan. Throw all of those elements together, and you've got one of the most tightly-written episodes in the history of the show.

The episode was written by Steven Moffat, who would later become the showrunner for "Doctor Who" due in part to the success of "Blink." Despite all the acclaim, Moffat has never been all that thrilled about the fact that it's widely considered his best episode. "There's NOT ENOUGH DOCTOR IN IT," he said in an issue of Doctor Who Magazine. It's a reasonable explanation for someone who loves the character of the Doctor — there has to be something deflating about realizing that fans' most beloved episode is one where the Doctor barely features. Not only that, but it's entirely unlike a typical episode in the narrative sense. It's almost like fans are saying, "We like 'Doctor Who' best when it's not being 'Doctor Who.'"

When asked what he thinks is his best episode, Moffat pointed to a less widely beloved story from season 8: "My oddball choice would be 'Listen.' It came and went and I don't suppose it's winning any polls — but I thought it had its moments, in its melancholy way."

The case for Listen

"Listen" is similar to "Blink" in a lot of ways. It too is a format-breaking episode: not only does it open up with Twelve (Peter Capaldi) monologuing to the camera, but it's the only episode to not feature a real alien threat. (At least, we think it is. We're not entirely sure what that was under Rupert's blanket). And like "Blink," it's an episode that centers around a certain time travel paradox: the Doctor's speech about fear to young Danny Pink (Samuel Anderson) was inspired by a childhood speech about fear given to young Doctor by Clara (Jenna Coleman), who was inspired by the Doctor's speech to young Danny, and so on and so forth forever. 

The big difference is that this is a Doctor-heavy episode. The reason it's able to get away with not having a real monster of the week is because, instead, it's basically a 47-minute character study of Twelve's manic paranoia. He's both terrified of a creature he can't fully understand and obsessed with trying to understand it, to the point where he's creating a monster that doesn't exist. Then, as the episode ends with Clara accidentally becoming the monster under his bed as a kid, we realize that as brave as the Doctor seems, fear has always been a core part of who he is.

As Moffat himself noted, "Listen" is rarely anyone's favorite-ever episode, but it was still a deeply atmospheric, tightly-packed adventure that gave us a lot of great insights into both Clara and Twelve's characters. It doesn't have the same standalone quality as "Blink," but it's certainly one of the spookiest and most rewatchable episodes of season 8. It's a definite highlight of the Capaldi era.