TVLine's Performers of the Week (tie): Jenna Coleman and Tobias Menzies

A weekly feature in which we spotlight shining stars

THE PERFORMER | Jenna Coleman

THE SHOW | Doctor Who

THE EPISODE | “Listen”

THE AIRDATE | September 13, 2014

To call “Listen” one of the finest episodes of the modern Doctor Who era would hardly be an overstatement — and while it bears noting that we’ve been knocked out by Peter Capaldi’s take on the titular Time Lord this season, we wanted to single out Coleman, who’s been given more room to shine this season as plucky companion Clara Oswald. And indeed, she deserves a good chunk of credit for the hypnotizing hour of creepiness, romance and heartwarming emotion (served with a liberal splash of Whovian mythology).

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The episode was built around Clara’s budding romance with fellow teacher Danny Pink (Samuel Anderson), giving Coleman a chance to bring classic rom-com flirtiness (and occasional exasperation) to a first date that was intermittently adorable and awkward. (Is it impertinent to say Kate Hudson, J.Lo and Cameron Diaz should all be a little nervous about Coleman’s post-Who career prospects?)

When Clara’s mental connection to her new suitor wound up leading the TARDIS back in time to Danny’s childhood, however, “Listen” became an altogether different kind of ride — one that mined the innate human fear of what might silently lurking beneath our beds. As Clara’s calm reassurances began to evaporate at the Doctor’s dire warnings against looking at the mysterious figure that took form beneath Danny’s bedspread, Coleman perfectly captured an abject terror muted by her brave efforts to protect the child (and future love interest) in her midst.

In the episode’s final act, though, as Clara came face-to-face with Danny’s and her time-traveling great-grandson, we were treated both to the joy of Clara’s dawning realization about where her love life was headed, as well as to a fantastic deepening of her relationship with the Doctor. When the Doctor’s lifelong dread of the unseen/unheard catapulted the TARDIS back in time to his home planet, Clara encountered her alien friend as a frightened and lonely child. As she stroked the despondent boy Doctor’s hair, she delivered a speech so stirring and tender — “Fear is a super power. Fear can make you faster, and cleverer, and stronger” — that it felt like an entirely plausible impetus for the Doctor’s purpose and path over his thousands of years of existence (not to mention his penchant for traveling with a companion). That’s complex, heady stuff — deftly navigated — and for that reason, Coleman lands our “Performer of the Week” trophy. Well, half of the trophy…

unnamed-3THE PERFORMER | Tobias Menzies

THE SHOW | Outlander

THE EPISODE | “The Garrison Commander

THE AIRDATE | September 13, 2014

THE PERFORMANCE | Menzies’ face gives absolutely nothing away, making it tough to tell what his characters are thinking. It’s why he was such a good choice to play both Outlander‘s Frank and his ancestor Black Jack, and it’s a big part of why we were in awe of his work in the latest episode.

Menzies used Jack’s genteel mannerisms to lure Claire in, making her warm slightly to the man who’d insulted and attacked her weeks before. But the more Jack spoke, the more Menzies revealed exactly how twisted his character truly was. Menzies’ delivery of the monologue about whipping Jamie — at turns detached, vicious and threatening — was chilling.

But even after revealing Black Jack as a sadist, Menzies managed to seem contrite. His musing about whether Jack’s soul had a shot at redemption took on a dreamy air… which is why his swift descent into physical violence was such an effective sucker-punch to the audience (and a literal one to poor Claire). Contrast that level of inhumanity with the tender way Frank – remember, also played by Menzies — caressed his wife’s face in a flashback earlier in the hour, and you’ll understand why we found the actor’s artful brutality so incredibly captivating.

POTWHONORABLE MENTION | We thought The Mindy Project‘s Chris Messina couldn’t top Danny’s Aaliyah dance from last season. The Season 3 opener proved us wrong – and it was so, so right. Sure, Messina hit the perfect tone as he apologized to Mindy on the fire escape, striking a balance between apologetic and confessional at the same time Danny assured his girlfriend their relationship was “real.” Call us shallow, but we were far more taken with the way Messina fully committed to the episode-ending striptease to “American Woman.” The moment was funny, hot, touching and perfectly in character; it’s only because we’re such dedicated professionals that we’ll be watching that backbend-hip-thrust move over and over and over…

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POTWHONORABLE MENTION | All summer long, Finding Carter‘s Alex Saxon has been charming us with his funny, but deftly intuitive portrayal as sweet stoner Max. Then in Tuesday’s season finale, the actor showed us a surprisingly serious side of his character, one that was angry and broken down. As Max struggled with being trapped in the hospital, lashing out at his doting girlfriend Taylor, he made the crushing decision to break up with her. It was for the sake of both of their futures, but Saxon’s tears and cracking voice gave away Max’s reluctance to do the right thing and let Taylor go. Still, it had to be done, and when it was, the pain was so real, we felt like he was breaking up with us.

What performances rocked your TV set this week? Sound off below and let us know!

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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  1. Sarah says:

    Yes, yes, yes and yes.

  2. redjane12 says:

    I didn’t watch Doctor Who but Tobias Menzies was extraordinary in Outlander. Terrifying psychopath that Black Jack…

  3. Eliza says:

    Tobias Menzies is amazing! I have become a big fan of his. The man is an extremely talented actor.

  4. Jenna Coleman: Super Girl!

  5. Alexandra says:

    Dr. Danny is HAWT!

  6. DavidJ says:

    Totally agreed on both choices, although I think Caitriona Balfe deserves just as much credit for making that episode work. The mixture of fear, defiance, hope, and calculation that played out on her face throughout the story had me completely buying into the danger she was in.
    Which is even more impressive for a former model who only started acting a few years ago.

  7. christine says:

    Tobias Menzies was spot on. I am loving Outlander

  8. Helen says:

    Tobias Menzies gave an extraordinary performance. If it was on film and not TV they’d be calling it an oscar worthy performance. He’s always been a wonderful actor and I;m glad more people are getting to see this. Give the guy a Marvel baddie role.

  9. pam says:

    I must admit I wasn’t to sure about tobias menzies playing both characters since I’m a big book fan but after seeing him in this episode the dude totally nailed it and now owns this character. Good job tobias!! Definitely deserves an award of some kind!

  10. alistaircrane says:

    I bailed on Doctor Who this season as I finally accepted I will never enjoy the Moffatt era (I am patiently waiting on a new showrunner). That said, I always liked Jenna Coleman, and Clara is the most appealing companion since the glory days of Rose and Martha.

    • S. says:

      You really need to at least watch “Listen.” Even if you don’t want to try the rest of them, Peter Capaldi’s excellent and frankly “Blink,” another classic DW ep, was written by Moffat. Maybe you don’t like his showrunning but when he’s on as a writer he’s really on, and there’s a reason he got an Emmy for Sherlock. This one’s worth it.

  11. DarkDefender says:

    The impossible girl is finally living up to her mythology. LISTEN was a brilliant episode and very much in the top of all Doctor Who episodes. Jenna definitely delivered this week. It is nice to see her character getting more meatier material to work with, which makes for a more well rounded character. The Naysayers who called her a “one note” companion are put on notice that Clara is not “one note” at all. Jenna Coleman can, in fact, act when given proper dialogue and deliver as layered a performance as Capaldi himself.

  12. Rick Katze says:

    Both Jenna and Tobias nailed their performances. No problem with calling it a tie.

    As for someone who commented that the Dr Who companions have been weak since Rose, they obviously have not seen the really strong characters like Sara Jane among others. Also found Turlow quite complex.

    • S. says:

      I don’t get how anybody thinks the companions are weak since Rose. I mean Donna’s a rockstar. Didn’t love Amy as the River Song/Silence arc got on my nerves and she was all tied up in that unfortunately. Clara seems pretty clever and she can tell the Doctor what to do when it’s for his own good. That she’s able to speaks volumes. I bet the fact that he listens to her is tied back to that appearance on his timeline that she made. She probably has an air of authority and security from that and he doesn’t know why. She does now though.

  13. I definitely wasn’t in love with Listen but Jenna Coleman was definitely incredible, especially when compared to the actor who played Danny.

  14. I like all of these performers, but was no one on the staff watching Masters of Sex? I get that they’ve been featured a few times already both this season and last, but Michael Sheen was an earthquake on the screen.

  15. Elizabeth says:

    I had hoped Emily Rose from Haven would have at least gotten an honorable mention. She is able to play two characters who are complete opposites, one who has psychopathic tendencies and another who genuinely cares about people and wants to help them. She’s also one of, if not the only actress to be able to go from one personality to the other in seconds and have it still be believable. Just go and watch the last 5 mins of the latest episode and you’ll see.

  16. Jan says:

    Thanks for the HM for Alex Saxon … definitely the best thing about Finding Carter!

  17. Alex says:

    Matt Passmore and the cast of Satisfaction

  18. Hmmm says:

    Calling it one of the finest episodes would in fact be an overstatement in my opinion. One of Moffat’s finest episodes in the past few years, sure…But I felt like I’ve already seen it before. It was a mish-mash of previous Moffat episodes. And frankly I’m tired of the Moffat go-tos. How many variations of “don’t blink” must there be? Now it’s “don’t look.” Not to mention his obsession with time loops and the idea of “The Time Traveler’s Wife.” Now Clara will probably have to end up with the guy because she saw the future. Just like the Doctor did with River and vice versa. Call it a personal preference, but I just find Moffat to be extremely repetitive which I personally find grating. However, Jenna Coleman did give a good performance. I still find her mostly to be an annoying companion, but it’s nice to finally actually see a little bit of characterization – even though most of it was given to her new boyfriend. That all said, Tobias Menzies outshone everyone this week. He was FABULOUS.

    • S. says:

      Are you really gonna criticize him for how he handles so many time travelling episodes… for a show about a time travelor? I mean he’s gotta do it. I find it hard to believe sometimes it doesn’t get complicated and sometimes he wouldn’t leave himself messages in an elaborate set up or find himself in others where the less he knows or looks at something, the better because you don’t wanna go time locking or something by accident. He also knows that the looking back at where you’ve been can mess with your head, esp. if you’re as old and experienced as he is. Also, don’t forget there are a lot of kids watching this. I know we’re grown ups and many generations do tune in, but sometimes he’s speaking to the kids hiding behind the sofa. Best to hold onto your inner child in moments like that and take it earnestly, not cynically, because otherwise you might scoff. If it weren’t for that mess with River Song (past the Tennant 2 parter), I’d be fine with Moffat. I refuse to indict him in any way for “Blink” or “Listen” which indeed ARE two of the finest episodes in Who history, certainly New Who. It’s kinda fun when Moffat’s puzzles work. When they get too long and messy you end up with the Silence storyline and River. The hits are worth dealing with the misses. RTD’s showrunning was my favorite, but even he had the Torchwood: Miracle Day wobble.

  19. Alex says:

    yeah, I agree, it was great, but I think (and I might totally be wrong here) guys at teamtvline have only been watching this season and the last of the show, I dunno but it just seems wrong to compare “listen” to “midnight”, “vincent and the doctor”, “blink” and “doomsday”, I mean “listen” was good, just not in the same league, and to say “to call “Listen” one of the finest episodes of the modern Doctor Who era would hardly be an overstatement” makes them seem like they haven’t really watched the show, but hey I guess they can’t please everyone, can they?, either way, my two cents, could totally be wrong

  20. Lana says:

    I love my Dr. Who and Jenna but Tobias should have gotten a much longer article than Jenna. In fact he should have been the front runner with Jenna as Honorable Mention. I’ve never seen a scene that was as frightening as when Black Jack described the beating. Then to seem that he wants to not be that way, can he be redeemed which got Claire to say Oh yes you can, and if I had not read all the books I would have thought the same as Claire. He took my breath away when he punched Claire, even knowing it would happen, because for a minute there I forgot the book and was just in that space and time. I’m sorry tvline that you couldn’t see how vastly superior his acting was compared to any others.

  21. MissMel says:

    After reading some of the comments it appears I’m definitely in the minority here but I often feel like Moffat is shoving Clara down my throat. Jenna Coleman is positively charming and I don’t dislike the character entirely but I’m not in love with the mythology he has created for her. That whole “I was born to save The Doctor” business irked me. For example, I’m supposed to believe that Clara told The Doctor which TARDIS to choose all those years ago when it was already said in “The Doctor’s Wife” that the TARDIS chose him? For the most part, I really enjoyed “Listen.” It was actually one of my favorite episodes in a long time, but the end left me feeling a little flat, like “Oh, here we go. I’m being reminded yet again of how monumentally important Clara is supposed to be.”

    • Clara Rocks! says:

      “For example, I’m supposed to believe that Clara told The Doctor which TARDIS to choose all those years ago when it was already said in “The Doctor’s Wife” that the TARDIS chose him?”

      Think you might be missing the point regarding Clara’s role in the Doctor’s life. To use your example, Clara didn’t originally tell the Doctor to do anything at all regarding the TARDIS. She simply redirected him back into choosing the right one, after the Great Intelligence influenced him to take a different one. Clara was there to correct the changes made to the Doctor’s life, not direct him in the first place.

      • aeromel78 says:

        OK,maybe you’re right. I haven’t watched the episode in awhile so I don’t remember it exactly. But do the exact details really matter in regard to my original point? I just can’t get into the way they are portraying the character as being so monumentally important to the Doctor’s story, that she came into existence solely to save him, etc. Then, say I could get into that, some of the other choices they’ve made for her make no sense in that regard. In Capaldi’s first episode, for example, why did they have her freaking out so bad? Wouldn’t she of ALL his companions have understood that the Doctor is the Doctor no matter what he looks like? She’s been in his timeline. She’s seen ALL his faces.

        I guess my point is that I haven’t taken to Clara but I feel like maybe it’s the way she’s being written that’s making it hard for me to like her because, like I said, Jenna Coleman is darling. Although, I will say I do enjoy her chemistry with 12 better than with 11. I’m enjoying the friendship/mutual respect aspect of this relationship more than the will they or won’t they flirtation from series 7.

        • Clara Rocks! says:

          “But do the exact details really matter in regard to my original point?”

          Yeah, no fun letting pesky facts get in the way of personal opinion… ;)

          Sorry, being a little facetious there, but I guess my point is that it’s all in the eye of the beholder. To me, Clara IS monumentally important to the story of the Doctor. Without her the story of the Doctor would never have happened. Okay, her importance came about in a retroactive kind of way but like it or not, it’s there now. Clara Oswald became the saviour of the Doctor’s entire timeline. No small thing.

          As for your other point, there’s a difference between understanding the Doctor’s history and nature and dealing with something in reality. She had seen all the previous Doctors, even interacted with them, but Eleven was her Doctor. She said so many times. He was the version she travelled with and cared for. Her reaction to his ‘death’ and Twelve’s arrival was mostly about the fact that Eleven was gone and that she was now dealing with a whole new person on a permanent basis. Her awareness of the previous Doctors would probably have made that more difficult, not easier. It would likely have been the same if she had suddenly found herself travelling with one of the previous Doctors. Even though she knew it was the same person, at the same time it isn’t. And regardless of what she tells herself in Deep Breath, she was in love with Eleven. Imagine falling in love with a man and then waking up the next morning to find him completely changed, physically and mentally. Not something anyone could easily deal with, I don’t think.

          So yeah, rambled on a little long here, but I guess my point is that if you look at the big picture of Clara and her story with the Doctor, it’ll make more sense in the long run. I love the character so maybe a little biased but I genuinely do believe that she lives up to the hype that surrounds her.

          • Clara Rocks! says:

            And why won’t the comments on this site show up in the paragraphs I write them in? Looked a lot more readable when I clicked ‘post’! ;)

  22. Rook says:

    I don’t think it was stated that Orson Pink was Clara’s great-grandson, it was implied. But I don’t think they will turn out to be related. He stated that time travel ran in his family. Now obvious he is related to Danny but it gave to much away, which makes me think there is gonna be a twist in the story somewhere.

    • S. says:

      Oh c’mon they practically spelled it out. They obviously ARE related. He gave her a knowing glance when he said that time travelling ran in his family. He knows he’s related to her. Probably recognizes her from photos and stories but doesn’t want to screw around and tell her her future. It implies that at some point Mr. Pink gets brought into the fold, travels on the TARDIS. He’s starting to be suspicious.

  23. Isobel says:

    Tobias Menzies was brilliant, his sudden change after the conversation was terrifying. On Jenna Coleman I never had anything against her acting but I wasn’t so into this episode as tvline, maybe because as others have commentated it was very similar to other episodes Moffat has done that it’s not so interesting anymore

  24. R.O.B. says:

    So cool. When I finished watching that shocking scene in Outlander with Tobias Menzies, I thought “this guy better get Performer of the Week”, but figured the show wasn’t on enough peoples’ radars yet. What an incredible, unpredictable scene and well deserved.

  25. GracePerry (@GracePerry18) says:

    Glad you’re noticing TMP + Chris Messina, well deserved

  26. dman6015 says:

    Coleman is really coming into her own on the show. That’s why I hope the rumors about her departing at Christmas are just that. Looks like another Clara-centric episode on the 27th.

    Menzies is absolutely fabulous in Outlander. He was absolutely believable as being contrite and apologetic, right up until he kneed her in the stomach. Fantastic.