Not only are we back to lower case lettering for the title this week but we’ve finally hit our first bump in the storytelling road of series eight. Listen sucks. A complete clunker that’s only marginally better than Fear Her, but not by much. Prior to this ep, I’d noticed that my ratings for the eps had put them in reverse order of transmission, meaning I preferred each successive one to the ep that came before it. I wondered at the time of last week’s ep how long that would last. Not very long as it turns out as this was a real let-down.
The idea that you’re never alone would be a good one for a story if it actually went somewhere. This leaves it all too open to it just being our imagination and there’s nothing there at all, Clara says as much when she comes back to the Tardis from the barn. Okay, I suppose for some folk the notion that there’s something invisible or unseen constantly with you might creep you out but the problem is that there’s no threat involved. For instance – there’s a spider in the house but you don’t know it’s there. It can be crawling all over the place happy as it likes and you don’t know anything about it. So the two of you live totally oblivious to the other’s existence. Until you see the bloody thing. And that’s the problem with Listen, there’s no threat. Whatever it is under the blanket on Danny’s bed could well be just a kid larking about – a scene that makes no sense whatsoever. Are you seriously trying to tell me that the twelfth version of Mr Curiosity himself wouldn’t want to know what’s underneath? I don’t buy that for a minute, it’s a bad instance of character serving plot that you would expect someone like Moff not to fall prey to. Nice to know even the most successful writers can make the same mistakes as the rookies. The whole point of that scene should be that we find out what’s underneath and that we don’t is a cheat and feels like Moff didn’t actually know himself.
At the very least Twelvy should have whipped off that blanket only to discover that there’s nothing there, whatever it was has moved so fast nobody saw it go. I’m all for making the familiar scary and preying on people’s irrational fears but if you’re going to do that then at least give us an idea of what it really is, don’t leave it so open ended that we wondered why you bothered in the first place… And I’m sorry but if someone really did grab your ankle from underneath your bed you’d scream the place down not gasp dramatically, yet another example of Moff’s poor writing. Shame he didn’t give this one to someone else. Or watched Midnight to see how it should be done.
If the Tardis is taking them back along Clara’s timeline then how do we end up at the barn? That doesn’t add up and is a worse example of character serving plot than the previously noted one. Why not just wait for the Doctor to wake up? Okay so Clara’s a control freak but that still doesn’t explain how we end up at the barn. Of course the truth is that the reason we end up at the barn is because Moff wants to go there even if we don’t. And again, do you seriously expect me to believe that Twelvy wouldn’t have stepped outside or at the very least have checked where they were?
The whole thing is like a ghost story with no ghost. I’m all for ambiguity but if it’s all just fear and shadows and there isn’t anything there after all then what was the point of making us sit through that? A set up with no payoff doesn’t make your audience think, it just pisses them off. Future Who writers take note – frustrate your viewers expectations at your peril!
In principle I’m against anything before An Unearthly Child so taking us back to when the Doctor was a kid is just wrong in my book. Not only that, they then treat us like idiots and stick in a flashback to John Hurt just in case we’re too thick to work out that it’s the same barn. Grrr! The scene in the barn must take place prior to him being plonked in front of the Untempered Schism – Timelord children are taken from their families at the age of eight, Ten told us. So it looks like little lord Doctor-To-Be loses his aristocratic mum and dad in a ski-ing accident, gets put into an orphanage, so no other family, no aunties and uncles, he gets bullied by the other kids, runs away and meets K’Anpo, gets inspired, goes back, gets plonked in front of the Untempered Schism, runs away again, only just passes his Gallifreyan Eleven Plus and gets into Prydon Academy instead of doing his Gallifreyan National Service in the Army. Years later has a family of his own but only his Grand-daughter shares his love of adventure etc so when he learns that they intend to appoint him President [Five Doctors] or when he’s so bored out of his tits that he can’t stand it any more [War Games] or when he feels so compelled to Do Something about the injustice in the Universe [Robot of Sherwood] he steals a faulty Tardis and buggers off with his Grand-daughter to explore and do what he can where he can, deciding to call himself The Doctor from now on. But Susan eventually gets tired of wandering and wants to settle down somewhere. And then the Tardis arrives on Earth in 1963, which is where we came in originally. So much for the mystery of Doctor Who, we now know quite a lot. In fact I’d say we now know too much or at least more than enough to be getting on with.
So now we know that the barn in The Day of The Doctor was the only thing that remained of the orphanage where the Doctor grew up. Okay, so it could be a boarding school type thing I suppose but I very much doubt you would go back to your old school if you were about to use The Moment, whereas you might conceivably go back to your old orphanage where you grew up. Maybe. Especially if Clara has already told you that you will. That the Doctor was an orphan isn’t so very surprising and makes sense of Pertwee’s “daisy-est daisy” speech. How his parents died is a new mystery but what was the point of going back there at all? And is it really a straight choice between the Academy and the Army? Is that how it works on Gallifrey? Fail your Eleven Plus and it’s no University for you my lad, it’s off to the Army with you. And what the hell does Gallifrey need an army for anyway if they’re all meant to be non-interventionists?
Did you notice that the Doctor is wearing what looks like Peter Capaldi’s own jumper – if you look back at the first episode of Extra you’ll notice that he was wearing it at the read through for Deep Breath. Don’t think it really works though, so hope we don’t see much more of it.
Danny Pink continues to irritate the fire out of me and I still can’t work out what the hell Clara sees in him apart the obvious. Clara is starting to get a bit up herself now and this ep was the first time I found her just the tiniest bit annoying, not a good thing for your audience identification figure to be. She meets Danny and instantly wants to shag him, meets him as a child, possibly inspiring him to be a soldier, they get it together, become a couple and in the future one of their grandkids becomes Earth’s first pioneer time traveller. Nothing’s ever simple is it? Does this have anything to do with the finale or why the Tardis doesn’t like Clara? We’ll have to wait and see but I’m not sure if I like where these rather too obvious parallels between Pinky and Twelvy are heading. Both are former soldiers scarred by their experiences, Pink The Wimp changed his name and The Doctor gave himself a code name. Pink The Wimp is Clara’s boyfriend, The Doctor used to think he was Clara’s boyfriend. That, along with Danny and Clara being nothing more than a variation on Amy and Rory, is filling these new series scripts with some tired old ideas.
NEXT TIME – Time Heist. Now this looks really good, a sort of Ocean’s Eleven only in a Space Bank instead of a Casino. And that Keely Hawes, she’d get it.
SATISFACTION LEVEL FOR THIS EPISODE? – 1/10
FRUSTRATION LEVEL FOR THIS EPISODE? – 9/10
ANTICIPATION LEVEL FOR NEXT EPISODE – 7/10
SERIES EIGHT SO FAR?