Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Doctor Who: Listen – 7 Failures Which Destroy The Story

Broadcast this past weekend, Listen was the latest episode in Doctor Who to try and established just who Capaldi’s incarnation of the iconic Time Lord truly is. From the manic beginnings with a lengthy regeneration story to a shocking ruthless streak in Into The Dalek, then some plain old silliness in Robot of Sherwood, series eight seems to be trying everything and anything. Listen now took things a step further, but with mixed results. While a chilling tale with excellent writing and direction for the most part, by the end just about everything falls to bits.


  1. For #7, I can accept that the doctor was reflecting on his past and had a revelation about never being alone, the whole time I didn't think he was trying to validate a fear, I thought he was trying to understand what creatures who could only hide would do when there's nothing left to hide from.

    For #6, I agree that the fan service in the episode was too much for no good reason, I originally thought it was kind of neat how they brought up the soldier who doesn't need a gun idea as a parallel for the doctor, same with the barn, but then they spell everything out for the audience, if they didn't show the barn being the same barn you could have made your own connection which gives it more meaning, same with the soldier, if they didn't have a speech to go along with it then it would have been a nice parallel. Also I'm pretty sure it really was just a kid under the bedsheets for a few reasons, the first is why would the monster reveal itself? Secondly, it's the same height as a kid, and thirdly it looks mostly like a kid from what we see of the blurred image, if they looked like us to that degree they wouldn't need to hide.

    I completely agree with #5, with #4 I can honestly believe that even though good Daleks existed before, but that maybe the Doctor didn't believe a good Dalek exists, because in my opinion, that episode focussed not necessarily on the fact that good Daleks have existed, but that the Doctor didn't believe them capable of that kind of change, that's why I think they focussed on the Doctors hatred for the Daleks changing Rusty, so I thought the episode was more meant as character growth for the Doctor than anything else.
    From what I've looked up in media outside the show, even when faced with good Daleks the Doctor didn't believe they were good, and any time he thought they might be good in the show it was always when they were malfunctioning in some way, usually combined with human DNA, all of the normal Daleks he's run across he never thought were good, but then again I haven't read all of the stories you've pointed out.

    I can agree that they shouldn't have visited the Young Doctor at all (for the reasons you list), I'd be happier if they left it at it just being a common fear, and as you say they'd just be retreading old ground if the monsters did exist, because after thinking it over a bit, I had also realized The Silence were perfect hiding creatures.

    For #2 I'm still not sure there was ever an alien, even The Silence had a very noticeable presence when they were in an area, and yet with these creatures you cannot see them, hear them, touch them, or smell them, I'd find it a bit more unbelievable if the thing under the bedsheet wasn't a little kid and the Doctor didn't forget he wrote something on the blackboard, how could it be in his writing anyway if it was the creatures, and why would they make themselves known if they only live to hide?

    1. Sorry for the late reply, but to answer them in turn:

      7. I'd agree that's the most sensible way to look at it but the problem is the scene itself takes very little time to reflect upon that possibility. It would have worked far better if this were later on in the series and more hints of this old, subconcious fear had been put into his head, perhaps re-awakened by his new lease on life. Even without that, there should have been a few hints for the audience to help them pick up on this, perhaps some old items from within the barn being left on his desk or the Doctor thinking back about Gallifrey, something to tip off the audience. Well, that or at the very least give reason to re-watch it and better see how it was all laid out in the story. The issue is that it's initially presented as being the complete opposite and some universal truth.

      Personally, the the way the episode plays out is as if Steven Moffat had a good idea in mind, and then either had an alternative or was suggested something new by a co-writer. As such, the entire final sequence suddenly flips about and goes in an entirely new direction from where the episode had been leading up to.

      6. Well I agree on most of those points, definitely the symbolism of the soldier works well even despite being so blatantly shoved into the audience's faces, i'd personally still argue against the thing under the blanket being a child. If you have the chance, re-watch the episode in a computer and pay very careful attention to the scene. When the thing removes the blanket, what little we see is not human, more compatible to a Sontaran's head than anything a child would have, and the overall shape is entirely wrong. What's more is that if you're listening with headphones, it's making noises no human voice would ever be capable of. They're hard to hear, but listen carefully when the camera is pointing towards it and they're very obviously there. The other issue, at least to me, is that if this was a child pulling a prank wouldn't they want a "boo!" moment? Rather than just letting the blanket slide off and it all play out, surely someone of a young age would only set it up in order to have that gotcha moment where they could see the shock on the faces of others and reveal themselves. That last one might be subjective, but leaving as it did seems a little odd.

      Ah, well that's actually the problem, there have been malfunctioning daleks but there have also been very obviously good ones. An old serial, one of the oldest, known as Evil of the Daleks had the Doctor starting a civil war by giving a group of daleks human values and emotions. This actually stuck with them without any problems and they went on to kill the Emperor in a massive conflict throughout their city. Follow-up material showed that they also stayed good, with the aforementioned Children of the Revolution showing their society being rebuilt in secret. That story doesn't end on a happy note, but ultimately the Daleks stay good and the Doctor is very much aware of it the entire time. There are other examples, but that's the really big one which springs to mind.

      That's the thing a lot of people keep mentioning, this is the Silence all over again. Even casual viewers seem to have picked up on this because they were so memorable a villain, and it's a little disconcerting to see the show wheeling out recent assets like that again so soon after they were last used. Different methods, certainly and with some different ways to approach them, but the overall theme is the same.

      Though good point about the creatures making themselves known if they wanted to remain secret. That is definitely a bit of a contradiction in their goals if they exist and is a good counter-point to argue why this is all in his head. My personal hope is that we'll see this better addressed later down the line, but take it at face value the story just seems very flawed.

  2. I do agree that there wasn't any real setup, just like there wasn't any conclusion. This episode feels like it was meant to explain things to the audience in its final act rather than be a stand alone episode, just like I thought it was equally as jarring for the Time Lords to live in a barn of all places, with all of their advanced technology, why would you ever want to live there?

    Now personally I'd still recommend the episode because I still don't consider the ending to be a deal breaker, but I'll never say it was a great episode, maybe below average and it does lead to interesting discussions with co-workers.

    For different reasons I'm not writing off Into the Dalek as a terrible episode either, partially because of the reasons I mentioned earlier, also because it at least established that the Daleks do not know who the Doctor is any more. I'm guessing the ship that got that information in Time of the Doctor either never transmitted the information in the first place (highly unlikely) or the Daleks do not recognize the new Doctor as the old Doctor because they think he died with the last regeneration (far more likely), and because I really like some of the conversations with the Doctor and Rusty, from when the Doctor is trying to make him into a good Dalek again, onwards has some really good character development I thought.
    Also, even though I say this I still don't say it's a good episode, it's still bad, just with a few good moments.

    1. Honestly that's quite a fair assessment of it on the whole. Despite this article, the episode is full of great scenes and moments, with the bedroom scene and the bits in the far future being both excellently acted and directed. Even the opening, for all the problems I personally had, was well acted and as an isolated bit it works perfectly fine. The issue is that, at least for me, they didn't work as a single piece all joined together.

      The show certainly has seen far worse over the years, it's just something I personally think is a shame this one wasn't better. With some better editing and a couple of re-writes this could have easily been the first truly great story with this Doctor.

      Also, agreed, i'm personally glad they're trying to stick with that final bit of Asylum of the Daleks to see where it might lead to.