Posts Tagged With: listen

Have I Got Whos For You (Part 379)

There’s nothing like a bit of dumbing down, is there? I mean it even happens in here. There was a time when this site was more than simply a glorified meme collection, but most of my sensible writing is reserved for other pages these days. I do have another video collection coming up, but that’ll have to wait for a bit.

What’s been happening this week? Well, the staff at Holby City had to deal with a devastating Cyber attack.

(Yes, that is a Cyberman smoking a fag in the background. You get ’em outside every hospital.)

If you actually saw the thing, it was a two-part story which incorporated various characters from both shows interacting in a joint storyline which put two of their finest on the operating table. While Connie tried desperately to save Ian, who’d overdosed to get away from his incredibly annoying sister, rival queen bee Jac Naylor was fighting to get to the sole working theatre in the building in order to save Sacha, who was clearly in a worse state than he was prepared to let on after he climbed out of the car he’d just crashed. (Inevitably they wound up saving each other’s patients, and everybody learned a valuable lesson.) Meanwhile Sacha’s daughter was downstairs with Essie, who’d had a diabetic attack and was lying prone on the floor of the radiology department, which led to Ric Griffin crawling through the ventilation ducts in a scene that wouldn’t have looked out of place in Alien. All the while, the lights were going out along the corridor, one by one, which is really not how power cuts tend to work.

It did rather remind me of The Stolen Earth. Josh watches Casualty on Thursdays with Em (yes, I know it’s broadcast on Saturdays, but they watch it on Thursdays), and Em and I watch Holby once a week. She is the only one who watches both, which led to Josh filling me in on the Casualty cast and vice versa. But when you drop in characters to both shows it gets awfully confusing. Or, as Gareth put it when Ianto and Gwen were facing off against that Dalek, “Oh great. More people from spin-offs I don’t watch and therefore don’t care about”.

Last Friday, of course, was Women’s International Day.

What? Oh. Oh well, have this anyway.

“Why oh why oh WHY,” someone said, after a fashion, “did you go with a picture of Davison when he didn’t like the idea of a female Doctor? Or are you deliberately trying to get someone to retaliate?”

“I just went with the cricket vibe,” I said. “I don’t think it matters.” You can have great fun mashing up things like this. It annoys the heck out of the traditionalists, and people who don’t understand why you’ve posted this in a Classic Doctor Who group when it’s been tainted with the ineffable stench of something that was created nine years (or sixteen, depending on how you count) after a designated cut-off point. I mean, there’s a market for separating old and new, for certain, because they are very different shows. But it inevitably leads to fallout. How long is that going to last, do we think? Will there be a point at which it’s all…I don’t know, Doctor Who?

Presumably, if and when that happens we’re going to have to find new ways of annoying the puritans. Luckily I’ve got a stack of them lined up.

This one was funny. I had someone tell me that the Daleks were older than Vader.

“No they’re not,” I said.

21 December 1963 to 1 February 1964 first appearance of the Daleks. 1977, first appearance of Darth Vader. Yes yes they are :/

“No, no they’re not. The Genesis of the Daleks happened thousands, if not millions of years in our future. Star Wars happened a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.”

“The Daleks have a time machine and were created outside of time and space by a fallen Time Lord. There’s nothing stating that it happened in the future but according to several episodes the Daleks and their creators were at war with the Daleks in the time before time began. Ergo still older.”

“Somewhere along the line I fear you may have rather missed the point of all this.”

“No, I caught on when you commented but decided to just continue being sassy. :P”

GAAAH. I hate it when they catch me out.

What else has been happening? Well, there was tension at a house in London when Dr Simeon elected not to dress up for World Book Day.

And in politics, Theresa May isn’t having the best of weeks, but she did have time to upload this to her Twitter account.

(If you missed the reference, have a read of this. It was almost certainly down to the person who runs the Downing Street Twitter account, and as is the case with most things of this nature, it is very churlish to blame her directly. Watching her handle this train crash of a government I happen to think she’s probably a very nice woman in an impossible situation, and whatever my misgivings about Brexit she’s the best of a very bad lot. I also imagine she’s a lot of fun at parties.)

Much of the Brexit campaigning, of course, consisted of both sides telling us about dreadful things that would happen if we stayed in / left the EU, most of which probably weren’t true at all. It was done largely to scare people, which in turn distracts us from the really important issues and drives up internet traffic, and what was weird about it was that it isn’t something that normally happens, at least not in popular culture.

Away from fake scare stories there has, at long last, been word from the Disney front about the upcoming Aladdin remake, with a full length trailer finally released this week. And for all you Doctor Who fans, there was a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it Easter Egg during the magic carpet sequence.

“A whole new w-”

THUD.

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Interlude

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God is in the detail (part xv)

OK, here’s a shock to the system: there is not a SINGLE visual clue in ‘Listen’. Not one.

I mean, I don’t know how to break it to you gently. It’s not that I haven’t looked. I’ve watched the episode twice (which was more than enough) and scrubbed through the whole thing looking for STUFF THAT IS SUPPOSED TO BE IMPORTANT. You could quite feasibly say that I’m losing my touch, except that ‘Time Heist’ has a whole bunch of stuff, which we’ll look at another day.

However…

The clue is in the title. ‘Listen’, says the Doctor as he sits cross-legged on top of the TARDIS. ‘Listen’, reads the word on the blackboard. The rule with scripted television drama is ‘show, don’t tell’, but this week, we’re telling.

Steven Moffat loves his poems. He must sit down with a rhyming dictionary and a pint of Theakstons every series and write them all in batches. Of course, Moffat being Moffat, they’re usually of vital importance to the plot, rather than mere ornamentation. ‘Listen’ was a prime example, with a menacing nursery rhyme that asks What’s that in the mirror, or the corner of your eye?”. (Someone really should ask Paul Cornell.) There’s the wretched ‘Tick tock goes the clock’, which broke new ground by establishing itself as a recurring motif that was actually even more tedious than ‘The Ballad of the Last Chance Saloon‘. Oh, and then there’s this.

24277gn

Lousy writing, but the artwork is good. I wouldn’t mind, but Zagreus did all this years ago, to much more convincing effect.

There are, I’m quite sure, blogs / Kindle publications of Doctor Who inspired poetry. I am not going to mock these, because I spent many of my formative teenage years doing that sort of thing, although I do at least have the decency to now admit that everything I ever wrote was rubbish. Besides, even bad poetry has its novelty value, as any fan of Julia A. Moore will tell you. (Vogons? Pah. I laugh in the face of Vogons.)

open-mic-opt

Still, it struck me: what sort of scope is there in ‘Listen’ to find a little message or two from the text? And it’s very simple, because it’s all in the numbers. Basically I took a transcript of the episode and wrote down every twelfth word of dialogue (ignoring stage directions and descriptive language.) I did this for the first twelve minutes. And then I punctuated it, and here’s what we had.

 

We’re there, no? If hide with detect. Clear want. Sorry – time to go straight.
Know…are my days twenty-three? Okay.
The people, seriously. Mention – don’t subject. Wrong. About making well: you mirrors in hide.
Aren’t your it. I free late, my, you.
Not proposition. Single.
If of perhaps have all. You I – same someone. So room you there.
Try. Time. Obvious is you…you under it.
Contact might your of turning on TARDIS should, when we remember,
No, we’re – no. West mid-nineties. Been children’s human. Is was to TARDIS.

We think – what name? No. Going.

 

Oh, it’s ambiguous. It’s about Clara controlling the TARDIS to find the Doctor’s true identity. It’s about waiting, it’s about hiding. Or it’s a load of gibberish. I’ll leave it to the reader. Nonetheless, I should stick in a plug here for Chrissie’s Transcripts Site, which I use for reviews, research and occasionally to check on the specifics of something Gareth has said, and which never gets the credit in here that it deserves. Anyone who’s ever looking for thorough, meticulously accurate Doctor Who scripts online really need look nowhere else. Oh, and she has her own Facebook page.

But the Twelfth Doctor is not actually the Twelfth, is he? He’s the Thirteenth, if we include the War Doctor (and it would be borderline blasphemous to leave out John Hurt, given his performance in Krapp’s Last Tape). So I did the same thing again, but starting at the thirteenth word of dialogue and then counting forward thirteen words each time. And –

 

Alone. Perfect as perfect, you.

Would those? Would do?

Bit – straight, straight. Dessert. Teaching, though.
Couldn’t. Could means was.
I’m full, taken. Mention you can. The is made, making.
Why do? What thought? Bit by it, can’t free.
Phone off.
Probably I yourself, talking single – 

 

I stopped at this point, because it really did seem to be about Danny and Clara, and that’s something I don’t really want to have to think about when I’m about to eat. You finish it.

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Review: ‘Listen’

Warning: spoilers below.

Try and picture the perfect episode of Doctor Who. An episode that manages to thrill, astound, frighten and amuse in equal measure. A story that encompasses the length, breadth, depth and emotional core of time and space. A story that chills us to the bone with the most terrifying monsters that we could imagine. Most importantly, a story that reaffirms what we knew about the Doctor while opening up new windows of enlightenment and sending us off into the most wonderful, unexpected and exciting directions.

‘Listen’ is not that episode.

I feel like a broken record sometimes. The main problem is that I don’t write Doctor Who. I suspect the only way I’d be actually happy with the show is if I were the one emailing scripts to Brian Minchin every week. It’s not about keeping the quality levels up. I’m not saying the scripts are bad, necessarily – by and large, this one wasn’t. It was decently paced, occasionally funny and clever in its execution. It revisited old territory but explored it from a fresh perspective. And then it screwed with the mythology, again.

It’s not that I mind explorations of the Doctor’s past. It would be churlish to criticise Moffat for trying to fill in the backstory – heaven knows Davies did enough of that when he brought back the Master. Not only were we given a reason for the Master’s madness, it transpired that most of it wasn’t actually his fault. Davies rewrote the Time Lords as despicable warmongers whom the Doctor reluctantly destroyed for the greater good, but this isn’t really such a leap from their actions in Trial of a Time Lord, or even ‘Arc of Infinity’.

But what got to me about ‘Listen’ – and the episodes before it – wasn’t the revisionism. It’s the companion-centric worldview. Listen: relatable companions have always been sewed into the mantra of the show. I’m aware that a charismatic hero accompanied by a bumbling sidekick puts us into Harry Sullivan territory. You need a companion with a little pizzazz and presence and who isn’t going to spend ninety per cent of her time onscreen trying to shatter glass.

Clara has pizzazz in spades. One of her best episodes is ‘Hide‘, one of the first to be shot and one in which we spent most of the time watching her just be, rather than have the universe revolve around her. It’s one of the few times the Doctor is (for the most part) more preoccupied with solving the mystery-of-the-week than he is with solving the-mystery-of-the-series. Given breathing room and the right script, Clara is wonderful to watch; very different with each Doctor she’s encountered, but that’s a strength. She’s sassy and funny and Coleman plays her extremely well.

It’s therefore insulting when, once again, Clara gets to rewrite the backstory: it implies that being a twenty-seven-year-old teacher is somehow not enough. The crucial scene this week comes in the closing act, where a small boy – who turns out to be the Doctor, of course – is huddled under the covers in what looks like a set from The Village. Faced with imminent discovery from two Gallifreyans wearing Crimson Field costumes Clara’s response is to do the one thing she knows for sure will terrify the small child: she hides under the bed. The soothing monologue that follows is textbook Moffat: reassuring mawkishness from Clara, intercut with slow motion hugging and brooding shots of the Doctor, all accompanied by Murray Gold at his sweetest. You remember that scene at the end of The Two Towers where Sam monologues to Frodo, while Jackson cuts between Osgiliath and Helm’s Deep? Basically that, only the music’s rubbish.

Listen_Chart

 

If I’m cross about this, it’s because Clara’s already had more input over the Doctor’s life than any other companion really should. Writing a control freak doesn’t give you license to control all of time and space, and Moffat must surely know this. Spinning out the impossible girl thing over a single arc was irritating enough, but its inclusion here is frankly deplorable. Sentiment abounds. Clearly the intention here is that we leave the room older and wiser and more fulfilled. And oh, look: they’ve dropped in a nod to ‘Day of the Doctor’ while they’re at it, as an audience reminder that Moffat’s revisionism extends beyond the people who get to come along for the ride.

I wouldn’t mind if all these little companion-based tweaks and bumps actually added anything to the Doctor’s character, but they don’t. It’s egotism in action, and while it’s supposed to be clever and enlightening and have us evaluate the Doctor in a whole new way, it just feels like the Minecraft skin effect: cosmetic changes that are fundamentally pointless because ultimately they don’t make us think of the person we’re watching any differently. It’s a change that Moffat’s made simply because he can, and while I daresay the tumblr feeds will be buzzing this morning, all I’m reminded of is that scene in Friends where Rachel complains to an increasingly possessive Ross “It was like you were marking your territory. You might just as well have come in and peed all around my desk!”.

It’s a shame, because there are elements of ‘Listen’ that were actually very good indeed. The episode opens with another disastrous encounter between Danny and Clara, this one from Clara’s perspective, as we are shown in flashback the reason she’s come home early, and alone. Then the Doctor arrives, and we’re off to an orphanage, where a young boy is frightened of the Thing on top of the bed. The Thing is under a pile of covers. We never see it, although the Doctor does. He reassures the young Rupert Pink that “Fear is your superpower”, even though he’s apparently as frightened as anyone else. The camera cuts back and forth with vigour, allowing us glimpses of the Thing but teasing us all the while. It is an electrifying scene, superbly directed with impeccable performances from everyone, including the heap on the bed.

Similarly, the planet at the end of the universe is impressive, even if this is where the story starts to tail. It isn’t enough that this nameless lump of rock is just a colossal McGuffin. There is something outside that door, and the fact that we never get to see it wouldn’t be so frustrating if it weren’t established that it wasn’t actually important. Because rather than actually discuss what happened when the airlock blew, Clara and Orson watch the Doctor have a catnap and then she launches the TARDIS. And they didn’t even visit the restaurant.

 

Ultimately, it emerges, we’re watching a story about Clara: her relationships past and present and the hold she has over the Doctor, and over Danny. This is partly what makes the episode so unsatisfying, because it starts out as something else completely, with strong performances from everyone, particularly the Doctor. If, in ‘Robot of Sherwood’, Capaldi was basically forced to be Shrek on his way to lunch at The Ivy, in ‘Listen’ he takes centre stage – at least until the locks on the ship blow. He’s controlled and cynical but also calm and reassuring, and it’s therefore frustrating to see him sidelined during the last fifteen minutes in favour of Moffat’s emotional fanwank.

And ultimately, it’s the uneven structure of ‘Listen’ that proves its undoing. If the point, as Clara muses at the end of the final act, is that there really is nothing under the bed – presumably so that the BBC have a standard press quote for when the OFCOM letters start to arrive – then why establish this in such a confusing manner? It’s suggested that the pile of blankets on Rupert’s bed was another orphanage resident having a joke, but it’s a point that is ultimately lost amidst all the time-hopping and revisionism. The other week, I described ‘Into the Dalek’ as an episode that did nothing particularly well and nothing particularly badly. ‘Listen’ was up and down like a rollercoaster, its highs more than eclipsed by its lows. Like Clara and Danny’s first date, it was a good idea, ultimately squandered by stubbornness and ego. In the end, there is nothing beneath the bed but old territory revisited, and you can’t help thinking there are better ways to spend an hour of your life.

Listen_05

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