djm4_lj: (PhotoBooth)
[personal profile] djm4_lj
Yes, I'm a week behind in write-ups; I'll try to get to Time Heist soon.

I thought this episode was a masterpiece, and for all its call-backs to other episodes, a great stand-alone story. The writing, direction and acting were all top-class, and for a story that wasn't shy of having long scenes with dialogue and no action, it never dragged.

Listen Again: this story repays a re-watch; in fact, more than any other Doctor Who story I can think of, this is a different story when watched again. The first time I watched it, the trailer and the direction led me to think that we were on the brink of a reveal of a protagonist in the Silence/Weeping Angel mould, and I read every scene with that filter. It was tense and scary, and (I expect along with many viewers), I was waiting for the moment when the evidence was overwhelming, and Clara's more prosaic explanations proved false. The second time around, when I know (for some value of 'know' that acknowledges that what we see doesn't actually settle the question either way, it just makes no sense for a monster capable of 'perfect hiding' to write on a blackboard or jump on a bed and lurk under a blanket) ... when I know that there is no 'perfect hiding' monster, it becomes an exercise in watching Clara and the Doctor working together to solve a mystery that actually doesn't exist. But the thing is, that without it being tense and scary, I was able to sit back and enjoy the Doctor and Clara's actions and interactions with the characters around them in a way that I was too busy being scared and tense to do the first time round.

Fear, Itself: so there was no monster; everything was just the Doctor's paranoia and disbelief that his memory - of dropping the chalk, or writing 'LISTEN' on the blackboard - could be faulty. (This is the second time in two stories that he's constructed an over-elaborate explanation for something because he refuses to believe the obvious one, and the second time that Clara's correctly favoured the obvious one; I hope this isn't how every story's going to go.) Interestingly, that attitude was always my favourite headcanon for who The Enemy were. This will mean nothing to most of you, but The Enemy were an unseen protagonist in the BBC Eighth Doctor books and the Faction Paradox series, and were basically invented by Lawrence Miles to mess with fans' heads. They were a sufficiently powerful force to enter into a war with the Time Lords, although it was a war in the Doctor's future and thus largely off-page in any of the books. They were hinted to have a less-than-straightforward nature, being possibly more a process than an identifiable race, and The Book Of The War notably and infuriatingly describes every protagonist in the war except The Enemy. The Enemy is only described in the basis of its actions, to which the Time Lords react. When I read that, my theory was that The Enemy was, basically, the Time Lords' control freakery coupled with a an over-inflated belief in their ability to observe, record and predict the universe. What the Time Lords saw as a pre-emptive strike by an ultra-sophisticated time-capable Enemy determined to attack by changing the timelines, was in fact how the timelines had always been. It was the Time Lords forgetting that they'd knocked the chalk on the floor on a universal scale. Of course, I'm probably wrong about that (if anything, it's a bit obvious for Lawrence), and it's not actually got anything to do with Listen, but it resonated with me when I was considering Listen.

Abuse the bugle boy of company B: the thing under the red blanket may not have been a perfectly-hiding monster, but that doesn't make it benign. Even if it was another child at the children's home, or one of the staff, given the Rupert was a black kid in a west country children's home, he's likely to have been a target for some deeply unpleasant racial abuse. No wonder he joined the army to get away. That said, after chatting with [livejournal.com profile] yoyoangel, I'm reconciled to the idea that the red blanket lurker (alone of the possible monsters) might in fact have been something out of the ordinary, and will be explained later. Not a perfect hider, and so not connected to what they were looking for, but perhaps something connected to Danny, and possibly also Missy.

The decision to be a soldier: Clara and the Doctor sow the seeds in Danny's mind that may lead to him becoming a soldier. Then Clara quite possibly sows the seeds that stops The Doctor becoming one. There's a symmetry there (and it's a theme that Steven Moffat's explored before with Rory, Strax and the War Doctor, but I don't mind seeing it again).

Bechdel Fail: it seems a little churlish to point it out, but this was the second episode in a row to flunk Bechdel. Although it gets credit for Clara sunbverting expectations by not being horrified by how she looks from behind.

No tag scene: thank you, thank you to the episode for having the courage not to include a tag scene or the like in which we pan back from the Doctor in the TARDIS to see that there is something hiding there. It must have been tempting, and I'm very glad they didn't do it; the episode is much stronger if the Doctor is wrong.

Date: 2014-09-21 09:20 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] purplerabbits.livejournal.com
I loved the episode too. My only explanation for the thing under the cover and the other physical clues that *isn't* another child, the wind etc is that it's the power of the Doctor's mind making them see what they expect to see. Either that or his mind has rigged the telephathic circuits to seek out places in time with just such coincidences...

I never had that dream as a child, possibly cos I had a bunk bed and the only thing under it was my sister :-)

Date: 2014-09-21 09:58 pm (UTC)
djm4: (PhotoBooth)
From: [personal profile] djm4
Don't think I ever had that dream, although the sense of something suddenly appearing where I'd convinced my dreaming self that there was nothing was familiar.

Possibly I also never had Clara under my bed, either, which might explain it.

just wittering really

Date: 2014-09-21 09:23 pm (UTC)
booklectica: my face (Default)
From: [personal profile] booklectica
When Clara originally says to Rupert: "could this be one of your friends?" I was aware that I expected his answer to be "I don't have any friends," because that would fit the trope of alienated-child-in-care-home. I was pleased when he didn't say that, both because I prefer it when the obvious thing doesn't get said, and because it suggested that he did have friends there.

Of course, from a narrative POV, the reason he didn't say that was probably because they wanted to leave the question open of whether it is indeed a friend under the blanket. But I'd like to think that it could have been a non-malicious prank*, and that he did have friends there.

*which isn't to say I think it definitely was that - I'm prepared to believe it was a monster of some kind, but I'm happy for it to be left as an open question. Agree it couldn't have been a perfect-hiding monster - but then, the Doctor should have known that too?

Date: 2014-09-21 09:55 pm (UTC)
djm4: (PhotoBooth)
From: [personal profile] djm4
Good point about Rupert not saying that he didn't have any friends.

The Doctor ... was not thinking clearly at that point. He Had A Theory, and was falsely seeing confirmation of that in everything he encountered.

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