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[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 [ 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.
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July 2015


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