Monday, September 15, 2014

Listen - A Clever Little Moffat

Since I've mostly covered Classic and Audio Who up till now, something won't be that clear. That I'm not one of the fans that complains about Moffat's tenure as Showrunner. However, I do think he's a brilliant episode writer, but I'm just not sure he should be in the big seat for much longer.

I wasn't a big fan of 'The Pandorica Opens',* but I loved Clara's debut, and the revelations in 'The Name of the Doctor'. But in 'Listen' Stephen Moffat manages to makes us believe he's pulling off another 'Blink'. And he does a brilliant job of it. The monster you can't see. The thing that has you talking out loud despite no one else being there. The reason you never feel alone. It's genius storytelling, and it has all the hallmarks of the man that brought us the Weeping Angels and the Silence. It's possibly the scariest Who Moffat's ever done too. It was so easy to just accept he was doing it again.

Except he wasn't. He wasn't doing anything of the sort.

Once again we have Clara being absolutely monumental in the Doctor's life. 'The Name of the Doctor' established that the Impossible Girl had spread herself throughout the Doctor's life. Occasionally she'd do something big, like convince the First Doctor which TARDIS to nick, or becoming a Dalek. But more often than not in her few appearances she'd be on the outskirts, slightly nudging events in his favour. Some find it a little self-indulgent. I'm just on the border, and love the epicness it pulls off, and it works all the more for the War Doctor revelation seconds later.

Yet here, we have a monster that is eventually revealed to be nothing more than a vague memory of a scared boy. We meet the Doctor way before he was William Hartnell, but is a small boy crying himself to sleep in a barn. And Clara instinctively does that one thing to scare him when she tries to stop him seeing his future ship – never mind his future self. We then get a speech that inspires him to become The Doctor, a speech she picked up from him earlier in the episode. It's timey-wimey to the max, and it's brilliant. What looks like it's going to another monster episode turns into something a whole lot more.

And at the centre of it all is Clara. That's four episodes of four I've had to write that. Again, Jenna Coleman is proving to be absolutely stunning. Her performance here was what I've come to expect from her, but her softness with kids, yet feisty with the Doctor, and her falling in love with Danny all played off each other brilliantly.

But Clara being behind yet another of the Doctor’s big moments, now tying his very founding belief being suggested to him by her at a very early age, is almost too far. Clara as a Mary Sue is starting to become a bit too much.

The only thing that saves this decision is the framing story. Clara only ends up there because the Doctor is being driven to solve this problem actually stemming from a nightmare he had at the very same moment, and considering everything he’s seen, in particular the Silence and the Weeping Angels, is all too easy for him to imagine there’s some creature behind it.

Clara controlling the TARDIS through the psychic interface had already been established to be easily distracted as Danny phoning her led them to his childhood dorm room, so her worrying about the Doctor after he was exposed to zero atmosphere did the same trick again.

Of course, the fact was, if there was a creature it was always a benevolent one. By the Doctor’s own reckoning we’ve all had one accompany us, and they never have done any harm. Yet that thinking doesn't dilute it, because this is the story of a boy trying to solve his own nightmare.

It also means that the thing they were scared of back in Rupert/Danny’s bedroom was actually one of the other kids in the home, which is pretty hilarious.

I've not even covered the love scene and family revelations yet, but I think I've said enough, because really it's just more timey-wimey. I think it's also obvious that the rumours of Jenna Coleman leaving at the end of this season are probably true.

'Listen' came across just like 'Blink'. The command from the Doctor that was the one thing you had to do (yes Blink is the opposite but you get the idea), and it was properly scary. But it was something so much more than that. And I think it was kind of brilliant.

*I've recently decided that I'm going to rewatch a lot of New Who as part of the blog, as well as the other Eight blokes that came before Capaldi, so we'll get to that one day.
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