Listen - Second Response

Blogging Doctor Who, New Series 8



Listen (take two):

Stupid is as stupid does

Image: The Doctor stands before the Tardis' new control console. Screenshot from 'Listen'.The Doctor at the Tardis' new control console. Screenshot from 'Listen'. Doctor Who Copyright © 2014 BBC.

I take it back. My inchoate first reaction to "Listen" was too kind by half. More than half.

Though some of the individual scenes still provided a certain creepy, monster-movie feel, there was a paint-by-numbers element to the proceedings. I didn't react with child-like pleasure to nothing when I first watched "Listen", but once my brain was engaged, things fell apart. Again.

From start to finish, "Listen" makes no god damned sense.

The problems begin at the beginning. As the show opens, the Doctor is talking to himself and underling words in chalk, obsessing like some conspiracy theorist who imagines he's hosting his own talk-radio program.

I must quote from the opening monolog, because it is from that inane misunderstanding of what evolution is and how it works that flows the rest of the story.

"Question: Why do we talk, out loud, when we know [pause, while Capaldi does something awesome with his eyebrows] we're alone?

"Conjecture: Because we know we're not.

"Evolution perfects survival skills. There are perfect hunters. [The Doctor watches a big cat — a cheetah? Edit: According to self-described cat-person Bitter-Suite24, it was a lion, not a cheetah — take down an antelope of some sort.] There is perfect defence. [The Doctor watches a spiky fish puff itself up.]

"Question: Why is there no such thing as perfect ... hiding? Answer: How would you know?

Logically, if evolution were to perfect a creature whose primary skill were to hide from view, how could you know it existed? It could be with us every second and we would never know. How would you detect it? Even sense it? Except, those moments, when for no clear reason, you choose to speak aloud. What would such a creature want? What would it do? WELL? WHAT WOULD YOU DO?"

This is about as dumb an explanation for the theory of evolution as you're likely to find outside a religious fundamentalist's first-grade primer.

Evolution doesn't "perfect" anything, Mr. Moffat! Yes, the cheetah has a remarkable success rate on the hunt when compared to other predators. But 50 percent is hardly perfection. In some schools it isn't even a passing grade.

Similarly, there isn't a plant, animal or protozoa which isn't prey to something else, some of the time.

There are no perfect hunters, Mr. Moffat. There is no perfect defence. There's no such thing as "perfect" in nature at all. As such, the only explanation for the Doctor's "logical" conclusion that there must be a perfect hider is that he has cracked up.

Or, since the Doctor isn't real, that there is something very wrong with the writer of this episode. Either Mr. Moffat doesn't understand evolution or he doesn't care enough about his story to worry that its basic premise is entirely stupid.

You can't even defend the premise on the basis of the Doctor being in error (unless he's cracked up, of course), because — as has been established by long tradition — the Doctor is a scientist, or at least is scientifically-minded. He must, perforce, understand how evolution works. By almost equally long tradition, he is also philosophically-minded, if not a philosopher. Ergo, he understands that in the real world, nothing "logical" follows from a false premise.

The whole set-up requires a suspension of disbelief that would ask the audience for a show about fire-fighters to accept that, when the alarm sounds, the fire-fighters all strip down to their underwear before racing off to battle the blazing inferno.

It won't matter how well-directed the fire-fighting scenes are, or how good the actors are; if you know anything at all about the reality of fire-fighting, you're going to stare at all that naked flesh and giggle or groan, because the fundamental premise is so utterly wrong.

There are smaller stupidities wrapped inside the greater, but I'll only mention a couple of the more egregious. Such as:

  • Why would the "perfect" hider choose to "hide" by standing in the middle of a bed in the midst of a crowd while covered by a kid's blanket? What kind of perfection is that, Mr. Moffat?
  • And why in the world would the Doctor send Orson Pink into a crowded restaurant to find Clara while he was wearing a fucking space-suit?!? WhyWhyWhyWhyWhyyyyy ...

Image: A hand in the dark, clutching your foot from under the bed!  Screenshot from 'Listen'.
Hands beneath the bed. Where is the Silence when you need them? Screenshot from "Listen." Doctor Who copyright © 2014 by BBC.


If verisimilitude doesn't matter to you, there's a competent enough monster-under-the-bed story to keep you entertained, but if you think about the story at all ...

I was going to close with some kind words about Capaldi's take on the Doctor, and Coleman's heroic efforts at the forced-march romance with Samuel Anderson's Danny Pink, but to hell with it. I'm tired of having my intelligence insulted by a program I want so badly to love.

It's obvious that Danny is going to be a big part of whatever it is that boots Clara from the Tardis for good, and obvious it is the only reason he was written into the show. At the same time, his presence once again demonstrates Moffat's soft-misogynist's inability to imagine women as people. Despite Clara being the one to solve this episode's problem, she is once again being characterized and defined primarily by her relationship with men, not in her own right. And that's a shame, because Coleman keeps trying so her to give her a personality of her own.

Have I said before that it's time for Moffat to go? (Why yes, yes I have ...)

Spread the word!

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Just that last sentence was

Just that last sentence was enough for me. Moffat needs to go!

I hate his characterization of women. I miss the days of strong female companions like Sarah Jane, Martha and Donna. They are the Bosses of Who. Martha was the boss from the second she told the Doctor he had to earn that title right down to the moment she decided she loved herself more than she loved the Doctor. Donna took none of his shit and Sarah Jane was just a Goddess. Where are women like that? Did Moff not watch ANY of the four seasons before he took over?

Ugh! He needs to go.

Re: Just that last sentence was

Did Moff not watch ANY of the four seasons before he took over?

The weird thing is, I'm convinced Moff didn't just watch the four/five NuWho seasons, but all of the Classic episodes as well. He's a true fan, and I think that's part of the problem. He loves the source material so much, that he's forgotten that the reason he loved it in the first place was that it was full of good (and, if we're honest, also not so good) stories about this, that and the other thing. Not always Doctor and Companion, but about other times, other worlds, other people.

Yeah. He should go, and sooner than later.

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