Ten Thoughts About Doctor Who: Listen

Another week, another new Doctor Who. Truly we are a blessed nation.

1. Keep Reading That Doctor Who Annual Short Story

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Steven Moffat wrote Corner Of The Eye for the Doctor Who Storybook 2007 about a race called Floofs that lived alongside humans, hidden from them, controlling them, only to be seen in the… you guessed it. He has so far recycled this as Patient Zero in The Eleventh Hour, and The Silence in The Impossible Astronaut. Here they are again – or are they?

2. Check Off The Recurring Season Motifs

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Breathing reference – "Not a breath", back of your neck, check. Using the blackboard to order his thoughts, check. A much more simplified way of flying the TARDIS with one lever, check…

And yes, that console lever. When we first saw the 12th in that brief Day of the Doctor scene, it was of his hand pulling that same lever, followed by the infamous eyebrows. Since then he's pulled it in each episode to get the engines going. It was even the first thing seen by Journey Blue in Into The Dalek.

Is this Capaldi and/or the writers subtly indicating how much more sensible and back-to-basics this Doctor is, by having him reduce the functionality of the console to a single mechanism rather than have him dash about twiddling switches and typing into keypads? Is this Doctor the first in 11-12 incarnations since Hartnell who actually remembers how all the controls work? Could there be a future multiple-Doctors crossover where he lectures his forerunners about keeping it simple?

Of course , then he complicated things by  letting Clara do it with… telepathic controls? They might have come in handy before mightn't they? But we have new rules to deal with and this is why.

3. More Sapphire And Steel

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Doctor Who can be any show, week by week. Last week it was Robin Hood. This week it was Sapphire And Steel, investigating philosophy and psychology more than anything else. As Clara pointed out, this week, the Doctor seemed to have his own mood lighting. Rules and tropes were thrown out of the window as we got a far odder Doctor Who, that basically formed the discussion of a philosophical point of existence, that they cheated by being able to go back in time and take a look. And beautifully foreshadowed by the contemplative Doctor meditating on top, as well as the Doctor going to check on various creatures… We don't so much have a more unpredictable Doctor, we have a more unpredictable show.

And talking of something seventies/eighties, is that why the Doctor and Clara fine to go wandering around children's homes at night? What if they were to have bumped into Jimmy Savile? Mr Matchbright from Jimmy's End seems rather inconsequential here against such forces of personality.

4. Burns Nightmare

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Has anyone ever read M. R. James' Oh, Whistle, And I'll Come To Ye, My Lad? Named after the Burns poem, wherein an elderly professor is terrorised by a creature always just out of the line of sight – or, at one point, hiding under a bedspread. This is where the ghost in the bedsheets trope comes directly from, and this episode seems to go They even adapted it for the screen a couple of times as Whistle And I'll Come To You.

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Oh look who was in it most recently.

5. Safety Lessons

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The end of time. Back at Utopia perhaps? With the safetys off, the Doctor is lucky not to have been hit by a Titanic on the way.

This… couldn't have been the Promised Land could it? Is that who might (or might not) have been trying to get in?

6. Dad Skills

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The Doctor is a grandfather. The Doctor has a cloned daughter. When did he develop those Dad skills. Will we ever see? With talk about Danny's prospects, the fatherly role regarding Clara continues. It really is Papa/Nicole…

7. Get Back

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There was an Season One episode of Doctor Who never made that would have seen the Doctor going back in time to reshape Rose's life to form her the ideal companion. One line was left from that in another episode, talking about a Christmas gift that the Doctor left her as Father Christmas. "Who says I'm not, red tricycle when you were five?" But it's a strong theme from one of Steven Moffat's other early prose Doctor Who work, Continuity Errors, the short story from Decalog 3, in which the Doctor attempts to make a librarian more willing to lend him a book but making her life so far much nicer. He used that again most evidently in A Christmas Carol. But this time it's Clara who is doing to the Doctor, creating the way the Doctor is and always has been, as well as creating a time loop regarding an attitude to fear. I suppose Clara has messaged a lot in the Doctor's past, in both The Name Of and The Day Of, I guess one more isn't going to break anything. She made him the man he was, she made sure he picked the right TARDIS, she made sure he didn't blow up Gallifrey, the Impossible Girl is becoming the Omnipresent Lass.

8. Not All Gallifreyans Are Time Lords

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That's been up for debate in the past. This episode seems to settle it. But how we get an answer to the question we never thought to ask in The Day Of The Doctor – why a barn? Why that barn?

And, mirroring Rupert, sorry, Danny Pink, there is the implication that The Doctor is an orphan…

9. Tinker Tailor Soldier Doctor.

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The Doctor doesn't like soldiers. But he now he always had Danny's soldier as a boy, one so brave he doesn't need a gun to keep the whole world safe. A soldier that the Doctor may have modelled his life upon. All he had to do was… listen.

10. Budget? Who Needs A Budget?

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Despite this episodes being set on a planet at the end of time, delving into the characters' past and getting to the heart of human conditions, you didn't need much of a budget. Basically a painting of a planet outside a window and a greying wig for Danny Pink. That was basically it… as is often the case for the scarier episoes. Again, Moffat goes for the cheaper, but rawer options, previously statues that didn't move, creatures you couldnt see in the shadows, monsters out of the corner of your eye, it always helps to keep the FX shots low… and it appears that the money was saved for next week.

Bonus Thoughts

Talking of the next week trailer, we mentioned this in its own story before. But now we have a clip straight from the next week trailer. Abslom Daak, Dalek Killer, now official Doctor Who canon, as we cycle through some Doctor Who criminals…

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And he's joined by James Masters from his Torchwood role, Captain John Hart.

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Androvax and The Trickster from Sarah Jane Adventures monsters…

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Sensorites and Terrileptils from Classic Doctor Who….

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About Rich Johnston

Head writer and founder of Bleeding Cool. The longest-serving digital news reporter in the world. Living in London, father of two. Political cartoonist.

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