Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Aragon vs. Anderson: Listen

Now that I have a few minutes free, I thought I'd go back to one of my great passions...bashing The Whorist (or as it's generally known, The Nerdist), in particular their Doctor Who reviews by one Kyle Anderson.

Mr. Anderson (now doesn't that sound sinister) in my view, has rarely if ever met a Doctor Whopost-Rose story that he hasn't loved. I don't mean liked. I mean L-O-V-E-D, to where that particular episode is the Best Doctor Who Episode of All Time...until the next episode when THAT becomes the Best Doctor Who Episode of All Time. It's gotten to be almost a point of parody to see how Anderson rarely finds fault with a Doctor Who episode. I don't mean just to nitpick on a few things. I mean give a bona-fide negative review. Even I, someone who has been vociferous in my condemnation for many NuWho episodes, do admit when I see a good one (like Flatline or Mummy on the Orient Express). Anderson, however, will almost always find something to wax rhapsodic about, even on something as atrocious as In the Forest of the Night

I was intrigued by this, so a little research was required. I went as far back as I could regarding Anderson's Doctor Who reviews, and the earliest one I could find was the Series/Season Six opener, The Impossible Astronaut. What I've done is taken Kyle Anderson's review verbatim, and offered my own 'translation' to the text to see what Anderson is, in my view, really saying. I also throw in my own thoughts as to what is being said.

I hope this will be a fun and informative journey into the strange mind of the Functioning Nerd.

I present Part 34 of The Nerdist as Whore: Listen. My 'translations' are in red.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt famously said “We have nothing to fear but fear itself.”

TECHNICALLY, President Roosevelt said "the only thing we have to fear is...fear itself", but in this case, I'm not going to split hairs, as quotes are often misquoted. 

That appears to be what was zipping around Steven Moffat’s brain when he wrote this week’s Doctor Who episode, “Listen,” directed by Douglas Mackinnon. It’s an episode all about being too afraid to function,

It’s an episode all about being too afraid to function…as a rational, logical episode.

or possibly to realize the truth of what’s going on,

Something Doctor Who abandoned long ago.

and one that raises a lot of questions it doesn’t answer,

And will not only never answer, but leave a wild and outlandish continuity error so brazenly irredeemable that not even our sycophantic Disfunctional Nerd can possibly answer without going into mental contortions to try and make a completely illogical plot thread work on any rational and/or coherent level.

and answers questions we didn’t know we’d asked (but were glad we did).

This episode boasts a very small cast, but very big ideas, a lot of creepiness, and a lot of “probably”s that are PROBABLY true.

They are ‘probablies’ (yes, it’s not a word but I think you change “y” to “-ies” to make something plural) because to use ‘probably’ is an easy and convenient way to explain away plot points and whole stories that in retrospect, won’t make any sense.  By saying ‘probably’, you have an escape clause where you don’t have to tie yourself down to a particular point or plot idea in Listen that another episode, say, Death in Heaven or Face the Raven, will contradict or render impossible.  
Every series, I think, needs a good ol’ creepy ghosty scary episode and, (as AliciaLutes aptly pointed out), “Listen” had a lot of Series 7’s “Hide” all over it, and that’s not at all a bad thing.

“I adored this episode, easily my favorite of this half-series, and possibly for the whole series, but we’ll have to see about that. It had everything I love about Doctor Who and did something different. Sure, the end went a little soft, but it never got stupid or implausible, which is truly commendable. If you’ll excuse me, I think I’m going to go watch it again”.

It’s no surprise Anderson thinks having a lot of Hide isn’t a bad thing.  It’s so rare when he thinks anything Doctor Who-related is a bad thing.

Honestly, in your heart of hearts, could the closing paragraph from his Hide review have come from just about ANY Kyle Anderson Doctor Who-reviewed story?

“Listen” begins with the Doctor talking to himself, something we know he does and have seen him do quite a lot; this time, however, he ponders WHY he does it,

Why ask why?

My guess is because there is no one he can talk to, with Wilson, I mean, Handles, gone and Clara a Part-Time Companion, though I'm sure Anderson wouldn't mind if Jenna Coleman were his...

and if possibly he isn’t talking to himself and that when people think they’re talking to themselves they’re actually talking to a thing that’s hiding just out of sight, something that follows everyone around at all times. That’s a pretty terrifying thought, but certainly one most if not all of us have had.

That’s why we’re afraid of the night, or of spooky old houses, or of forests,

Can you imagine how scary In the Forest of the Night must be then?  In fairness, it was, though perhaps not the way Anderson might want to think, but now we're getting ahead of ourselves.

or of etcetera – because MAYBE someone or something else is there with you.

Probably it isn’t, but maybe it is. 


Moffat’s made a lot of generally mundane things quite scary (like statues, silence, the dark, robots…errr), but now he’s actually decided to make nothing scary. NOTHING, the concept. It’s terrifying.

Ladies and Gentlemen, The Most Terrifying Show In History:

Clara, meanwhile, has finally gone on her date with Danny Pink, and boy howdy does it not go well.

Jenna Coleman in My Dinner with Danny.

Danny’s very touchy about having been a soldier, and doesn’t appreciate any kind of offhanded comment about his having killed people in the line of duty, nor does she appreciate being lumped in with all the other people who do make stupid jokes like that.

Far be it for me to be ‘highly critical when needed’, but if I were accused of war crimes in the guise of jokes while on a date, I’d be a bit touchy too.  

From my vantage point, I’d say Clara was shockingly insensitive, even condescending, towards Danny.  Here though, I figure it is reflective of Moffat's (and perhaps, Anderson's) worldview of those in the military.  I figure in the U.K., you don’t get people coming up to those in uniform and saying to them, “Thank you for your service”.  After all, all those serving in the military are all war criminals, and generally stupid as well.

What was it Almost-President John Kerry said: unable to get into college so they’re ‘stuck in Iraq (read: the military)’. 

My sneaking suspicion is that Moffat genuinely feels the same as our almost Commander-in-Chief: only those with little to no education actually serve in the armed forces.  This version of The Doctor certainly thinks so.  Why else would he go on about how former soldier Danny Pink couldn't possibly be a maths teacher and had to be a P.E. teacher?  There is a horrid elitism behind Moffat, The Doctor and Clara's thinking, one that seeps in and finds form in the dialogue.  I've long argued that a writer's dialogue, consciously or not, presents his/her worldview through the stories and dialogue.  The whole 'The Doctor hates soldiers' thread, I think, reflects both Moffat and the Doctor Who production staff's mindset.

We could go over again about the Doctor's deep affection and respect for The Brigadier, the epitome of the military, but why?  Most NuWhovians have the vaguest idea of who The Brigadier was.

I’m sure Anderson would like to be touch-feely with Coleman, but now I digress.

It’s all a bit of a mess, so she’s more than happy (or less than willing to argue too hard) when she returns home to find the Doctor and the TARDIS waiting for her in her room.

Bless The Doctor: the only man who can be waiting for Clara in her bedroom and not think about going to bed with her.  Anderson, on the other hand…

He tells her his hypothesis and asks if she’s ever had the dream (or not a dream) where you think someone’s in your room, so you sit up quickly and then something grabs your ankle from under your bed. According to him, everyone has.


That seemed like a flawed premise to me, but by time you get to the end of the episode, we find out it IS a flawed premise, but one with a reason behind it.

It’s a flawed premise, but one with a reason behind it.  Ah…is it me, or is Anderson's argument a trifle convenient and eager to cover up something that might not have sat right with him?

In order to get some empirical evidence, the Doctor has Clara plug herself into the TARDIS’ psychic goo flanges to go back to a time she remembers it happening in her own past.

She’s not supposed to get distracted but she can’t stop thinking about Danny, and they end up in Gloucester in the ’90s in front of a children’s home.

She’s never been here, but immediately she sees why her mind brought them all: a little boy in the window, named Rupert Pink, afraid of being alone.

Already the tangles are getting very knotty.  The TARDIS is connected to Clara’s time-stream, but it’s Rupert/Danny Pink’s past we go to.  Already, we’re getting the suggestion that Clara and Danny’s time-streams are connected, but as we will see, it ain’t necessarily so.  Perhaps here I can be a little more flexible, and maybe just thinking of someone will lead you to their past rather than their own.  However, would this not mean that either Clara or the TARDIS had knowledge of Danny's past?  How else could Clara get to Danny's exact childhood?  If I didn't know something about the past of someone I know, how would I be able to go to find it?

I just find something here slightly amiss, but I can trust others to guide me if they can find the way.

She goes up to see him and make him feel better while the Doctor asks the caretaker (under the guise of being an inspector) whether strange or creepy things happen. The building’s always creepy at night, isn’t it?

Clara tells Rupert there’s nothing to be afraid of, because the only thing under the bed is her, once she goes there. She beckons Rupert (who IS Danny, let’s face it) to come under with her…

OH MY! We’re going from knotty to naughty.  Rupert 'Danny' Pink in Lolita: The Boy's Turn.

then something sits on the bed. Luckily, the Doctor’s there as well and whatever it is on the bed is hiding under the bedspread.

'Whatever' is on the bed.  Indeed, this is one of those pesky little aspects to Listen that people consistently ignore because…THE FEELS!

The Doctor then gives Rupert a very lovely pep talk about fear being a super power that scary things just don’t have.

Be Not Afraid.

This was such a great moment for the Twelfth Doctor and one of Capaldi’s defining scenes so far. He’s been nothing but great in these kinds of scenes and I just think he’s shaping up to be a wonderful, complex, and actually quite easy to like Doctor, despite the “darkness” we’ve seen within him.

OK, I’ll give him that: Capaldi has been better than his material. However, given that this Doctor fought off Robin Hood with a spoon, I find the ‘darkness’ claim a trifle dubious.

The three stand looking out the window while the Doctor tells the thing to leave. He thinks that if something had a “perfect” ability to hide, for someone to look at it would be catastrophic, so better safe than sorry. Now, this PROBABLY was just another boy in the home playing a prank, but can anyone be sure?

Now, let’s look at this particular situation. From all appearances, there was something alien in Rupert’s bed (and no, that isn’t a Jenna Coleman joke).  What weird creature was lurking under the covers?  Though whatever was there disappears quickly, the quick look did not look human.  So, was it human or was it otherworldly? 

Well, Listen never answers that, and we’ll never get an answer to this particular curiosity because it’s a plot device, a way to get Rupert to ‘be scared’ but which leaves a viewer who actually thinks things through hopelessly frustrated.

We’ll be left forever hanging, because either answer (it was an alien or it wasn’t) will have no logical basis can be drawn on the evidence.  If it was alien, we’ll never know what it was, how it got there, why it was there.  If it wasn’t, then that is the best costume for an orphan ever made.

It's a needless mystery, but one that Moffat needed because a.) he needed to make an episode last a certain amount of time, b.) he had to hammer in his point, and c.) 'analytical critics' like Kyle Anderson will rarely if ever question anything.

Clara gives him a toy from a box of soldiers which she calls the boss, the one who goes into a battle without a weapon because he’s the bravest (while Mackinnon focuses on the Doctor in the background…great moment) and the time travelers leave.

OK, I’ll concede that too: that was a good, subtle commentary on The Doctor.

Clara gets the Doctor to take her back to the restaurant, just moments after she left and things with Danny seem to be going well again, until she lets slip that she knows his name is Rupert.

Jenna Coleman in My Dinner with Rupert.

I have a question at this juncture.  Clara didn't know Rupert/Danny was in a children's home (read: orphanage) prior to her journey to the past, but she still managed to get to his childhood because she was thinking of him.  Now, after essentially popping back into their disastrous dinner, she lets out something that shocking to him?  Again, something here is still amiss.  What could it be?

He doesn’t like being lied to, but she can’t even make up a story because someone in a space suit is beckoning her back to the TARDIS.

This signals the first part of the story ran out of steam, so we need something wild to put us in the second part.

It’s not the Doctor, it’s someone who looks AMAZINGLY like Danny.


It’s Orson Pink, a time traveler from 100 years in the future. The Doctor found him through searching Clara’s time stream again (clearly something’s going on between the Oswalds and the Pinks).

Guess again, oh Highly Analytical Critic.  Guess again.  

Listen is tying itself into Gorgon knots that not even our Andy will be able to untangle.  

He’s been stranded on the Last Planet in the Universe, a desolate rock with nothing, no life, no sounds, no anything. And yet, even though there is truly nothing out there, Orson has been terrified of the night because he thinks something might actually be out there.

Is he afraid of the dark?

The Doctor has Orson and Clara wait in the TARDIS while he opens the lock and lets whatever’s out there in. But he gets his head knocked and almost gets sucked out the airlock, but Orson saves him.

I don’t want to sound too picky here, but Anderson uses ‘but’ twice in the same sentence.  I was taught that one doesn’t begin a sentence with ‘but’, but it seems that sentence is a bit off structurally.  Any grammarians are free to pipe in.

With the Doctor unconscious and something outside (or maybe it’s just the air settling), Clara uses the psychic circuits to take them somewhere else. They arrive in a barn or stable and she follows the sound of a small child crying.

She assumes it’s Rupert again, or Orson, but when people arrive, she hides under the bed. They talk about how he’ll never be a good soldier if he keeps crying, nor a good Time Lord. WHAAAAAAA?!?!? Clara has somehow gone to the Doctor’s childhood on Gallifrey (which doesn’t REALLY make sense given that Gallifrey is hidden somewhere in another universe, but I’m willing to overlook that).

SHOCKED that Kyle Anderson would be willing
to overlook something which doesn't
REALLY make sense

I am curious though, is the TARDIS still stuck looking up Clara’s timeline, because if it is, it’s doing a damn lousy job.  It’s taken her to Danny/Rupert’s past, the future of someone named Orson Pink, and now The Doctor’s.  Either she’s related to ALL three of them, or there a major malfunction somewhere in all this.

She realizes it’s her being there that causes the Doctor to fear the dark, and dreaming, and being alone. She tells him it’s a dream, gives him the same speech as he gave young Rupert, and then says a line Hartnell says in “An Unearthly Child” all the way back in 1963 – “Fear makes companions of us all.”

I take great umbrage at the use of this line because it is taking the line completely out of context. He said that in response to his Companion Barbara’s comment in the story.  It wasn’t meant or intended as some grand philosophical statement, but as a reply.
I get that Moffat was nodding to the original series, but the ‘fear makes companions of us all’ bit is stretching things.  Further, I am mistrustful of Anderson’s cheering on something that doesn’t quite fit just because it sounds nice.

Also, how does The Doctor NOT remember Clara, whom he’s essentially met twice before meeting her multiple times when she was split through time to save him, again and again?

We also see a glimpse of the War Doctor walking with the Moment back to this very stable, clearly a place where he felt safe.

Because we needed the “War” Doctor (or as I call him, the real Ninth Doctor) shoehorned in to please Moffat’s ego.

“Listen” is a truly wonderful episode that only makes sense once the whole thing is completed, like the best of Moffat.

“Listen” is a truly wonderful episode that only makes sense once the whole thing is completed, like the best of Moffat.

“Listen” is a truly wonderful episode that only makes sense once the whole thing is completed, like the best of Moffat.

“Listen” is a truly wonderful episode that only makes sense once the whole thing is completed, like the best of Moffat.

“Listen” is a truly wonderful episode that only makes sense once the whole thing is completed, like the best of Moffat.

Everything we thought was scary actually WAS the “probably” we all tell ourselves to make us feel better.

I CAN'T BREATHE...I need a few minutes.  Oh, Kyle, even for you you've gone overboard.  You transcend ass-kissing into straight-up rimming.

It was another little boy under the comforter; it was just a dream about someone under your bed;

It Was All A Dream.  What is this: Doctor Who or Dallas?

it was just the Doctor being scared of being alone and in the dark. It was all there. So often, Doctor Who takes things every little kid fears and says, yes, it actually is something scary; here, Moffat tells the audience that being scared is normal and it doesn’t always point to a real danger, that being afraid is a badge of honor and can help you become brave, and that admitting you’re afraid can be the bravest thing of all.

Such a lovely episode.

Something tells me that Kyle Anderson liked Listen.  What say you?

SHOCKED that Kyle Anderson liked a Doctor Who episode!
Oh, and I didn’t mention yet this time out: Jenna Coleman is SO FRIGGING GOOD!

Oh, and he didn’t mention yet this time out: Jenna Coleman is SO FRIGGING HOT!

My God, they’ve just been giving her cracking things to do and she’s been delivering to the Nth degree. She’s great great great.

I so look forward to see where the Danny/Clara storyline goes

Nowhere, Fast.  Let me play psychic to his psycho, but the Danny/Clara storyline will end up being a rubbish heap of total nonsense that Kyle Anderson will insist is a hallmark of genius.

but mostly I look forward to where she goes as a character, because right now she’s easily my favorite companion of the new series. Yeah, I said it.

SHOCKED that Clara is his favoriteCompanion of the new series!

Next week, we have a heist… in a bank… having to do with time… and a weird Not-Ree-Yees alien creature and Keeley Hawes looking stern librarian. 

I can genuinely say I have no idea what he's talking about at this point, though to be fair I rarely can make genuine sense out of Anderson's cheerleading, as muddled as most Doctor Who episodes are nowadays.

“Time Heist” is next week, written by Moffat and Stephen Thompson and directed again by Mackinnon. Have a gander!

And let’s talk about “Listen” below! Did you like it as much as I did?

That, my dear Kyle, is impossible.  No one can like a Doctor Who episode more than you.  Then again, no one gets paid to like them more than you.  Yeah, I said it.

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