Why LISTEN is one of the greatest ever DOCTOR WHO stories - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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Why LISTEN is one of the greatest ever DOCTOR WHO stories

The elements combined to bring us a very special Doctor Who episode last night. Andrew Jero takes a closer look at Listen.

The fourth episode of Season thirty-four, Listen, is without a doubt, one of the greatest episodes of Doctor Who ever. I’ve never had an episode in the new series even come close to this good. It translated perfectly onto screen, and I've struggled to find a problem with this story. I have to admit that I am an elitist fan and have had a hard time finding much of anything in the new series to enjoy, but this was by far, the best episode in a very long time.

Of course, it all begins in the writing, and just reading the script proved creepy enough, but the first bit I’d like to take a look at was a bit that got my hopes up. I knew it wasn’t going to be what I wanted but, as a fan of 80’s Who, I can always hope!

10:00:00 EXT. SPACE - DAY
A star field.

If that had made an appearance in the episode I probably would’ve jumped up and cheered!

10:01:05 INT. TARDIS - DAY

Question. Why is there no such thing as perfect hiding?
THE DOCTOR, now strolling round the bookshelves on the upper walk way. Talking to himself. Toying with his stick of chalk.
THE DOCTOR (cont'd)
Answer! How would you know?
He's arrived at a table where some books are laid for his study. He lays down his stick of chalk in the central groove of an opened book.
He stands at the rail, looking out over the control room. Like he's giving a lecture.
THE DOCTOR (cont'd)
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?
Then seems to shiver slightly. As if catching himself in a
disturbing thought.
THE DOCTOR (cont'd)
Except in those moments when, for no clear reason, you choose to speak aloud.
He looks round the TARDIS. The shelves, the shadows, mouths of the corridors.
THE DOCTOR (cont'd)

What would such a creature want? What would it do?
Silence. Shadows. The humming and clicking and grinding of the machine in flight.
His eyes, raking the darkness. Now calls out, as if to someone hiding
THE DOCTOR (cont'd)
Well? What would you do?
Silence. The TARDIS groans through the centuries
THE DOCTOR smiles at himself. Silly? Perhaps! He reaches for the stick of chalk he left on the opened book -
- and it is gone!
He frowns in confusion -
- and then something rolls against his foot. He looks down. The stick of chalk, now lying next to his shoe.
Bends down, picks it up. How did it get there?

And now he's staring. At the opposite. Eyes widening, shock.
Because now chalked on the nearest blackboard, where there was nothing before, is one word.
The answer to his question.

This is the best pre-title sequence in the show’s history, and yes, that includes the one from last year when we saw the Doctor steal the TARDIS. It’s creepy, and makes you think. For all we know there could be something hiding behind us, a constant companion. And that is really pretty scary to think about. There very well may be something with us. People thought Steven Moffat had scared the audience the most he could with the Weeping Angels in Blink, but honestly Listen includes something which every person that’s ever lived can relate to. That breath on the back of our neck, the lost footstep behind us, for me, Listen, was creepier than State of Decay and Kinda. Both of which scared the hell out of me as a kid. I wouldn’t watch Kinda for a long time and didn’t like it because it scared me that much. Listen is the exact same, except now I’m 18 instead of 4, and it scared me a lot more because of how realistic and thought provoking it is.

People often recommend Blink to their friends as a way of getting them into Doctor Who, but really it's not actually representative of the series - it's Doctor-lite for one thing. If we think of other recent scary stories that are highly regarded then we might go to Midnight. It's a self-contained thriller, but again does not contain that many of the elements which make Doctor Who the show it is. In Listen we had it all; including a brilliant Doctor, companion, time travel, an inclusion of (and an addition to) the show's mythology plus a first rate story that with minor adjustment really could have been produced at any time in Doctor Who's history. Largely because it was not CGI dependent, and instead produced excitement, suspense and fear through damn good acting, suggestion and direction. It's everything you could want in Doctor Who.

I think Listen is something that people will look at and call a classic for decades. I believe that we’re looking at the next Genesis of the Daleks, or Caves of Androzani here. It is instantly a classic. Capaldi pushed himself up my rankings list here, instead of being above the new series Doctors and Pertwee, McGann and McCoy, I think he’s surpassed Hartnell and maybe, MAYBE Tom Baker with his performance in Listen. I swear up and down that Capaldi is the next Tom Baker. We could give him something as bad as Creature From the Pit or The Horns of Nimon, and he could elevate them with his performance, not even Tom Baker could do that.

You just have to squeeze through.
The TARDIS is parked just the other side of the door, stopping it opening properly.
As CLARA peers through, she sees THE DOCTOR - he's sitting at the her make up table, studying his face in the triptych of mirrors.

Why do you have three mirrors? Why don't you just turn your head?
What are you doing in here?
You said you had a date - I thought I'd better hide in the bedroom in case you brought him home. Bit early, aren't you? Did it all go wrong, or is this good by your standards?

It was a disaster and I am extremely upset about it, since you didn't ask.
Fine, I need you, for a thing!
I can't!

Of course you can, you're free. More than usually free, in fact.
I might...
...it's just possible I might get a phone call.
What, from the date guyn. It's too late now, you've taken your make up off.
No, I haven't. I'm still wearing my make-up.
Oh, well you probably just missed a bit.
Come on.
He's already bounding through the doors of the TARDIS. CLARA following.

10:06:31 INT. TARDIS - NIGHT

THE DOCTOR is already leaping to the controls.
I haven't actually said yes.
Yes, but you know sometimes when you talk to yourself? What if you're not?
Not what?

What if it's not you you're talking to? Proposition: what if no one is ever really alone? What if every single living being has a... companion. A silent passenger. A shadow. What if the prickle on the back of your neck, is the breath of something close behind you?
How long have you been travelling
Perhaps I never have.

If I could get away with just copying the entire script down here, I would. But even as I’m just reading these bits, it’s creeping me out. Now when you add Capaldi’s performance on screen to the script you get sheer brilliance!

Capaldi is just amazing and has a touch of the grandfatherly aspect of Hartnell in the scene with Rupert in the bedroom. Now we never learn what the thing inside the sheet is, but we do discover where the Doctor learned the line  “Fear makes companions of us all.” from An Unearthly Child.

I think that using the first Doctor as the little boy was a stroke of genius. The only thing is that it does make Lungbarrow non-canon. The Doctor has parents? Due to the events of Lungbarrow, he shouldn’t. No Time Lord should. They’re all cousins. But if you haven’t read the books, I’m sure you have no idea what I’m talking about.

In Lungbarrow you learn that Time Lords are created from Looms, and that they have no parents but are all cousins. The ruler of Gallifrey before the Time Lords was Pythia, who laid a curse on Gallifrey that made the entire population sterile, the Looms weave Gallifreyans out of extant genetic material. The Other sent his granddaughter, Susan, to a spaceport to protect the last naturally born Gallifreyan from Rassilon’s ever increasing power.

There are several things that point to the Doctor being “The Other”. “The Other” is the third Time Lord out of the legendary trio comprising of Rassilon, Omega and the third, mysterious figure only known as “The Other”, in the Cartmel Masterplan, season twenty-seven would’ve told us this.

“The Other” has been described as a demigod that stood above the Time Lords and has been compared to by Mark Platt, who wrote Lungbarrow, as a figure relatable to Alastair Campbell. Now Alistair Campbell is the legendary spin doctor that Peter Capaldi’s Malcolm Tucker is based on, coincidence?

The Cartmel Moffat Masterplan is underway.

Andrew Jero lives in Iowa and has a very strong love of both Red Dwarf and Doctor Who. He enjoys acting and writing plays, television scripts, and short stories. Follow Andrew on Twitter.

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