God is in the detail (part xv)

OK, here’s a shock to the system: there is not a SINGLE visual clue in ‘Listen’. Not one.

I mean, I don’t know how to break it to you gently. It’s not that I haven’t looked. I’ve watched the episode twice (which was more than enough) and scrubbed through the whole thing looking for STUFF THAT IS SUPPOSED TO BE IMPORTANT. You could quite feasibly say that I’m losing my touch, except that ‘Time Heist’ has a whole bunch of stuff, which we’ll look at another day.


The clue is in the title. ‘Listen’, says the Doctor as he sits cross-legged on top of the TARDIS. ‘Listen’, reads the word on the blackboard. The rule with scripted television drama is ‘show, don’t tell’, but this week, we’re telling.

Steven Moffat loves his poems. He must sit down with a rhyming dictionary and a pint of Theakstons every series and write them all in batches. Of course, Moffat being Moffat, they’re usually of vital importance to the plot, rather than mere ornamentation. ‘Listen’ was a prime example, with a menacing nursery rhyme that asks What’s that in the mirror, or the corner of your eye?”. (Someone really should ask Paul Cornell.) There’s the wretched ‘Tick tock goes the clock’, which broke new ground by establishing itself as a recurring motif that was actually even more tedious than ‘The Ballad of the Last Chance Saloon‘. Oh, and then there’s this.


Lousy writing, but the artwork is good. I wouldn’t mind, but Zagreus did all this years ago, to much more convincing effect.

There are, I’m quite sure, blogs / Kindle publications of Doctor Who inspired poetry. I am not going to mock these, because I spent many of my formative teenage years doing that sort of thing, although I do at least have the decency to now admit that everything I ever wrote was rubbish. Besides, even bad poetry has its novelty value, as any fan of Julia A. Moore will tell you. (Vogons? Pah. I laugh in the face of Vogons.)


Still, it struck me: what sort of scope is there in ‘Listen’ to find a little message or two from the text? And it’s very simple, because it’s all in the numbers. Basically I took a transcript of the episode and wrote down every twelfth word of dialogue (ignoring stage directions and descriptive language.) I did this for the first twelve minutes. And then I punctuated it, and here’s what we had.


We’re there, no? If hide with detect. Clear want. Sorry – time to go straight.
Know…are my days twenty-three? Okay.
The people, seriously. Mention – don’t subject. Wrong. About making well: you mirrors in hide.
Aren’t your it. I free late, my, you.
Not proposition. Single.
If of perhaps have all. You I – same someone. So room you there.
Try. Time. Obvious is you…you under it.
Contact might your of turning on TARDIS should, when we remember,
No, we’re – no. West mid-nineties. Been children’s human. Is was to TARDIS.

We think – what name? No. Going.


Oh, it’s ambiguous. It’s about Clara controlling the TARDIS to find the Doctor’s true identity. It’s about waiting, it’s about hiding. Or it’s a load of gibberish. I’ll leave it to the reader. Nonetheless, I should stick in a plug here for Chrissie’s Transcripts Site, which I use for reviews, research and occasionally to check on the specifics of something Gareth has said, and which never gets the credit in here that it deserves. Anyone who’s ever looking for thorough, meticulously accurate Doctor Who scripts online really need look nowhere else. Oh, and she has her own Facebook page.

But the Twelfth Doctor is not actually the Twelfth, is he? He’s the Thirteenth, if we include the War Doctor (and it would be borderline blasphemous to leave out John Hurt, given his performance in Krapp’s Last Tape). So I did the same thing again, but starting at the thirteenth word of dialogue and then counting forward thirteen words each time. And –


Alone. Perfect as perfect, you.

Would those? Would do?

Bit – straight, straight. Dessert. Teaching, though.
Couldn’t. Could means was.
I’m full, taken. Mention you can. The is made, making.
Why do? What thought? Bit by it, can’t free.
Phone off.
Probably I yourself, talking single – 


I stopped at this point, because it really did seem to be about Danny and Clara, and that’s something I don’t really want to have to think about when I’m about to eat. You finish it.

Categories: God is in the Detail | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Post navigation

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: