Where You Gonna Hide at Midnight

DW 4x10 Shadow

4×10: “Midnight”

Ladies and gentlemen and variations thereupon, that was a bit good wasn’t it?  Just at the time when the soon to be gone Russell T Davies gets an OBE for his efforts and the vocal minority are bemoaning the fact that their anti-hero is penning all four of the remaining episodes in Series 4, the great man serves up a real treat with Midnight, a claustrophobic slice of hardcore sci-fi that, even the folk who love him didn’t think that he would deliver.  Who said he didn’t have it in him? Go on, hands up.  Other than the pre-credits sequence, when the Doctor asks both Donna and the viewer “What could possibly go wrong?”, and the unusually downbeat final scene, the rest of the episode took place inside the cabin of a tourist vehicle on the eponymous planet.

DW 4x10 Mimic

In typical Doctor Who fashion, only six of the ten people who set out on the journey returned but each of them was given their own moment to leave an impression.  Even the Driver Joe and Mechanic Claude were introduced for just the briefest period before they became the first victims of the unseen terror. The interesting element in Midnight was how the claustrophobia and paranoia of the situation and the travellers respectively, led to the worst elements of human nature being on display.  We did not have an on-screen monster to critique, instead it was the humans that seemed to be the main enemy and this created one of the darkest installments of the new-Who to date.

DW 4x10 Looking

This is not to say that it was an atypical example of RTD writing.  There were throw away pop culture references, like the inclusions of Rafaella Carra’s “Do it, do it again” (and yes, I had to Google that), which I assume holds some significance for, or ironic admiration from, Russell himself.  Equally, the well drawn, natural rythm of the dialogue was all we have come to expect. Even this series’ arc got an inclusion with another Rose cameo on a monitor. The difference here was, as I said before, that this was a dose of “proper sci-fi”. We had an unseen threat, an examination of the human condition through the actions and reactions of the emsemble cast and a whole host of questions that remained unanswered, so that the imagination of the viewer can take over. Ironically, it was the lack of satisfactory answers that was immensly satisfying here.  Sky Sylvestry’s despairing “She said she’d get me” was left hanging; the origin and motivation of the alien threat was never fully explored; and the sudden and downbeat ending that left us all wondering what exactly had just happened. These all served to make this a truly memorable episode.

DW 4x10 Midnight

Special mention needs to go to the cast members, all of whom played their part with aplomb.  David Troughton became the second member of the “Offspring of Former Doctors” Club this season with his turn as Professor Hobbes but it was probably Lindsay Coulson’s deeply unpleasant Val that would have stolen the show if not for Sky Sylvestry, brilliantly realised by Lesley Sharpe.  The greatest part of the episode was the manifestation of the alien threat. Taking over the body of Sky, the alien began to infiltrate in a way that infuriated the bejeezus out of everyone on board.  I am not the first to mention how many parents and teachers would have been driven to the brink by copycat children in the following days.

DW 4x10 scream

Doctor Who Confidential, which I shall stick with through thick and thin regardless of how many people say 45-minutes is too long, successfully displayed just how technically challenging the episode was for cast and crew.  The fact that I had completely failed to appreciate this until watching the documentary shows how well they achieved their aims because I was simply swept along with the story.  One tidbit that has come to light is that this was the 50th episode that has been produced since the series returned (the Crusader 50 vehicle was numbered as such because of this).  By the time we get to the end of RTD’s era we’ll have had 59 stories (plus three “cutaway” scenes, an interactive story and an aminated story).  No matter how good The Moff promises to be, I think we’ll miss RTD more than we realise.

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