Tuesday, July 07, 2009

My Review of Doctor Who's 4x10: "Midnight"

Written by Russell T. Davies
Directed by Alice Troughton

Okay so every season with the exception of the first year has given us a Doctor-Lite episode but we’ve never really had an episode until now that was Companion-Lite. Because The Doctor will have a reduced role in next week’s episode, it’s Donna who has to take a backseat in this episode.

Both The Doctor and Donna have landed on the planet Midnight, which as names go is rather cool in my opinion. However given that the last planet two visited had Donna as a Node, the flighty woman decides to sit this one out.

The Doctor’s all too eager to take a tour around this diamond encrusted planet but Donna firmly refuses to budge. Instead she’s happy to soak up some rays, enjoy some undemanding reading and sip cocktails. At least that is what I would do in her shoes. So basically no Donna until the very end of this episode when she’s really needed.

Being on his own, The Doctor boards Crusader 50 and takes the tour solo. He might have bragged about travelling alone beforehand but here’s the first time in this series where he really is all alone. It’s quite a good move and it makes me wonder if it’s something that will occur again in the show.

Of course The Doctor isn’t alone on the tour as he’s got an array of people to share his travels with. Besides a humour deprived hostess, there’s the rather twitchy Sky Sylvestry, husband and wife duo Val and Biff with their son Jethro, Professor Hobbs and his assistant Dee Dee. All together a perfect recipe for something a little different.

With the in-flight entertainment mainly consisting of dire music and cartoons, The Doctor does everyone a welcome favour by shutting it all off with his sonic screwdriver. The meeting of happiness from everyone else was a nice touch. With entertainment this dire, you’re better off sleeping.

Then again if you’re stuck with a chatterbox like The Doctor, there’s also the option of talking. On most travel journeys unless you’re actually travelling with someone, you don’t always tend to the person next to you. Having The Doctor beat this myth is both good and bad for the episode.

It’s good in the sense that we get to know the characters a little better. After all they are our substitute for Donna and some of them are more interesting than others. Both Val and Biff are the kind of overly talkative couple who seem more than adept to holidaying in the most unusual of places.

Their son Jethro is something of a breath of fresh. He’s a sarcastic teen who never borders on annoying and given that his parents are a little annoying you kind of feel for him. He’s also one of the few people in the episode who is mostly on The Doctor’s side as well.

Professor Hobbs on the other hand is also one of those scientists who boast an assistant arguably more brighter than he is. Dee Dee seems to be more aware of what’s going but the professor she’s working for seems to treat her more as a gopher rather than an assistant.

There’s also Sky who seems to want to get away from everything. At first she appeared a little hostile to The Doctor but they soon seem to engage in a decent bit of conversation before things take a sinister turn on the shuttle. Well The Doctor was silly enough to jest about disaster to Donna and that’s exactly what he ends up with.

When the ship stops all of a sudden and Professor Hobbs makes a point into pointing out that this has never happened before, The Doctor tries to wrangle some answers from the driver and mechanic. While the mechanic spots something advancing towards the ship, things really begin to heat up.

First off all, the hostess gets pissed off at The Doctor for moving about and people are also rather worried when he takes a look at the wiring. When a knocking starts to become relentless, just about everyone freaks out. However it’s Sky that really goes into overdrive as she becomes convinced that the creature is then after her.

To be fair she might have had a point. When the lights go out and that knocking really does get scary, it’s Sky who ends up suffering. With everyone else still alive, Sky is taken over by the creature and that’s where the fun really takes place, especially as it’s an unidentified threat.

Lesley Sharp is probably one of the coolest actresses on British TV and following the cancellation of Afterlife, it’s nice that she got to appear on this show. Russell T. Davies does have a tendency to reuse actors he’s worked with before and when they are as good as she is, then you can’t blame him.

As the creature taking over Sky, the annoying habit of copying another person’s speech patterns becomes a reality here. First off all the creature copies everything The Doctor says but soon enough, no-one can say anything without it being repeated. The only person to see a funny side to this is Jethro and this episode did benefit from those little moments of inappropriate sarcasm.

Seeing as the creature is something that not even The Doctor has encountered before, there isn’t a hell of a lot he can actually do. He’s sympathetic to both the creature and also desperate to try and save Sky but sadly the creature is advancing and everyone else’s nerves are being pushed to the limit.

Copying everyone’s voices brings out the worst in people but in Val and Biff, it really brought out the worst. Although it’s understandable that they would be scared and confused, there was a little part of me that wasn’t quite as sympathetic to their plight as I should be. I can also say the same about Professor Hobbs who did grate as well.

When Jethro wasn’t trying to mock the creature, he was also a bit curious too. He got pretty annoyed with the dismissive attitude that his parents had when asking him for his views but he also tried to raise some interesting points about the creature.

Out of all the people on board the shuttle bus, why did the creature go for Sky in particular? You could understand why anyone would possess The Doctor but I don’t think there was anything powerful about Sky. Not that it matters as soon enough the creature begins to advance.

Instead of continuing to copy everyone, the creature solely then began to focus on The Doctor, predicting what he would say and eventually it began to drain him. I could heap praise on David Tennant as I do every week but really Lesley Sharp stole the show. At one point she even sounded like The Doctor.

However with so much paranoia filling the room, everyone seems to in favour of sacrificing Sky to the uninhabitable Midnight. The Doctor makes some decent attempts to try and talk everyone out of murder but with the exception of Jethro, everyone seems to be a little too eager to do it.

Sky pretending to snap out of things and making The Doctor powerless then meant that Val, Biff and Hobbs were only too happy to sacrifice The Doctor instead. If ever there was an episode that showed how savage as humans we can be when the chips are down, it’s this.

This is also one of the few episodes where The Doctor being special really does play against him. Val is resentful of the fact that he thinks he’s so clever and soon enough everyone begins to realise that he got on board in a less than straightforward way. Bigotry really is an ugly virtue and in this episode, it nearly resulted in a death.

The Doctor physically couldn’t move and even when the hostess and Dee Dee realised that he was an innocent, Biff and Hobbs still tried to kill. In fact if it hadn’t been for the hostess sacrificing herself and Sky, there’s a good chance that The Doctor might have actually died. I believe The Master once said that something like that doesn’t bear thinking about. If only he could’ve seen the near antics of this episode.

The ending then is one of the most dour ones we’ve had in an episode. The Doctor does look traumatised that he was nearly killed by a bunch of paranoid humans and hardly any of the passengers can look him in the eye. As scenes go, it’s easily one of the most uncomfortable ones ever seen on the show.

It’s a good thing then that the episode ends with a catch up between him and Donna. Obviously he recalls the whole events off-screen but the impact isn’t tarnished as Donna is naturally sympathetic to The Doctor’s plight.

Like with Rose and Martha, we’ve seen the strong friendship element that The Doctor has with Donna. She says exactly the kind of things you’d want her to say and even her little attempt to slightly joke doesn’t hide the fact that she’s visibly worried about what could’ve happened had The Doctor not actually survived his tour on Crusader 50.

Also in “Midnight”

This episode originally came about after Tom MacRae’s script was rejected for being too similar to an earlier episode.

Donna: “And you be careful.”
The Doctor: “Taking a big space truck with a bunch of strangers across a diamond planet called Midnight … what could possibly go wrong?”

We got another Rose appearance on the monitor of Crusader 50 when The Doctor wasn’t looking. At least Billie Piper will be back full time next week for the last three episodes.

The Doctor (to everyone else): “Tell you what. We’ll have to talk to each other instead.”

Sky: “No it’s just me.”
The Doctor: “I’ve done plenty of that … travelling on my own.”

In terms of arc stuff both Rose and Martha were mentioned as was The Medusa Cascade and several allusions to the darkness.

Jethro: “We’ve broken down.”
Val: “Thanks Jethro.”
Jethro: “In the middle of nowhere.”

Dee Dee mentioned her thesis on the Lost Moon Of Poosh. Any chance that disappeared in the same way the Adipose and Pyroviles planets have done?

The Doctor: “Knock, knock.”
Jethro: “Who’s there?”

Sky (to the Hostess): “Don’t just stand there telling us the rules. You’re the hostess; you’re supposed to do something.”

Professor Hobbs is played by David Troughton, the son of Second Doctor actor, Patrick Troughton and this was not the first time he’s been on Doctor Who.

Jethro: “My name is Jethro.”
Sky: “My name is Jethro.”
The Doctor/Sky: “Jethro just leave it, just shut up.”

Professor Hobbs (re Sky): “She’s not a goblin or a monster. She’s a very sick woman.”
Jethro: “Maybe that’s why it went for her.”

If the circumstances of this season were different or had this episode aired earlier in the run, it could’ve been likely that Jethro might have been a companion.

Val: “Oh like you’re so special.”
The Doctor: “As a matter of fact, I am.”

The Doctor (to everyone, re Sky): “This is where you decide who you are. Could you actually do it, really or are you better than that?”

Anyone else think the little torches on board the Crusader 50 look like they could actually be sonic screwdrivers?

The Doctor: I’m a traveller.”
Val: “Like an immigrant?”

Sky: “Oh look at that, I’m ahead of you.”
The Doctor: “Oh look at that, I’m ahead of you.”

I just realised that earlier on in the episode Sky made a reference to breaking up with a girlfriend.

Donna: “Can’t imagine you without a voice. Moltobene.”
The Doctor: “No. Don’t do that.”

Speaking of voices, this episode made me wonder if we’ll ever get a “Hush” or “Once More, With Feeling” type of episode. Well we know that David Tennant can sing if Blackpool is anything to go by.

Okay, I’ll admit that “Midnight” is not one of my favourite episodes but as I was writing this review I did realise that there isn’t a lot I can say against it, except that the previous two episodes were a bit creepy. This episode succeeded in it’s lack of Donna, the feeling of claustrophobia, showing The Doctor as quite vulnerable and even it’s look at how people can easily turn on each other. Overall, a success.

Rating: 8 out of 10.

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