Monday, 1 July 2013

Review: Doctor Who 4.10: Midnight
Why make a tourist attraction on a planet where the smallest
accident kills everyone instantly?
Doctor Who - Season 30, Episode Ten - Midnight
Written 14/4/13

C'est le d├ębut de la fin, mes amis. This deliberately Companion-lite episode begins a string of episodes written by and marking the end of the tenure of Russell T Davies as the show's producer. Midnight is often heralded amongst even his haters as that one time that Ol' Rusty did good - a pretty decent episode, all in all, and scarier than even Moffats concoctions. And, while I see where much of that praise comes from, I have to play Devil's advocate on this one and say that while it may be decent technically, it's not very fun to watch. It's an opinion I've never really had before - I can see how great it is, but I'm just not really a fan.
     With Donna sunbathing, The Doctor goes off on an excursion over the diamond planet Midnight, trapped in a sealed tourbus with a working-class family (including Colin Morgan before he was Merlin), a Professor (David Troughton!) and his assistant, and the recent divorcee Sky Silvestri (Lesley Sharp). While travelling, their vehicle mysteriously stops, and Sky is possessed by an unseen creature that begins repeating everything everyone says. After latching onto The Doctor and beginning to say his words before he does, the group become convinced that The Doctor is now possessed, and he is nearly thrown out into the radiation outside. Luckily the day is saved by a noble sacrifice.
     The gimmick (feels like a negative word, should use it less) of the so-called "Midnight Entity" and its ability to steal someone's voice through repetition and learning evokes something from the Wilderness Years in terms of ambition. This isn't a monster that you have to characterise or world-build; rather it's something more distinctly alien, and exploitative of the personalities around it. For me, that idea is cool. The execution of that idea... meh. Lesley Sharp gives it a damn good go but while some may find repetition and hammy acting scary in this instance, I am reminded a little more of children's comedies.
Merlin, tired of waiting for Arthur to reawaken, goes through
a goth phase and pretends to be a family's son.
     The same is true of the episode's other main selling point - a thorough and vicious dressing down of all of humanty's paranoid tendencies. The mob mentality amongst the passengers of the shuttle as they react in fear of first the creature inhabiting Sky and then later of The Doctor, is quite clear and direct and indeed feels rather realistic given the circumstances. The Doctor's usual schtick doesn't work, because the tight surroundings mean that everyone looks through his charming exterior very quickly, and he ends up becoming the prime suspect of their accusations because of it. But just because it's wonderfully realistic does not for me make it something I particularly want to watch - I have the small hope that I would not react as such in that situation, and thus I just get very annoyed at the variety of personalities who end up acting like complete and total whazzocks.
     So yeah. Midnight is very well put together, I'll give you that, but it's a matter of perspective, and while to some Midnight is a wonderful modern art piece with lots to say about the dark nature of humanity in the face of fear, I find that any artistic intent gets mopped up by hammy acting, annoying characterisations and the feeling that nothing is really happening. The Doctor went on a trip where some humans went crazy and tried to kill him, wow. Doctor Who at it's best, I'm sure, ha ha. Sorry, that was a little too sarcastic. Anyway, just not my cup of tea, and that's that.


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