Doctor Who #802: Midnight

"How can she do that? She's got my voice! She's got my words!"
TECHNICAL SPECS: First aired Jun.14 2008.

IN THIS ONE... A bus tour on the planet Midnight, a creature inside a woman called Sky, and SHE'S STOLEN OUR VOICES!!!

REVIEW: There's only moment, really, where Midnight feels like a Russell T Davies script, and that's very early on, when it looks like the story will be about satirizing in-flight entertainment in a crazy future setting. It's all blaring at once, the Hostess is terrible (where's Tegan when you need her?) and there's the same old jokes about "classic Earth music" (why are people from the future obsessed with 20th-century pop?). And then the Doctor sonics the whole thing away and turns a four-hour ride to some exotic locale into a proper road trip, forcing the passengers to chat, get to know each other, etc. It's a wonderful twist that shows the Doctor being a people tourist as much as someone who visits interesting placed and times; the passengers are as interesting to him as the sights. If it stops being an RTD script, it's because it's so spare. He should have been forced to write more bottle shows! A couple of beautiful matte shots, the vehicle they're in, Crusader 50, shown on a poster, and off we go. Four walls, a cast of actors, a monster that's all in the acting, a desperate and paranoid situation... Why couldn't Voyage of the Damned have been like this?

This is so simple. Through mood and music, Lesley Sharp's reptilian performance as the possessed Sky, and an irritating-cum-creepy children's game (repeating), the story is given atmosphere, suspense, and a soap box from which to expose mob mentality and the horror that men do. I prefer the interpretation that has the passengers' worst aspects coming out in a crisis, that their (shared) evil is theirs and theirs alone. The episode doesn't quite let us though. Sky, when she has the "Doctor's voice", explains the creature (itself) gets into your head, makes you fight, whispers bitter nothings. So is she in control of them or not? It's ambiguous enough that you could go either way. Val Cane - a major lobbyist to have Sky then the Doctor thrown out of the craft - makes that ugly crack about "immigrants", and her final "I said it was her" shows how truly awful a person she is. Though the Hostess was unpleasant, she at least took her duty seriously, and whether or not it's earned, did sacrifice her life to save the passengers. But everyone gets a turn at being bad, especially the more adult characters. Dee Dee and Jethro aren't immune, but they're not as willing to kill and don't use language that's as hurtful. Do the Doctor's wiles work better on young people? The ratio of younger companions might seem to confirm it.

Now, I've never really seen the Midnight entity be called anything. Maybe "the Voice" in some circles, but on this viewing, it hit me. The detour Crusader 50 takes is through the Canyon of the Winter Witch. That should totally be the entity's name! The creature is creepy. The lack of explanation makes it all feel like dark magic. It inhabits a woman with clear blue eyes, which fits our picture of witches in folklore. The Winter Witch. Yeah! Oh, and while I'm being Mr. Observant with my hindsight powers, I might as well mention this episode marks the first instance of someone knocking four times. It'll become the meme of the Year of Specials, though how prophecy works in a time travel series, I'll never properly work out. Midnight is in some unspecified future, so couldn't prophecies made in earlier eras refer to this, which is actually in the Doctor's personal past? My head hurts, time to wrap this up.

SECOND OPINIONS: My original review, Midnight Showing, is almost entirely about my theory behind the Doctor's mildly-telepathic persuasion skills, and why they break down in this episode.

REWATCHABILITY: High - A great, atmospheric bottle show, with a high creep factor, and a look at what can happen when the Doctor doesn't have a companion along to "interpret" for him emotionally.


-Peder said...

What struck me most about this episode the amazing effective to cost ratio. This is one of the few shows that you could competently put on with a community theater budget. And it's freaky as hell.
I wonder how many hours of practice this script took to get just right?

Siskoid said...

They can only fudge so much with sound design. The scenes where Sky and the Doctor are both on screen can't be faked!

Craig Oxbrow said...

People have indeed done just that.


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