Monday, January 31, 2011


RTD tries to write a psychological horror. The end. To be fair, there are a few interesting concepts, like the Doctor operating essentially without a companion since Donna's scenes simply bookend the episode, and possession by a mysterious entity. Nonetheless it suffers from that classic RTD problem where he thinks that if you make something mysterious enough you never have to actually explain it and it causes the whole situation to be less enigmatic and more just meaningless. Of course it's also meant to be an examination of how humans operate under pressure but frankly I think if humans still talk and act like this in the presence of the unknown in the distant future then it'll be a rather sorry future indeed.
Of course the people on the bus all turn out to be short-sighted and horrible in the presence of the unknown, gang up on the Doctor, try to kill him and are only saved by one person's convenient realisation of the truth. It piles more on top of the Doctor's "humans are the greatest and worst people ever" thing and it's rather disheartening to see the Tenth Doctor standing there stammering away unable to get a word in or convey any authority like something from a Fifth Doctor nightmare where someone like the Third, Fourth or Sixth Doctor would have had absolute control. It also rather eludicates the uselessness of the Tenth Doctor's hubris and how telling people you're the best the way he does doesn't do much good when you have no means of proving it. The other characters are mostly just cyphers as usual, being supportive or angry or scared wherever the plot dictates with no regard to consistency or individual temperament, and it's a shame to see David Troughton, son of Patrick Troughton the Second Doctor, who played King Peladon in the excellent Third Doctor serial "The Curse of Peladon" and also appeared in "The War Games" have to play the role of the Professor in this, who is just another one of RTD's mannequins.
While the Midnight creature is interesting and the repetition is done extremely well by Lesley Sharp the total lack of any kind of explanation is frustrating rather than enigmatic and the sheer incompetence of the Doctor, incapable of saying anything other than "It's learning" is rather painful to behold. It's also unfortunate that when the time comes for David Tennant to do the repetition sadly he's not nearly as good as Lesley Sharp and the performance isn't nearly as accurate or convincing as hers. Unfortunately all these aspects from the Doctor making him seem more and more human, and seeing him standing there blithering away with no authority or any better understanding than the others depicts him as just another one of the humans who is arbitrarily trying to take charge, not as the Doctor.
If they'd given at least some hint as to how the Midnight entity functions it would have been more effective. As it is, we don't know whether all the melodrama and hamminess from the human passengers is a result of the creature's influence or their own neuroses, and that hampers any point the episode is trying to make by a significant margin. What if the Doctor had discovered that the creature was benign? It would certainly have cast an extremely different light on the humans' reactions, but as it is there is nothing to go on. All this hysteria and aggression is too implausible to believe and unfortunately while it is curious to have a creature which can enter without using the doors and relies on fear the repetition aspect, while well played, feels very much like a gimmick which served as the basis of RTD's idea around which everything else was constructed more or less as an aside. Unfortunately that is the problem which beleaguers so much of this era of Doctor Who. Everything is hell-bent on one hype-focused aspect for drumming up attention to grab audience figures and everything else is slapped together in a way which only approaches being adequate without ever managing to really contribute significantly to a broader artistic whole. It leaves many episodes feeling incomplete and pointless and sadly I have to say the same of "Midnight". While there are a few good ideas in there, they're not developed as well as they could be and it is all too heavy-handed and broadly drawn to be effective, especially with the squabbling passengers.

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