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Sunday, June 15, 2008
And who says RTD O.B.E. can't write?

This would be an awesome chat~line.

The title, in case you don't know, does not refer to the new guys taking over the fire station in TRUMPTON but, in fact, are the words that a certain JOHN SMITH uses to try and outwit an alien in the latest DOCTOR WHO episode, MIDNIGHT. All 'joking' aside (and I use the word quite wrongly), RTD has pulled something big out of his pants and laid it on our screens with such style and unexpectation (have I just invented a word?) that my awe-meter is now broken. Four years in and the outgoing writer can still deliver. And like that!

I voted for CATHY T not ANT 'n' DEC!

In the lead-up to this tale, the show~runner revealed that it was 'experimental' and DWM described it as 'format stretching'. Although these statements are perhaps over~egging the issue, it cannot be denied that last night's story was out there on its own in the world of New Who. Actually, it stands pretty much alone in the world of WHO altogether. This was drama like we've never seen on the show since, perhaps, EDGE OF DESTRUCTION back in '63. Ancillary show DOCTOR WHO CONFIDENTIAL would have us believe that it was closer in feel to THE DEADLY ASSASSIN but I cannot disagree more.

She would have made a good Sontaran. No prosthetics necessary!

That TOM BAKER tale was full of action, set~pieces, MARY WHITEHOUSE anger~inducing cliffhangers and various 'glamourous' locales (ok, quarries, a railway line, a forest and overly lit BBC studios). In MIDNIGHT we get treated to a total of two sets and that's about it. Well, not quite but its only similarity to the 1976 four~parter is the fact that The Doctor is on his own. As a sidenote, I would argue that the Tommy B story HORROR OF FANG ROCK is closer in tone with characters acting in an atrocious manner. But because the aforementioned WILLIAM HARTNELL story is in black and white, the production crew of CONFIDENTIAL went with the colour one. So, I mentioned he was on his own but we do get a brief snatch of DONNA and we are treated to some more night~attire from the buxom red~head.

Another alluring ensemble from CATHY T

Whilst dwelling on the hype (and I don't mean that in the pejorative sense) about MIDNIGHT, I feel it worth mentioning that the blurb was all about The Doctor being deprived of his greatest asset. Now you can either take that to mean his 'voice' or his 'companion' (assistant/sidekick/whatever you describe his bit of stuff that he travels with). If one were to look deeper into the process (which I am about to) one could almost describe this as meta~television: in a mirroring of the story, RTD has taken away his strongest asset - the companion.

Curse Of The Fatal PowerPoint!

Since its return the companion has been such a strong feature that it would be quite easy to argue that without Rose Tyler the show wouldn't have got passed its first year. People, and by people I mean the public, connect with the show through the humanity of the companion. They are such a big feature now that story titles even include their names. I can't imagine a story in 'Classic' WHO (and remember, 'classic' does not always mean better) called Dodo; or one called Tegan; or even Adric (shudders). So here RTD has disavowed himself, and thereby The Doctor, of his ability to connect with the audience. And this is where he comes a cropper - The Doc, that is, not the writer. His lack of humanity belies his arrogance. Or, as he puts it, "I'm clever".

lnsert Shiatsu back~massage gag here.

And so to the story itself [Thank the effin' Lord - Ed.] (Hold on, that's me). First up, gold stars to the computer~geeks who have delivered again on the 'ole CG front. Although we're told this was the 'cheap' episode, we still got some lurvely realisations of the planet. Worth remarking at that this point that us WHO fans (and those who don't like it that continue to watch it - there are some) have been treated to lots of new worlds in SERIES 4 and this story marks the fifth continuous episode not set on contemporary 'Earth'. Yup, I've been counting.

Another new planet!

While I'm in the mood for handing out gold stars, I'll delve in and give a special one to ALICE "No Relation, Bizzarely" TROUGHTON for not only her claustrophobic direction but also her montages that were slightly more jaunty. The sound guys gave me the shivers with the banging and the voices whilst composer MURRAY GOLD continues a good run of episodes with a tempered score ranging from upbeat to downright eerie. But what of RTD himself? How does his writing hold up here? Without a companion.

So The Doc ain't a vegetarian then...

Brilliantly is the answer. We get all the usual humorous flourishes from him: a very knowing pre~title sequence - and perhaps a nod to DOUGLAS "The Guv'nor" ADAMS who always wanted to do a story where the Doctor took a break from saving the universe and went on holiday - with the Time Lord reassuring Donna,"What could possibly go wrong?" Cue 'sting'; pop music placement; 'quirky' characters like the Professor displaying his slides whilst on holiday and not afterwards; and the usual hoot~worthy lines like, "Ladies and Gentlemen and variations thereupon", "Oh Doctor you're so handsome. Yes I am thank you" and the juxtaposition of "roast beef" with "bananas" (a nod to The Moff perhaps?)

But I thought it was the alien that got sucked out?

Aside from that we get an all new RTD. He places his focus on the greatest monster of them all - that thing on the planet! Sorry, I mean 'man'. The concept isn't new but it's presented so acutely that it hardly matter. One could argue that it is a rehashing of THE IMPOSSIBLE PLANET and I did wonder if the budget~friendly alien would turn out to be the Beast from that tale. The denouement is almost identical - the entity, which has possessed a human, is dispatched through expulsion caused by air pressure. But that's not a criticism (well it is but let's move on).

Either he's pissed [UK] or those are his come to bed eyes.

I also wondered if the money~saving monster was The Master. Or even Rose Tyler. We did get a glimpse of her again on a screen. RTD is clever enough not to define it however and as in THE SATAN PIT when asked what it was, he doesn't know. Nice to have some infallibility there. This notion of the The Doc not being a superhero came into play when the his fellow travelers turned on him. And that was a moment of genuine terror. The idea that this simple and flawed group could quite have easily ended his life was a very real threat and I did actually think he was gonna get hoofed out the capsule.

One of these kids is doing their own thing, one of these kids is not the same

Of course, they didn't but there was five minutes or so when the 'ole heart was pumping and this was largely thanks to the incredible cast. Full marks, gold stars and a 'See Me Later' the production crew for the casting in Midnight. With great believability these guys and gals actored their way from being 'on~side', as it were, to displaying all the traits that make us so disgustingly human. The characters' desire to throw Sky, and latterly The Doc, out of the capsule was terrifying and LINDSEY COULSON'S hissing "It'll be you next" and "like an immigrant" were chilling. A wise man once said that desperate people do desperate things (I think it may have been Columbo) and we see this here explicitly. Without belittling the terrific cast, I will highlight, with a gold~plated pen, two of them.

Why couldn't she just settle down with the 'Crime Traveller'?

Stand up LESLEY SHARP and DAVEY T. I'll get to Mr Wonky Eye later but first I'll mention the character of Sky Silvestry. Her movement (coupled with fantastic camera angles, lighting and editing) was unnerving in the extreme. Her body remained static yet her head and eyes (not to mention her gob) did all the work creating, in this humble blogger's opinion, the very best in Doctor Who villianary (another new word?). Her phrasing was perfection and imbued the very essence of horror - that which is only hinted at and never seen. When Sky did get to move, it was fascinating to watch her revel in the newly found physical sensations. Simply stunning and, as much as I wanted to, I could not take my eyes off her performance (and, thankfully, neither could the camera).

It was I who let the rebels know the location of the Endor generator!

When my eyes were averted it was only because of the other outstanding performance here. And, of course, that came from Davey T. He did his usual schtick (likeable, talkative, etc...) for the first thirty minutes or so but when he turned, man. My goosebumps had shivers. The transfer of the alien was literally gob~smacking. His repetition was unpleasant as it was soulless (and I am being complimentary here) and the actor's eyes and facial expressions were a sight to behold. From laughing with the tourists to scared in a corner to possessed, we got a great portfolio from the Scotsman. I cannot imagine any other actor, who has played The Doctor, delivering as perfectly as David Tennant did here.

Give us a cuddle!

So, for those of you who skip a review and head to the final paragraph, here's what you missed: I effin' lurved this episode. For me, the best this year - no doubt. Compelling in the truest sense of the word and utterly essential. This is another example of what DOCTOR WHO can do and why I adore the show so much. The TV landscape will be a hollow shell in a month when it finishes. And yet another mention of THE MEDUSA CASCADE. What could that possibly mean.......

Wonky eye alert!

'Til the next time,

Apologies for mentioning CRIME TRAVELLER.

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posted by Cameron McEwan at 12:45 pm -
  • At 12:51 am, Blogger FRANK said…

    I'm in total agreement with you there Cameron. A fantastic episode that in my opinion out-Moffed the Moffster himself. Definitely my favourite of the season so far...even though we've got three more potential blockbusters to go. Eeeek, Lindsey Coulson was just as frightening as Lesley Sharp, especially the way she spat out 'immigrant' and in one word flagged up the subtext.


  • At 3:11 am, Blogger Richard Starkings said…

    I think Donna Light MIDNIGHT was actually scarier than LIBRARY, in its own way, even while it was at the same time very similar (darkness spawning an invisible alien that takes over people).

    Stephen King often talks about isolating and trapping characters in smaller and smaller places to deliver chills, and Russell has been doing the same kind of thing across stories like GRIDLOCK and MIDNIGHT. One of the writers of M*A*S*H used to say that the best way to explore characters was to put them where they don't want to be and I think this episode demonstrated both conceits magnificently.

    via pseuds corner

  • At 4:04 am, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    by "have I just invited a word?" did you mean to say invented? :)

  • At 9:13 am, Blogger Cameron McEwan said…

    ... out-Moffed the Moffster


    Coulson was a monster and, as you say, "immigrant" was particularly horrifying.

    Hopefully, the start of an epic denouement to Series 4.

  • At 9:17 am, Blogger Cameron McEwan said…


    Yup, it wasn't just scary. It was creeeeepy and got into my little brain.

    I s'pose we've got a Beatles~esque competition going on here between Stevey M and RTD. And, in this instance, the OBE recipient would have appeared to out~scare the WHO 'King of Frights'.

    GRIDLOCK makes an interesting companion piece to this tale. Both quite different but brilliant in their vision.

  • At 9:19 am, Blogger Cameron McEwan said…


    You shame me and the mistake has been fixed.

    Though I do like the idea of inviting a word.

    "Oh, hello word. Would you like a cuddle?"

    Very inviting.

  • At 11:56 am, Blogger james said…

    totally agree , great review & one of the best if not THE best of the 4 series so far . Kudos to all involved , but especially Lesley Sharpe just using what she had to create that evil goblin in the corner . It could have so easily been ruined by having her wear contacts , prosthetics or using CGI . Luvvvvvved it !

  • At 12:07 pm, Blogger Lianne said…

    Okay so I seem to be the only one that couldn't stand this episode. I was informed by a friend that it was quite good, especially for being a RTD one, unfortunately I spent the whole thing waiting for it to end.

    Maybe I just went into it in a bad mood, but I just found that everything grated on me for the entire duration of the episode.

  • At 2:29 pm, Blogger Cameron McEwan said…


    Agreed, I was rather relieved they kept Sky human rather than a 'goblin'. All the more uncanny for it.

    Hey, we can't all like the same thing! I get the feeling this is, for want of a better phrase, a marmite episode. There's no inbetween, you either lurve it or hate it.

    You mentioned that you couldn't wait for it to end. In contrast, I was surprised when it ended - not realising that 45 minutes had already gone by!

    Still, if anyone else didn't like it feel free to comment.

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