Sunday, August 24, 2014

Doctor Who--"Midnight"

Every season has a budget saving bottle episode. They are usually pretty awful, but a necessary evil considering the way BBC production works. Throw in they are often written by Russell T. Davies, and you usually have a recipe for disaster. At first glance, it is easy to chalk “Midnight” up as a loss, but I think that would be hasty. Admittedly, it was a lot of tedious setup in order to reach a too quick pay off hat was not all that satisfying. But for a brief bit there, the psychological drama and exploration of the darker aspects of human nature were a nice touch.

Of course, all that was basically RTD aping Alfred Hitchcock’s Lifeboat. I guess if you are going to steal, steal from the best. But coming off a Steven Moffat two parter, RTD’s shortcomings as a writer are painfully evident. He really does write to suit his own fantasies and assumes we will all happily come along for the ride. He has been right for four seasons, so I cannot say much about it, no?
The Doctor decides, sans Donna, to take a four hour enclosed tram ride to some natural phenomenon on a planet called Midnight. He is with the stereotypical group of tourists, including a bickering couple, a loopy professor (played by David Troghhton, son of the Second Doctor, the late Patrick Troughton) a bratty teenager, a hostess trying to hold it all together, and an RTD trademark—a throwaway line revealing one of them to be a lesbian. I have no beef with character being gay, but why introduce that element for no reason whatsoever? The woman, Sky, was thepivotal character in the episode, but her sexual orientation added nothing to her role. I did not see the point.

When the tram breaks down under an attack by some creature, Sky is possessed by it. The passengers become paranoid as they are stranded with her and plot what to do. The great debate is whether to throw her out in order to save themselves. In desperation, they argue the issue, even deciding at one point the Doctor ought to go, too, since he is obviously in cahoots with the creature possessing Sky. After an apparent swircheroo in which the Doctor is nearly spaced by the passengers, the situation is resolved tragically by the hostess. Afterwards, no one can even remember her name.

The resolution was all a bit trite and predictable, especially down to the bit where no one can remember the name of the woman who sacrificed herself to save them all because they were too busy arguing over who should die for the sake of them all. We never found out anything about the creature. We never even see it, as it spoke only by possessing Sky. I am a cynic. I like exploring the darker aspects of human nature. It suits my worldview. But it was barely enough to salvage the episode considering how much of it was done on the cheap. It was the worst of the season, but I will be generous and not call it a complete dud. If nothing else, Rose showed up on a video screen silently begging for the doctor’s help. Surely that helped build excitement for next week’s first installment of the three part finale.

Rating: ** (out of 5)

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