Who's this by again? “Russell T Davies”? Blimey. Is he still writing for Doctor Who then?
With all the Steven Moffat fuss of late, it's easy to forget that Russell T Davies - aka RTD OBE - is still showrunner of Doctor Who and will be until 2010. Or that he actually writes scripts for it now and then.
With Midnight, he's drawn something of the short straw for himself - the “we've run out of budget and Catherine Tate needs a break” episode. But given a small cast and three sets or so to play with, Rusty doesn't do a bad job at all.
In fact, there's only one man who can bring this house of cards tumbling down. You guessed it. It's Murray Gold.
The Doctor is trapped, powerless and terrified, on the planet Midnight, as the knocking on the wall begins...
Was it any good?
If you've not been listening to the Doctor Who BBC7 podcasts of late, you really should. Last week's (for Forest of the Dead) was something of a cracker, since it was one of the few occasions when Steven Moffat, Russell T Davies and David Tennant have got together and been massive fanboys together in public.
You may recall that some time ago, I revealed the fanboyness of David Tennant and while you may have seen glimpses since, you'll never get the full-on effect unless he's placed in a group of like-minded individuals.
Seriously, they were discussing the merits of a Voord/Mandrel war (or did he say Bandril?), which Borusa they liked best, the different interpretation of the Doctor by Patrick Troughton during The Three Doctors and more.
But more pertinently, Steven Moffat argued that because the Doctor isn't super-strong, etc, all he's really got going for him is his voice: his ability to persuade and reason. Forget the millions of years of Time Lord knowledge and science. It's words wot has all the power. Writers, hey?
I mention this because essentially Midnight is the corollary of this idea: what if the Doctor was in trouble and lost his ability to communicate.
Silence in the spaceship
Like Silence in the Library before it, Midnight was a 'closed room' bit of tension-building in which some sort of alien infiltrates a group of humans. But here, rather than have a River Song-style leader able to bitch slap the hysterical dweebs into order, everyone here is going looney and not even the Doctor can stop them.
To me, the assembled masses of human losers - who included Pat Troughton's son David - felt like typical Rusty writing (cf Mine All Mine): a bunch of stereotypes on their way to their stereotypical destinations, tempered by later character development. Nice dialogue, nice characterisation that builds on the initial stereotypes, but everyone's a thicky, and without Donna around to tell the Doctor to stop being such an arse, a dangerous thicky.
For most of the episode, I thought that the alien infiltrator had the ability to channel fear and reduce IQ in people. But no, Rusty's argument was that in a crisis, we're all hysterical morons who'd kill anything that moved in a second thanks to mob mentality. We don't need alien assistance on that one. A production of Lord of the Flies in space by the Reduced Golding Company maybe, but it felt more than a bit false in a bunch of holidaymakers with their kid in tow, an air hostess and a university professor with a researcher along for the ride. And less than an hour to go mental in, as a result of someone who copied their voices. I'm not persuaded.
Still, with the thumping of the spaceship channelling the original The Haunting quite nicely, this had all the potential to be quite a chilling piece all the same. Although everyone was so thick and unable even to grasp the most obvious of ideas and the repetitive, padding dialogue started to drag in the middle, this could have been quite a nice piece with the Doctor completely powerless to do anything against a very scary monster.
Unfortunately, Murray Gold was invited to the party. Why they couldn't have given him a week's holiday as well, I don't know.
Now in many ways, the music wasn't that bad. It was even a little spooky at times and there were moments of real tension. Unfortunately, there was almost never a time when Murray Gold's music wasn't there, far louder than it needed to be, drowning out any real sense of menace.
“Wait, what's that noise?” Pause. “Why, it's the entire BBC National Orchestra of Wales. What are they doing outside?”
Oh well. Curse Murray. Curse the editor. Curse Rusty. Curse the sound mixer. Whoever you feel like cursing, is there a chance you could do it on the Dolby .1 channel that I can't play along with Murray? That would be super.
Quite a subtle performance from Tennant - and from Tate when she was in it. Less subtle performances from everyone else, but nothing too horrific (bar Lesley Sharp but in the nicest way). Alice Troughton's direction was pretty good and it was a decent script from Rusty. Just a shame he couldn't have gone for fewer stereotypes and given Murray Gold a couple of tickets to Thorpe Park for the week.
Using borrowed voices, other people have commented on this episode as well: Marie, Rullsenberg, Dan, Stuart, Rosby. Most of them seemed to like it more than me. Maybe they have better sound systems on their teles. Maybe I have better sound on my tele.
No, thankfully, unless you count the first ten minutes as a big reference to Voyage of the Damned.
Next week: Ding dong, the Doctor's dead. Rose is back. Donna's got something on her back (curse you SylvesterMcCoy.com and your ridiculously accurate - and occasionally inaccurate - spoilers!). Who will save the day in the Doctor-lite episode?
- June 22, 2008: Review: Doctor Who 4x11 - Turn Left
A review of the Doctor Who episode Turn Left
- January 13, 2010: Question of the week: what are the merits of sadness in drama?
What are the merits of sadness in drama?
- June 28, 2010: Review: Doctor Who 5x12 - The Big Bang
A review of the Doctor Who story The Big Bang, starring Matt Smith and Karen Gillan