Review: Doctor Who – 4×10 – Midnight

Murray's music misery

Doctor Who - Midnight

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.

Plot

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.

Other reviews

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.

Continuity references

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?




  • Funnily enough, I have ear trouble at the moment and watched it half deaf in one ear and pretty bad in the other! Couldn’t really hear the music at all…

  • You call that a review gushing with love? I came to pick what holes I could, but you’ve done that for me:-)

  • How I envy you.

  • You wanted a love gush? Oh dear. Never mind. I’m sure you can find your own holes though.

  • Couldn’t help but chuckle at your comment of “Wait, what’s that noise?” Pause. “Why, it’s the entire BBC National Orchestra of Wales. What are they doing outside?” — bloody hilarious. However, I have to say that I must have gotten used to having to mentally fade out the over-abundance of MG music (I know it’s there way too much but like ignoring conversations I don’t want to listen to, I can seemingly zone it out if I focus hard on the acting/visuals and the dialogue. Either that or my TV turns the music down on my behalf. Latter’s a little unlikely though…

  • I really enjoyed it and thought DT was top notch. I loved the idea of him losing his voice. And the kids were all terrified. I think it was one of those Dr Who occasions when being a grown up and seeing all those references like Lord of the Flies/ Twelve Angry Men etc can be a detriment. We all expect the characters to behave in a certain way as we’ve seen this kind of thing before, but the kids come to it fresh and they were spooked, when normally they’re not.
    I liked the Haunting creature outside the door (as the film is one of my all time favourite scary movies)and all that banging and paranoia. So it worked mostly for me, although it was a slowish start.

  • I really enjoyed it and thought DT was top notch. I loved the idea of him losing his voice. And the kids were all terrified. I think it was one of those Dr Who occasions when being a grown up and seeing all those references like Lord of the Flies/ Twelve Angry Men etc can be a detriment. We all expect the characters to behave in a certain way as we’ve seen this kind of thing before, but the kids come to it fresh and they were spooked, when normally they’re not.
    I liked the Haunting creature outside the door (as the film is one of my all time favourite scary movies)and all that banging and paranoia. So it worked mostly for me, although it was a slowish start.

  • I really enjoyed it and thought DT was top notch. I loved the idea of him losing his voice. And the kids were all terrified. I think it was one of those Dr Who occasions when being a grown up and seeing all those references like Lord of the Flies/ Twelve Angry Men etc can be a detriment. We all expect the characters to behave in a certain way as we’ve seen this kind of thing before, but the kids come to it fresh and they were spooked, when normally they’re not.
    I liked the Haunting creature outside the door (as the film is one of my all time favourite scary movies)and all that banging and paranoia. So it worked mostly for me, although it was a slowish start.

  • Hiyah, I LOVE david tennant he’s so sexy I dont like that picture of him u put on the website!

    • AndyB

      “Is Murray simply a victim of inexperienced sound mixers with too much good kit?”
      No, he’s just crap.
      Without a doubt, the worst aspect of any episode of nu-Who is the score.

  • Rob

    I LUV him as well, I think he’s kinda cool actually… and skinny!

  • Curse you for linking to SylvesterMcCoy.com . I had to go and follow the link, and read stuff. I’ve no idea what’s true and what’s not – but ******** ******** turning out to be **********? EVen if it’s only *********. And ******** coming back – and controlling ******** ! And as for “There is a real risk of the Doctor being sucked” [spoilers deleted]. Well, I didn’t think that even the Moffat would go for that when he took control, but it takes all sorts I guess.
    As for Midnight I really liked it. I thought it was the best of the series so far (although love your National Orchestra of Wales line) as I felt that Moffat’s was undermined by the ending, how many resurrections must we have in the new series? We’ve had enough for a galaxy of new religions. It had the feel of a NIgel Kneale cross MR James story – that would have fitted into the old CHristmas ghost stories strand. Tennant was great, and Linsey COulson was excellent. There were limited aspects to the characters, but characterisation with a line or a gesture early on, was set up to show the Lord of the Flies aspect later with the subversion of character as people get scared – feeling trapped in a little box, having seen the crew simply disappear, and Sky’s odd behaviour; hence, I think, can be forgiven. (And if true that it was only written in a couple of days to replace a missing script – it makes it even better).
    Also, I read one review (LAwrence Miles?) where he suggested that the successful aspects of Doctor WHo aren’t about creating fear, but things that can be fitted into children’s games (and having spent yet another weekend being pursued by two pre-school weeping angels I see what he means). That my children immediately started mimicking Sky’s behaviour – copying my head movements, then my words, and finally wandering around saying that they’d “stoled” my words suggested job done by Arty DOBE.
    I’m generally with the reviewers on Behind the Sofa on this one – I wouldn’t like the show to be like this every week, but am glad that it does stories like this every now and again.

  • What’s the sound like on your tele?

  • Pretty good surround sound. The sound balance seemed better than it had been on Saturday. Murray’s stuff didn’t seem to dronw stuff as it had in previous episodes. Maybe it’s acclimatisation. When you’ve been banged into submission for weeks on end, finally the brain wipes it out. Or perhaps BBC Scotland have their own transmission device – with a guy (clearly a Gregor Fisher look-a-like) turning Murray’s stuff down at pre-arranged moments.

  • MediumRob

    Maybe the problem (which I’ve heard of from some of the more experienced sound guys in the business) is that the editing suite simply has too good a sound system. They’ll have all the speakers set up nicely for full on Dolby 5.1+, everything balanced and so on. But no one ever bothers any more to do the “dump down” (I forget the technical name) – playing it on a normal tele without surround sound – to see if it still sounds good. Sound’s always the first thing to suffer when the cash gets tight or the deadline gets close. Is Murray simply a victim of inexperienced sound mixers with too much good kit?

  • I watched it last night on a poorer quality TV in the house with bad sound system – and see what you mean.
    Note to self – always watch on the good telly…

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