Yes, it's already been on the ABC. I have failed. I have sharpened my meat cleaver and am simply waiting for the JP to arrive before I commit seppuku. In the meantime I may as well type up this considerably late review.
It doesn't take long to realise that Midnight is the greatest Doctor Who story ever made. About two minutes on any given fan site, in fact. Because this is not a statement of opinion. It is a simple fact.
And yet... I can't find anything to like in it. This has alienated me from fandom until doing this review which could, subconsciously, play a part in my delaying of writing this. Because Midnight seems to be radically ascending to the brink of being the New Series' Caves of Androzani and for me it does very little.
I wanted to write a little essay here for reasons of that because my original review went absolutely tits-up... but reading it again I don't think there's any big problem. It mostly gels with my opinions now even though I'm confused about what exactly any of the specific bits are referring to. Just bear in mind I began watching it quite late at night and the key mode of transport in the story may have confused me slightly...
Hmm, where have I seen this opening sequence before? Oh, that's right - in a crowded room in an RSL where people were impatiently packing up things to leave and generally not bothering to watch at all. And I was strangely enough told that this was a 'special treat'.
I can actually hear the dialogue this time. Much better.
Stuff like this makes me wonder, though... does the series really need cold openings? Setting aside the fact that every single American show does it, which seems to be a good enough rationale for most things on British television, I don't think that Doctor Who is really much of a cold open show. Or at least not much of a 50-second cold open show. The viewer needs to be introduced to another world or, more usually, another time. It can't be done in the blink of an eye. So in a lot of cases the drama in the open is crowbarred in (The Fires of Pompeii) or falls completely flat (The Unicorn and the Wasp and The Rise of the Cybermen both spring to mind on pogo-sticks of pure Suck..). In this case there isn't any drama at all, though - it's just a quick "This is what the episode is about, people!" which doesn't do that much for me, I have to say. At least, not annexed off from the episode like this.
That dude's wearing a fucking polo shirt. I can take the endless business suits thousands if not billions of years into the future (Just) but... polo shirts? They're NEVER going to go out of fasion, are they? For Christ's sake has the Beeb cut it's entire costume department loose or something? After The End of the World it's become incredibly rare to see a character NOT wearing something you could quite easily buy in a shop...
4:59 - Aaaand the award for most phallic use of the sonic screwdriver since The Curse of Fatal Death...
5:14 - Hehe, I love the way how the stewardess is the ONLY person unhappy about the deranged entertainment system failing.
5:31 - SUBTITLES??? What is this, Frasier???
Not that I'm unhappy just... stunned. Not since The Deadly Assassin, surely.... ah, no, sorry... forgot about the TVM. But still. Wow. Very impressed at that little willingness to break form. Again.
6:05 - Mad Larry just had an orgasm over that abstract pool bit. Just to let you know.
7:02 - OMFG GAY AGENDA! RTD's efforts to recruit the populace continue madly and without abation! SHAMEFUL!
I'm sure somebody's saying that, anyway...
8:22 - Hmm, any fan theories about David Troughton's character here being one of the three alt-9th Doctors or anything like that? Because he's really behaving VERY Doctor-y here, like a sort of a "Look, I could play the part!" way, all bouncy energy, bug eyes and wild gesticulation. Or maybe he just wants to show that he's moved on a lot since the days of King Peladon...
9:17 - Man, that's the most half-hearted use of the psychic paper since World Game.
Incidentally, ANY thought put into that bit of the novel at all?
"Doctor, here's a magic piece of paper that can get you out of ANY tricky situation"
"Ooh, marvellous, I shan't be forgetting THIS in a hurry..."
900 years later...
"Ere, wha's this in me pocket? Ohhhh, I remember THIS!"
And, I don't know, if he's an engine inspector how does that get him the right to barge into the cockpit? Engines on spaceships, after all, are generally on the back. This could be a different design but I can't think of any logical reasons to HAVE the engines directly below the cockpit, and these people are clearly humans so follow our train of evolution.
And surely a level of experience isn't a right to trespass? Isn't it a bit like Casanova telling a girl his identity just as she's gulping down the Spanish Fly?
9:35 - ...micro-petrol engine? Which somehow remains stable at all times?
I think I feel a defeated 'whatever' coming on..
9:44 - No force? Again, poorly chosen words. Very. I wish RTD wouldn't pull ordinary scientific words out at random and treat them like they're highly advanced technobabble. 'Power', I believe, would be the word that he'd have wanted there. Every artefact in the Universe always has forces acting over them. To say that the ship has 'no force' is as ridiculous as it is incomprehensible - the forces of its own propulsion should still be active until such a time that the inverse square law dictates that the ship should come to a standstill after having said propulsion disrupted. The only way that it could stop as suddenly as portrayed is if it came under the influence of an equal or greater force - which is sort of the opposite of [what I think] the Doctor is suggesting.
9:54 - ...a rescue... truck? Man, maybe I should give up trying to make sense of this entire scene..
10:50 - Man, that is a beatiful looking alien landscape. Ah, this is the stuff I was hoping for when Doctor Who came back on the air. It was worth sitting through all the Eccleston stories in darkly-lit warehouses to get here, too...
11:55 - "They're micro-petrol engines aren't they?"
"Nahhh, of course not! That's just made up - I mean, spaceships can't run on REGULAR petrol to begin with, so why would they run on smaller petrol? And a really tiny engine wouldn't be able to push anything this size, especially if it was small by PETROL engine standards, so whichever way you look at it the term makes absolutely no sense! I mentioned it a moment ago but only because I was so busy dropping acid while you were doing the sideshow..."
11:59 - SHUT UP ABOUT MICRO-PETROL STABILISING! THIS IS MEANINGLESS!
12:32 - Such was the authority in the Doctor's voice that people watching this at home could begin to forget about all that micro-petrol shit.
12:42 - NEXT WEEK: Dr. Who lets Black People speak for themselves!!!
12:56 - As the Doctor says that everything is fine, the Telltale Heart of Donna he stashed in the overhead begins to beat...
13:06 - How can an episode with a higher proportion of scientists and experts than ANY other in recent years have such fucking AWFUL technobabble? Metal cooling down? Yes, because clearly the entire ship is made of a perfect conductor of heat so that the engines heat up the entire surface of the ship - it's not like that could boil everybody on board or anything like that.
I'm feeling like Cubert Farnsworth here...
13:45 - ... didn't Hobbs say that there could easily be life on Midnight a few minutes ago? Or was he just drunk at the time?
14:22 - What the hell, Hobbs? You're meant to be a big-time scientist... and you're just ignoring the evidence presented to you in favour of blind denial. Which seems to be quite a character 180 by the way. No fist.
14:43 - Do the hydraulics really mean anything now? With the range of creatures in the Whoniverse surely you can't draw a line in the sand as to what can and cannot be shifted by an alien? Strength is quite a variable across the animal kingdown, afterall...
16:37 - Hello so-called users of Outpost Gallifrey. You will never believe what I have done. It is amazing. I have spotted Rose in the latest episode. Hah, yes, I bet you thought that she wasn't in it at all. But I am a real eegle eyes and see thing that you mere mortals may not. When the Doctor gets up after the shuttle shakes around, you need to look at the television and squint. It sort of looks like her. Yes, I am serious. I am a god of spotting things.
- speculated post
I find it kind of funny the way that the Doctor keeps missing these. Until now I was wondering from the way she appeared that the exercise wasn't to contact the Doctor at all, but rather to desperately try and seduce Donna.
16:42 - "Earthquake?" "That's impossible, the ground is fixed, it's solid"
...and on that spectacularly shithouse bit of an attempt at science I'm leaving the episode there for the night.
It's another day now, and I finally realised that they're on a bus rather than a ship. I guess that clear up a couple of things I was raving madly about (But NOT ALL!) so don't point these all out to me.
Hey, it was late.
17:32 - Aaand right back into it with more blind denial from Hobbs. This character's starting to piss me off.
18:04 - Yeah, I realised that they were dead. There was a a whole bit earlier on about how they would probably die if they looked out the windscreen for more than a minute. And now the entire front of the bus (Haha, BUS not SHIP, I'm on the ball!) has been ripped off.
20:42 - ...I think it's safe to say that it's been established that she repeats absolutely everything that is said to her. This is getting like "Are you mummy?" but even worse..
22:00 - Now that the lights are on she's ever dead or braindead. I can tell this quite easily by the fact that she's stopped repeating everything...
22:17 - Motherfuckers got one over me. By cheating, though - the first few lines of dialogue didn't have her talking simultaeneously like that, and the characters were looking right at her.
24:12 - I am bored shitless right now.
26:05 - How long is that - six minutes that the logical idea of throwing her out of the bus is finally suggested? See, this is why I HATE bottleneck episodes, unlike m'esteemed colleague - everything moves so slowly because the story is stretched out over what's basically one scene. You can see events on the horizon a while before they happen because there's such limited scope for the story in terms of sheer places to go, and if you're like me it gives you the oppurtunity to almost write the episode in your head. It certainly doesn't help that this is also a 'horror of the unknown' tribute story and they don't traditionally contain interesting dialogue. Comedies work best with bottlenecks - which is to say that they work at all. Horror premises like this tend to engender themselves to dialogue like "No, no, NOOOO!" and "That's IMPOSSIBLE!" which, un-coincidentally, is pretty much what we've been getting so far.
I'm also stunned that David Tennant hasn't used any of his psychic powers yet. I guess the Doctor's powers come and go depending on the demands of the plot, eh?
29:40 - "You called us 'humans' like you're not one of us!" Erm, yeah - Great and Bountiful Human Empire? Stow? Cassandra's 'mongrel breeds'? The Auronar? Gawd, get a sense of perspective.
This is actually a very good bit, though, and amazingly dark for an RTD script. I like the flip side because in films and most media the response to the "Could you really kill them?" question is almost always a "No" - but I have always thought that the average person is closer to being a killer than Hollywood thinks. After all, we are at the same time brought up on a lot of stories and ideals to whit the ancient and brutally simple philosophy of "Eye for an eye" rules supreme - to the point where survivors of the Bali Bombings, without any scence of irony, stated flatly that they believed the Al Jaziera agents brought in deserved to be burnt alive and our society actually debates whether torturing prisoners is right or wrong.
Actually, I've been unfair with that quote up there - it's part of the scene. They're seeing patterns that aren't there because the Doctor is their opposition and is saying things they don't want to hear. By discrediting him they eliminate him - so they're looking for reasons to do so. Unfortunately for the old Doc, there are a ton of small things which can be taken either way...
30:42 or something like that - You know, I liked the idea of a story in the far future where the Doctor uses the name "John Smith" for his alias as per use, and the response is "Really? My, how exotic..." without any hint of sarcasm.
It's probably already been done. By Terrance Dicks, knowing my track- record...
31:09 - "She's stopped!" Hey, I was only off by 9 minutes...
And that's good, too - that was getting pretty annoying.
31:41 - Hmm, so she keeps mimicking the Doctor... at the worst possible time. That's creepy, I'll give 'em that.
31:49 - Oh, yes, just what I wanted, more Empty Child discussion.
Put your frigging fingers on her temples and close your frigging eyes - it works on every bloody one else!
33:08 - Ah, so the speaking out of synch thing was deliberate, then. Winning me over gradually... you've only got ten minutes left, though, so this had better be pants-explodingly awesome if you want more than a 7, bucko...
33:19 - "She spoke before he did, definitely!"
... do you want some sort of cookie for that piece of detective work, mate?
33:53 - And this is some fucked up 'possessed' acting...
34:01 - DOES EVERYTHING IN THIS SCRIPT NEED TO BE EXPLAINED THREE TIMES????
35:41 - Oh, yeah, Jethro is the resident expert on weirdarse alien ghostology...
38:24 - The sight of polo-shirt man struggling in vain to lift David Tennant is unintentionally hilarious. He must weigh about the same as our shopping bags...
This is fairly creepy, btw.
40:10 - Who decided all scientists wear cardigans, anyway?
40:14 - An invisible man seems to have kicked polo-shirt guy in the balls. That makes me happy.
40:36 - Ooh, that was a nice dark bit - with the woman lying through her teeth by claiming after the fact that she know which body had the evil alien inside all along - and what makes it great is that the Doctor's look says everything in response... and then she looks ashamed of herself for saying it in the first place.
41:35 - And AGAIN - nobody is able to remember the name of the woman who saved them all. That's just brutal.
To remind everyone, RTD specifically said that this season wouldn't be dark. And the next story (Yeah, I jumped ahead and watched it, so what?) involves death camps.
42:43 - "No - don't do that..." This could well be overtaking "But that's IMPOSSIBLE!" and "I'm so sorry!" as Tennant's unofficial catchphrase...
So there you go. Interesting premise, a couple of good bits with good ideas... but boring. And somewhat predictable through the limitations of its form. And with BAD characterisation in the case of Hobbs. Why the hell isn't he shown to be so block-headedly fixed in his ways from his first second of screen-time if it's to become his one characteristic in the final 20 minutes? That said, RTD knows his stuff because the creepy repeating idea could only really work in a claustrophobic episode like this... but for me there wasn't enough done. The Doctor is testing Skye for most of the story... so why not try some actual tests? Try some of those languages said to be unpronouncable by the human tongue. Try saying something out of her line of sight. Try saying something really, really softly, too soft for anyone to hear. Try singing. Try sign language. Try quoting Glengarry Glen Ross for ten whole minutes. No. The Doctor's experiments run like this: "Okay, I'll say something and see if she says it... OMG she said it! Now I say something else..." and the results are, for me, boring once the creepiness is exhausted.
Far more flawed than it's reputation would have you believe, and sorely lacking in entertainment value. 6/10.
WHAT THOSE OTHER LOSERS THOUGHT...
Personification of Fandom Response: "That was a great episode - packed full of tension with some excellent acting by Tennant and Lesley Sharp (Sky), who had a really creepy face as something posssessed. Really well done. Loved seeing David Troughton too - gosh, at times he looked and sounded just like his old man, didn't he?
That was far, far more scary than Blink, IMO. I love psychological thrillers, and this is the most gritty episode I've seen in the new series. Excellent themes of paranoia, and how we act in the face of the unknown. Gotta love the Doc - even when being dragged to his death he still put up an unconscious battle (when his foot got caught in the seat I punched the air and yelled "come on!!"). And his look at Val at the end when she said something along the lines that she knew it was Sky all along was just priceless.
Didn't miss Donna, for this was very much a Doctor story. But I adored that way she just went up and hugged him when he got back after his adventure. Spoke volumes about their relationship.
Wow - I'm going to watch this again. 10/10. That's what Doctor Who should be like!"
Syndey Roosters' Supporter Response: "Also the "throw here out the airlock" being though up so early was a tad unbelieveable. I've been in trapped situtaions withg people doing strange things and you will try and calm someone down by reasoning, or worse a slap accross the face, before you start talking murder."
(NOTE: Please refer to South Sydney supporter's response for a more pro-cold blooded murder viewpoint.)
Paraphrased Lawrence Miles Response: "You filthy, scabrous bastards! No, not you, DW writers, I'll get to you slags later, I'm talking to fandom! You pricks! You've made the Tennant Doctor a fucking wuss because you cry every time his girly-friends kark it you WEAK, SPINELESS DOGS!!! NOTHING IN THE WORLD CAN STOP MOFFAT NOW! David Tennant needs to go now!
The only possible reason you cunts could have objected to me saying that Gatiss is the new head of the Aryan union is because you would all gladly march into his dungeons and service him for a chance of writing for the show! PHILISTINES! NOBODY ever care about ratings prior to 2005 and THAT IS A FACT! Eight million people watch it, BECAUSE THEY'RE BRAINDEAD MORONS! And by the way, you are a complete arsehole, for various reasons, but mostly because when you talk about ratings you assume that the entire audience is braindead morons! EVERYONE HATES THIS SHOW, IT ISN'T JUST ME!
The sad thing is that this show will have to be completely destroyed. It can only go on if Keeley Hawes is the next Doctor.
And it's ALL YOUR FAULT!
I liked this episode, by the way."
Faction Paradox response: "Let's club together to hire Larry a hooker, shall we? ;-) "
Faction Paradox response to the actual episode: Yep. Can't quite square this with it being from the same pen as some of the real stinkers he's churned out - so what happened between Damaged Goods and this? Bizarre. Genuine surprises and weirdness in there too - the vocal echo thing, which was definitely a little more surprising than the usual "Wait! This Pizza delivery company is actually being run by MECHANOIDS!!!"
Spune's Post-Imagination-Enema Response: Do you think this plot would have been scarier if it was set in present day on an aeroplane? I was just wondering, simply, because I think it would really freak kids out - something they could relate to as being slightly weird anyway (air travel).
(Take a close look at the set. It LOOKS EXACTLY LIKE AN AIRPLANE ANYWAY!!!)
IMDBer Response: I mean quite literally the entire episode was "OH MY GOD! OH MY GOD! MAKE IT STOP! IT'S COPYING ME! STOP!" sandwiched between very thin moments of plot development. I wouldn't have minded this so much if either A) the plot was going to develop or B) the characters were going to develop but neither did. I sat through the entire thing waiting for the episode to begin as a result of this only to find it finally end without absolutely no resolution at all.
(That do anything for you? Because I had to trawl through thousands upon thousands of turn left squee threads to find it...)
Next Time: Fuck... as I've said I've already watched it, so... ah, well, I'll do it anyway..
A soldier making the necessary call to Torchwood's necrophilia branch... Billie Piper gives Catherine Tate a demonstration on 'proper' companion running... Bernard Cribbins expresses disbelief at some startlingly un-subtle CGI... a soldier with a clothed back fetish forcibly gets his fix from Donna... Rose adopts the Doctor's technique of completely incoherent babbling to paper over obtuse plot points... the Noble family are horrified by Mr Saxon's hard stance against viaducts... Donna gets lit up like a Christmas tree that's dressed like Silent Bob while Rose promises to kill her