Sunday, September 4, 2016

Doctor Who Dud: "Midnight." (My 3000th Movie/Television Review!)

The Good: Lesley Sharp's performance
The Bad: Dull plot, No character development
The Basics: The gimmick of "Midnight" is not to enough to sell the viewer on the episode's execution.

There are very few long-running shows that do not have a few throwaway episodes. Doctor Who - despite the generally high quality of the show during Russell T. Davies's tenure is no exception. Arguably his last real failure for an episode before leaving the franchise was the standalone episode "Midnight." "Midnight" seems to try take a children's game - the repeating game - and make it the framework for a terrifying alien entity.

Sadly, the episode fizzles.

Donna Noble is relaxing at a spa on the planet Midnight when The Doctor calls and tries to convince her to go on a tour of the diamond planet. Donna refuses and The Doctor treks out on his own with an ATV full of strangers to see the Sapphire Waterfalls of Midnight. The Hostess puts on an obtrusive entertainment package, which The Doctor is annoyed by, so he uses his sonic screwdriver to turn it off. This leads the tourists to bond for a couple hundred of kliks. Professor Hobbes teaches the passengers that Midnight is, and always has been, devoid of life.

When the transport breaks down in an area that is off the scheduled route, The Doctor enters the cockpit and one of the pilots sees what he believes to be a shadow out on the blindingly bright surface. Suddenly, there comes a knocking on the hull of the transport and moments later, the driver's cabin is obliterated. Inside the transport, the crewmembers turn on Sky Silvestry when she appears possessed and starts repeating things that others say. When the entity forcing her to repeat lines starts to anticipate what people will say, The Doctor becomes horrified. When the paranoia of the passengers runs high and they want to murder the alien entity, The Doctor tries to defend the new form of life . . . even if it might cost him his life.

"Midnight" fits into the larger narrative of the fourth season through a very minor scene in which one of the passengers, Dee Dee, references the lost moon of Poosh. This continues the quiet motif of missing planets and strange phenomenon that has been threaded through the fourth season. Rose Tyler is kept alive in the season through a reference when The Doctor tries to relate to another passenger, who has been left by her love for another galaxy. She also flashes in a "blink and you miss it" cameo on a screen over The Doctor's shoulder.

All "Midnight" truly has going for it are the performances. While most of the actors are not given much to do, Lesley Sharp's Sky Silvestry does the heavy lifting of the episode. Sharp has an amazing physical presence when Silvestry is taken over and she has to act animalistic. Between speaking in unison with other performers (and thus bearing a ton of lines for the episode) and changing her body language entirely, Sharp does an impressive job of creating two distinctly different characters (or a character and an entity).

"Midnight" tries to establish a mood of paranoia and explore that. It's not terribly complex or insightful, which makes it tougher to go back to watch more than once. It is the low point of the fourth season of Doctor Who.

[Knowing that single episodes are an inefficient way to get episodes, it's worth looking into Doctor Who - The Complete Fourth Season on DVD or Blu-Ray, which is also a better economical choice than buying individual episodes. Read my review of the final season of David Tennant as The Doctor here!


For other Doctor Who episode and movie reviews, please visit my Doctor Who Review Index Page!

© 2015 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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