Sunday, June 15, 2008

Midnight in the air: a Doctor Who review

Mercy.

I really didn't know much about this episode - from what I can gather it was pretty guarded - but what little I had gathered was that it was a scary one (let's overlook I had completely gotten the schedule wrapped around my neck, thinking that this week's was the Doctor-Lite episode when it was actually the Donna-Lite episode and the tone for Midnight was anything BUT Lite...)

Anyway.

It started off slowly - a trip on a space cruiser (aka a boat or plane or bus) - and I really did grit my teeth a little at the characters as they were initially presented, but on reflection that was entirely the point. Because this was all about what happens once the 'action' kicks off.

We've had words as weapons before - not least in The Shakespeare Code - but here was something a little different: language as the manifestation of action, a manifestation of action, a manifestation of horror.

I'm torn about how much of this tale to give away, but suffice to say - as the Confidential made clear - this episode belonged to the sound crew as a feat of magnificent TV. That's not to say that visually (for example) this wasn't darn fine -- I've read some criticism of the planet visuals, but I thought it looked stunning. But to make this episode work it was all about the sound, the words, the delivery of language. And the management of all this on-set, and afterwards with the sound teams.

Which brings me to the actors - Tennant's Doctor does a wonderful job of conveying how easily the Doctor's actions and specifically what he says can get him into as much trouble as it does (often) get him out of it. This is an occasion where not only can he NOT talk himself out of trouble - in so many ways - but where the very act of talking is what reinforces the trouble.

Lesley Sharp also makes a fantastic contribution to the episode as Sky Silvestry: initially a rather distant and disengaged character as compared to the freneticism of the Cane family, she ultimately turns in a performance that is utterly compelling, delivering her lines with wonderfully channelled energy - nervous, frightened, blank, rising in edginess to supreme confidence. And mention should also be made for the stomach churning characterisation that Lindsey Coulson brings to the vile Val Cane: the final line of that character made me gasp in despair because it is so bleak.

Repetition has never been so damn scary.

RTD OBE - it's almost a shame he'll probably undo all the good done in this script in his series finale. I don't feel alone in identifying RTD's stand-alone episodes as amongst his best - is there any possibility that Moffat will bring RTD in to write the occasional episode under his leadership?

4 comments:

JoeinVegas said...

Well, this season we are only three weeks behind you, so I shall look forward to this one. Still no Primeval, though it has been teased about.

stu-n said...

I'll be amazed if Rusty doesn't write the occasional episode. He won't be able to keep away.

Tom said...

Just caught up.

Wow.

And wow.

(I agree - no problem with the planet visuals at all. When will people remember that this is the BBC and not fricking NBC or Mutant Enemy. Low budget CGI used to set a scene - I was impressed! I also remember Blakes 7!)

Poly Gianniba said...

I have watched it a few times now, and I still get very tense and worried.

But also, there are many interesting questions:
- was the entity evil? It only did enough to survive. When faced with hostility, it adapted and fought back.
- from a practical point of view, what was the right solution? If they had thrown Sky out early on, the stewardess would have been saved. But that doesn't mean the Doctor's approach was wrong because he never got to try it out.
- the Doctor said all the right things in the wrong way or at the wrong time.
- the other passengers were relieved that they would throw the Doctor out instead of Sky. That was really shocking.