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...)
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?