June 21, 2008

Season Four Saturdays: Midnight

(As always, a spoiler-free review. Nothing to look at here if you’re seeking plot points.)

I happen to admit that I have very mixed feelings about Russell T. Davies.

I’m grateful for his work in bringing back the series, and for some of his ideas…but in all honesty, he comes up with one or two really good script ideas per season.

First season, it was “Rose” and “Boom Town.” Then, “Army of Ghosts” and “Doomsday”. Last year, it was “Utopia” and “The Sound of Drums.”

Allow me to eat some crow this week, as after the charming “Partners In Crime”, Davies comes up with another out-of-the-ballpark hit with “Midnight”.

Amongst my Twitter pals, I had openly asked about why previous Doctor’s offspring had guest appearances, and I realized that this is the show’s 45th anniversary. Starting with last year’s “Time Crash”, this season has been steeped in Who mythology without being overly slavish about it. The Doctor without a companion is straight out of “The Deadly Assassin” with Tom Baker. The single locale for the episode is reminiscent of – William Hartnell-era “The Edge of Destruction.” Yes, there are elements of past stories…but one Doctor – an unexpected one – pokes his eager little head…

…if anything, “Midnight” could have easily been a Patrick Troughton/Second Doctor era story (albeit with a 21st Century Twist). Like many of Troughton’s stories, it is a self-contained “base under siege” story (usually done because most of 1960’s Who was filmed in Lime Grove Studios, and the effects were on the cheap)...contains some obviously chilling moments, and shows some of the darkness behind the Doctor’s seeming joviality. It even has Troughton’s son David in a supporting performance (which is, just vocally, chilling – it’s like the Second Doctor is in the room). And the director – no relation – is Alice Troughton, who directed several episodes of Torchwood.

The one performance that I want to highlight is Lesley Sharp. (She's the blonde on the left in the following photograph.It’s hard to talk about what she does without giving away the store…but as I watched, she looked familiar, and I didn’t know where I had seen her before. Thankfully…well, let’s just say that she’s worked with Davies before…and I blogged about it. The supporting cast does a quite splendid job in a story that asks more questions than it answers…and is probably one of the scariest Who stories of the new season.

(And considering how much I loved Moffatt’s two-parter, that’s saying quite a bit)

But ultimately, the one thing that is striking about this story is that, for the first time, the Doctor is not automatically “accepted”…in fact, in many ways, his usual behavior works against him. It’s hard to describe without spoiling the story (and you know what? I don’t mind seeking spoilers out for my own entertainment, but respect other’s wishes), but given the amount of foreshadowing from previous episodes (and the preview for next time)…things may not be looking good for the Doctor.

Keep watching.


Camera Obscura said...

For those of us who came upon your blog after the season started on both sides of the Pond (that would be me), explain again why you're reviewing an episode that is neither the newest in the U.K. nor the next one to be shown in the U.S.

P.S. Doesn't David Troughton look just like his father (well, sans the Beatles bob)?

Gordon D said...

Basically...I mistimed the reviews. Most of mine come at the same time as other sites, and I'm trying to review them in a non-spoiler-ish way.

(For example, see Radio Free Skaro as another reviewing regular episodes without spoilers).

I thought my reviews were coming out right after they were shown on Sci-Fi; however, it looks like they're not. My apologies.

Camera Obscura said...

It's not a problem, it was just puzzling me. I figured it was something along the lines of not figuring in the Christmas Special on the Sci-Fi feed or something similar.

I watch the U.K. feed (and agree that Turn Left = brilliant, and how nice was it to see Chipo Chung again?) and hit review sites for both here and the U.K., so spoilers aren't an issue -- but I won't do any here.