I find straight-up horror films pretty boring these days. I almost think its fair to say that if a film states that it is a horror film, and is not made in Japan – its probably not very scary unless you’re a horror virgin or too young to see one. They generally end up in three categories, in my experience – the unheard-of, non-english-language original version, the plastic-bimbo-populated Hollywood remake, and the half-baked predictable teen-horror.
What’s impressive with Doctor Who at the moment, is how far they seem willing to push the boundaries for the timeslot they’ve been shoved in (I say shoved in: series 1-3 were all shown in a slot an hour later – and all pulled in roughly a million more viewers per week).
But this hasn’t quietened down the ambition of the production team. This series has had a feel of the inevitable about it – a kind of running dread that has wound its way around the storylines. But – no stories that have tried to freak viewers out with “scary” CGI monsters… Not that spring to mind, anyway.
And RTD’s episode, Midnight, seems to be the pinnacle – so far, anyway.
I’ve said before that I have my doubts about some of RTD’s episodes. In fact, I wasn’t overly impressed with Partners In Crime – although I enjoyed it…
I have found some of his other episodes a bit suspect – especially with Rose and the 10th Doctor. My personal view being that series 1 served Rose better as a character than series 2 with all the will-they-won’t-they rubbish that came along with it… A main culprit of that must have been RTD, being in charge of the overall “story arc”, and it seemed to be his episodes where that whole romance thing was dwelt on. I was disappointed with the start to series 2 – in particular New Earth, and I really wasn’t sure about the Peter Kay monster and pavement-love in Love and Monsters.
But, with Martha, his writing seemed to hit the mark more. And even more so with Donna. Or in the case of Midnight, without Donna…
This showed how far Doctor Who has come, I think. It wasn’t a monster-fest. It wasn’t a space war. It wasn’t an invasion. We didn’t even see the monster or get to hear what it was. And that was its strongest hand. Something that particularly Steven Moffatt has played on regularly is what people genuinely fear, and RTD has just pushed on into the psychological territory with this episode. People have an amazing talent by blowing fears up to huge proportions just by talking themselves into believing it… Just like this group of tourists.
Opinion seems divided with the newspapers, anyway. The Times were broadly critical, the Guardian were extremely enthusiastic. Out of the two, the Guardian had the better-written review, even if that’s because the reviewer seems to have approached the episode in a better frame of mind. The Times had a point, possibly, about the episode being a bit wordy, but it the reviewer was needlessly cynical, and doesn’t seem to have bothered either doing any research on this year’s series or taking a sense of humour to the sofa with him.
I agreed with this:
“Midnight felt too much of a writing exercise to be really scary”
Well, to an extent. I think its proved with the moment when Sky looks up at the Doctor for the first time after she is possessed. Her head movements and the way she looks through him really was frightening.
I don’t agree that Tennant’s Doctor is becoming irritating, though – in context of the whole series, he’s not been short on confidence (after all, why should he be?), and I personally found the arrogant comments funny.
But on the whole, Midnight was great. RTD may well have been watching the Horror of Fang Rock when writing – the claustrophobic atmosphere is every bit as good, and its well-realised without going OTT with the effects.
There is just one thing though. I don’t see why the “hostess” would do what she did. She seemed far more concerned with rules and regulations than the good of her passengers…
Strong performances from another really good cast made this even better. And at least this monster wasn’t unrealistic!