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Doctor Who 4.10 Midnight


Heh heh heh. I didn't notice in the credits who wrote the ep, but it was blatantly obvious by about three minutes in that it was RTD. 20th-century pop culture stuff all over the place - the aeroplane cabin, the Eurovision song (or whatever it was), the cartoons, the slippers and earplugs and "may contain nuts" - doh. I don't dislike pop culture references on principle; I like them when they tie into the story, like the Weakest Link/ Big Brother/ What Not To Wear episode, but I'm not keen when they're quite as incongruous, and as likely to date badly, as this.

RTD checklist, then.

Pop culture references, check. "Gay agenda", check. Evil Older Woman, check. Rose Tyler, check. Caricatured characters, check. Weakness for exotic or important locations and times, check. (There was no need for this episode to have taken place on a previously unexplored part of a remote diamond planet - it could just as well have taken place on the London underground.) Lots of ironic segues - check. Messianistic imagery, sort of, when Sky was all lit up - check. Heroic self-sacrifice, check. Jab at contemporary politics ("immigrants") - check.

For all that, though, I didn't hate the episode. I love talky episodes, for a start. And talky episodes about the power of words? Win. The synchronised talking was very clever, and they didn't cheat with the extended two-shot sequences with the Doctor and Sky, that I could see. I think when I watch it back, it'll all match up pretty perfectly, in terms of who is repeating who when. It was interesting to see the Doctor try to defend his ideals to a carriage full of terrified people who don't know him - he's not very good at it. Last week he was threatening entities who didn't know him, in order to save the Library and the "saved" people. His words had no effect - he had to refer them to the encyclopaedia in order to convince them. This week, when he's trying to persuade people not to kill, he's got no weapons but his own words - and again they aren't good enough, and this time he has no back-up. And then his words are stolen from him altogether.

Despite the fact that he "wins" in the end, and most of the travellers are rescued, I read this as a tale of the Doctor's impotence, almost irrelevance. (Is it significant that he's less powerful on his own? Probably.) Right at the start, the Doctor can't even persuade his companion that this amazing planet is more interesting than a spa. We come out of the story not knowing much more about the alien creature than we did at the start, and the Doctor didn't show a particular desire to find out. The realisation at the end of the episode that nobody knew the stewardess's name was nicely executed - I hadn't noticed they hadn't named her - and paralleled the fact that none of the other travellers knew his name, but I thought "we didn't know her name" could equally have applied to the alien.

He refused to kill anyone, but his arguments had little effect on any of the travellers - and at the end of the episode, nobody had developed noticeably from their starting point apart from the stewardess, and she'd developed all the way to death. We're used to the Doctor having a huge impact on people's lives, even those he only meets briefly, so that seemed unusual. And, of course, he had nothing to do with the discovery of the alien, with the dispatching of the alien, or even with calling the rescue crew. There were a lot of words from the Doctor this episode, but very little driving of the story. And nearly half of the people in the carriage died, which isn't a great success rate, although he didn't seem too worried about the driver and the mechanic.

I suppose that explains why, when he meets up with Donna again, he looks so depressed and bedraggled - because I've seen him far, far happier after far, far worse days. (And I'm assuming he phoned Donna to tell her what happened, or something, given her reaction to him.)

I've mostly liked Donna this series, far more than I expected, but I have to say I didn't really miss her this episode. Does this mean we'll have another episode that's all Donna and no Doctor; is that how they're getting round the shooting blocks problem this year?

Obligatory plot hole complaining - you're designing a public passenger vehicle, and you know that the atmosphere on the planet will kill anyone. So you make the doors openable by pressing a very large, obvious yellow button. Doesn't seem sensible, even if there is a six-second failsafe thingy that I didn't really understand, and crucially, that *doesn't stop people being sucked out into the lethal atmosphere*. Ah well.

In other news, Russell T Davies got an OBE. Yay, I suppose, though I've just checked wiki and the last three eps are all written by him, and my heat sank slightly to discover that...

Edit: *headdesk* I forgot to take the "gay agenda" phrase out before I crossposted to doctorwho, and now there is multi-post wank. Although fairly good-natured so far.

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Comments

( 37 comments — Comment )
sovietkiki
Jun. 14th, 2008 07:57 pm (UTC)
The Doctor's impotence was almost frightening. People just...listen and do what he says (eventually, in some cases) in almost every other incarnation, but in this episode he was meaningless. It was very spooky.

ETA - It was a bit like Jamie and Zoe not listening to the Doctor in "The Mind Robber".

I don't understand Rusty getting an OBE. I mean, yay he brought Who back...but the cogs were turning long before he ever came along. And I don't like him. THEREFORE HE SHOULDN'T. In my mind, as Eddie Izzard would say with a slightly psycho-expression.

...I think next week's trailer made me high.

Edited at 2008-06-14 07:58 pm (UTC)
pickwick
Jun. 14th, 2008 08:28 pm (UTC)
I'm not sure if I understand about the OBE either, but all sort of weird people have them, so...meh.
loveandgarbage
Jun. 14th, 2008 08:04 pm (UTC)
On the apparent plothole - the big large yellow button was the way to the cabin (which no-one would have expected to disintegrate) so I think we can forgive RTD that - and at least it wasn't magic thinking that destroyed the threat, and for that we can truly grateful.

For me, it was the best of the series so far.

Scott
pickwick
Jun. 14th, 2008 08:29 pm (UTC)
Oh, I suppose that makes sense - but in that case, how were the other people going to throw the Doctor out of the main door? They were taking him in the other direction.

I liked the concept, just the characters and some of the execution were a little ropey.
theealex
Jun. 14th, 2008 08:06 pm (UTC)
Rusty is very predictable these days, and his shoe-horning of the 'Gay agenda' into almost every episode he writes is just boring. Doesn't he realise that no one cares??
pickwick
Jun. 14th, 2008 08:31 pm (UTC)
I don't mind it at all, but it's a bit lazy. And it's like he realises there'll be a gay person in most random groups of people, so he tries to portray that, but he doesn't realise that most of the time, people can go hours and days without actually mentioning their sexuality out loud.
(no subject) - andrewducker - Jun. 14th, 2008 09:30 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - pickwick - Jun. 14th, 2008 09:35 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - andrewducker - Jun. 14th, 2008 09:37 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - pickwick - Jun. 14th, 2008 09:41 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - laerad - Jun. 15th, 2008 03:57 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - pickwick - Jun. 15th, 2008 11:30 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - marrog - Jun. 15th, 2008 11:38 pm (UTC) - Expand
blue_condition
Jun. 14th, 2008 08:51 pm (UTC)
It's the Evil Older Woman and the Messianic imagery that hack me off with RTD. And let's not mention Mary Sue Rose.
pickwick
Jun. 14th, 2008 09:36 pm (UTC)
I think I'm especially annoyed because I used to like Rose, and then he broke her :(
(no subject) - laserboy - Jun. 15th, 2008 12:42 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - pickwick - Jun. 15th, 2008 11:31 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - loveandgarbage - Jun. 14th, 2008 10:26 pm (UTC) - Expand
laserboy
Jun. 15th, 2008 12:11 am (UTC)
Initial thoughts
I may rewatch it, but I just didn't like this episode at all. It felt wafer thin.

But omg trailer for next week! Was that a spider?? I really do like Donna (with decent writing), so I'm quite worried for her. Rose's story is -over-, so I just don't need her around. I can't be the only one that thinks that?
momentsmusicaux
Jun. 15th, 2008 07:50 am (UTC)
Re: Initial thoughts
No, you're not.
In a way I think it's fun to have old companions in and out, to make it less of a one companion at a time only then they're gone deal.
But Rose, sucked into a parallel universe and all that? That was the close of the story.
Re: Initial thoughts - andrewducker - Jun. 15th, 2008 10:45 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: Initial thoughts - laserboy - Jun. 15th, 2008 11:27 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: Initial thoughts - dibsy - Jun. 15th, 2008 05:26 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: Initial thoughts - pickwick - Jun. 15th, 2008 11:32 pm (UTC) - Expand
momentsmusicaux
Jun. 15th, 2008 07:49 am (UTC)
London Underground -- yeah! Good idea!

The technotronic light thing was just typical RTD scifiwank. He can't fucking write sci-fi. He just CAN'T.
The first ten minutes were typical RTD character wank. Agree with you on excessive pop culture.

But then it scared the pants off me. Sky covering her face and not moving -- scary as hell. Had me imagining all sorts of weirdass shit had happened to her: face melted off, eyes red, face turned to alien or stone or fuck knows what.
It reminds me of the old Avengers stuff: with sod all special effects and nothing more than good camera work, good acting, and scary music, they'd make you wee yourself. There was an episode of that set on a golf course, and it was just people disappearing off-camera. But scary as hell.
And when she did turn round and her face was normal, but with freaky eyes, it was somehow even scarier.

So yeah, grudging points to RTD for making a really tense and scary episode with one set, and nothing more than people repeating each others' words when you think about it.

And the gay agenda -- maybe, just maybe, RTD will one day write an episode in which there's no character flagged as gay. It might happen.
dibsy
Jun. 15th, 2008 05:32 pm (UTC)
I thought that the scares were very effective, too. I really think that British TV writers do excellently with comedies or dramas that are purely a few people on limited sets. Red Dwarf, Nightingales, Eastenders (when they do the two-handers), Sapphire and Steel, etc, etc, etc.
(no subject) - momentsmusicaux - Jun. 15th, 2008 07:21 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - pickwick - Jun. 15th, 2008 11:36 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - pickwick - Jun. 15th, 2008 11:35 pm (UTC) - Expand
arborophile
Jun. 15th, 2008 10:02 pm (UTC)
Theres also his name coming up again, he wont tell em so they trust him less!
pickwick
Jun. 15th, 2008 11:36 pm (UTC)
Yep...I'm a bit worried that RTD will actually want to tell us his name, and I think it should be kept secret :S
arborophile
Jun. 15th, 2008 10:04 pm (UTC)
Must have missed summat, only watched it once though..wheres the gay reference?
pickwick
Jun. 15th, 2008 11:37 pm (UTC)
Oh, it was just that Sky's ex who had left her and gone to another galaxy was a woman. Totally throwaway.
marrog
Jun. 15th, 2008 11:44 pm (UTC)
I think there's a two-fold problem re: the Gay Agenda.

1. Yes, to an extent you're right. People can go long periods without outing themselves, no, people don't talk endlessly about their sexuality/partners.

2. By the same token, when someone mentions an opposite-sex partner, it's completely missed/ignored/a non-issue. When someone mentions a same-sex partner, they make it an issue just by talking about them. The only thing that's going to change this is repeated reference until people stop expecting one thing and being surprised by another. Yes, it's an agenda, but sort of a good one?

3. (This is not part of the two-fold problem) I dislike all the whiny gays who're defending Russ's lack of imagination and excessive gay references and subtext, and so I'm sticking with the "ZOMG Gay Agenda!" crowd.

Then I'm going to slash Donna and... someone. And then they'll be sorry.
pickwick
Jun. 15th, 2008 11:57 pm (UTC)
Donna/ Ood for the win! Possibly.

Heh, I've just been trying to argue over on the community that yes, you CAN have a good agenda, and that RTD has one - he wants to do exactly what you're saying, repeat the references until people stop making heteronormative assumptions.

Some of the people complaining on the community are...reminding me rather of the batshit feminists who make me want to throw things and shout "get off my side".
(no subject) - marrog - Jun. 15th, 2008 11:58 pm (UTC) - Expand
marcella_riddle
Jun. 16th, 2008 02:02 pm (UTC)
Does this mean we'll have another episode that's all Donna and no Doctor; is that how they're getting round the shooting blocks problem this year?

Yup, the next one :)
( 37 comments — Comment )

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