Monday, June 16, 2008

Four Hours on Midnight

You know what's most horrendous about the car crash viewing experience which is Midnight by Russell T Davies, OBE?

The most horrendous thing of all isn't the blatant racism.

The most horrendous thing of all isn't the fact that - yet again - the major guest star is gay.

The most horrendous thing of all isn't the inexplicable manner in which the alien menace can freeze the Doctor as well as steal his voice and keep using Sky's body, all for reasons of easy plot convenience.

The most horrendous thing of all isn't the way in which the murder of Sky Silvestre turned out to be the best thing to do after all.

The most horrendous thing of all isn't even the way in which Rusty suggests that - in the face of a loud banging noise and one woman acting a bit weird - every single person would want to kill someone as opposed, say, to acting rationally.

No, the most annoying thing of all in Midnight is that none of the above matters (and I only included it in a vain attempt at bursting Simon and Rob's respective jolly bubbles, as promised last week), or in several cases is even remotely true.

Midnight is great.

Not brilliant, nor even slightly comparable to Dennis Potter as the otherwise generally very sensible Simon Guerrier suggests, but easily Davies' best script and - by my count - the third best script of the season so far.

It's not perfect and has a few points at which script convenience was allowed to overcome further thought (why are there no cameras on the outside of the bus, so that the customers have something to look at on their way to the Sapphire Waterfall? Can the Sapphire Waterfall only be viewed for five seconds at a time? Why doesn't the Hostess just give Infected Sky a good hard push out the door? and so on) but you have to make allowances and compare this to such previous Rusty 'highlights' as Gridlock, Last of the Time Lords and Boom Town.

In that company this is more than Potter: this is Shakespeare. An interesting concept in an intriguingly alien environment, with the Doctor off wandering like a tourist in the company of normal people.

Dialogue is one of Rusty's great strengths apparently and you'd expect it to sparkle here, when there's precious little action to distract attention from the words - and it does, even if there are occasions when some speeches go on a little too long.

In terms of characterisation too, this is a relative triumph. There's no-one evil here, just scared people lashing out at the strange and the unknown. If the desire to kill seems a bit quick to surface, well it's a 45 minute show and having made his bed, Rusty's obliged to lie in it.

Tennant too is a bit of a revelation. As I've mentioned before he's not good at anger, but he's very good at frustrated and given a chance to actually act as opposed to shout or lark about, he rises to the challenge superbly. Lesley Sharp turns in a nuanced and, as several people have described it, technically proficient performance as Sky Silvestre, but all the cast are fine. A particular mention should go to David Troughton, who nicely plays up the fact that the pompous and rather bullying Professor is probably the most humane of all the humans on board.

You could perhaps quibble that the ending, with the nameless Hostess killing Sky in order to remove the danger of the alien interloper, is a bit of a cop-out, but viewed as an example of the Doctor losing it is tan excellent pay-off (his prideful boast that 'I'm clever' is the first thing to really alienate the other passengers, after all, and the other character most defined by intellectual pride, the Professor, is the last of the humans to try and side with the Doctor). Maybe the Doctor's hubris will turn out to be a season long plot point and he will pay for it in due course.

Similarly, the fact that the front cabin has been wrenched off doesn't make a great deal of in-story sense (nor why the alien was battering away at the walls in the first place) but it nicely ramped up the tension and when everything else is so good, it's far easier to be forgiving.

I'm still glad Rusty is leaving because his vision for New Who is almost diametrically opposed to mine, but it's a curious pleasure to have a chance to praise him for a really good script before he goes (and before the anticipated wankfest of the final three episodes of the season comes round the corner, all bloated, self-congratulatory and vile).

Sorry Simon, Rob - I just can't find anything to be properly negative about...
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6 Comments:

Blogger SK said...

So 'Midnight' is your 'Gridlock', then?

4:24 pm  
Blogger Stuart Douglas said...

SK: "So 'Midnight' is your 'Gridlock', then?"

By which you mean something actually rubbish which for some reason people like anyway, where they read into it things which palpably aren't there and assign motivations to characters which didn't exist before the viewer imposed them?

I don't think so but I'm going to leave it a while before I watch 'Midnight' again, just in case.

Just for once it;s nice to be in the majority :-)

5:46 pm  
Blogger SAF said...

Rubbish. Just rubbish.

Well, all right, a brave attempt at the top, but you couldn't keep it up and had to give in to the nice, measured and inclining-towards-glowing review. But I can't say I blame you. :)

Funny how things turn out :)

7:22 pm  
Blogger Stuart Douglas said...

SAF: "a brave attempt at the top, but you couldn't keep it up "

I kept trying - 'not perfect', 'a relative triumph', 'you have to make allowances and compare this to ... previous Rusty 'highlights', 'some speeches go on a little too long' and 'having made his bed, Rusty's obliged to lie in it.'

It's not like I didn't try :)

8:20 pm  
Blogger SAF said...

Stuart: "before the anticipated wankfest of the final three episodes of the season comes round the corner, all bloated, self-congratulatory and vile"

I also like the way you're making an early start on the big finale :)

But I am so not making any promises to gush uncontrollably about those. You know, just in case ;)

9:22 pm  
Blogger 0tralala said...

"the otherwise generally very sensible Simon Guerrier"

Bluff!

10:21 am  

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