Saturday, June 14, 2008

Bus Under Siege

Right, now that I've gotten my expected Battlestar Galactica mid-season finale scream out of the way, I am actually killing myself laughing as I write this. Last week, because I inadvertently ruined Stuart's unbridled enjoyment of Silence In The Library/Forest Of The Dead by being all rational and objective, I offered to, I think it was, 'bubble with uncontrollable enthusiasm' about this week's Doctor Who, leaving him to pick holes in it and hopefully balance things out by spoiling the experience for me. At the time I thought it might make for quite a challenge for me and was wondering how thickly I'd have to apply the sarcasm to prevent everyone seeing straight through it. Would have been fun though. As it is, now that I've seen the episode, Midnight, I think I've got the easier job. Which is much funnier.

Never saw that coming. The fact that it was an RTD-penned episode makes it even more priceless.

And so, without further ado, I'd like to state, hand on heart, no sarcasm whatsoever, that was actually pretty darn good.

Simple, yes. But that scores highly in its favour, because a lot of RTD episodes try too desperately hard to cram in as much silliness and guff and BIG ideas that haven't been properly thought through. And this, confined as it was to a high-tech bus, was a refreshing change. It was also amusing to this middle-aged Doctor Who fan that, given the involvement of two Troughtons (David and Alice) there was something of the 'base-under-siege' scenario to it all, such a staple of the second-Doctor era.

It built the tension in a measured, controlled, *believable* way. First the shadow outside, then the knocking and then the child-like but sinister repetition game being played so fiercely and effectively by Lesley Sharp's (possessed) character, Sky Silvestry.

And yes, there was a shortage of explanations: the creature's gone, back to the bejewelled wilderness, leaving us none the wiser really to its true nature. But that *works*. Much better that than strain to shoehorn in some wildly imaginative but basically dumb explanation. Here, Rusty resists his usual excesses and the beneficial effects are immediately evident.

Can it be coincidence that this was such a Donna-light episode? But no, there I'm just sticking the tongue in the old cheek, because I think this episode would have worked fine with her on board the bus. Except for the necessary cut in screen-time for all the other characters, so it remains a sensible decision. (But I can safely say it wasn't Catherine Tate's absence that made the story work for me.) And they were a fair bunch of characters, again thankfully lacking those customary excesses we've come to expect. Somehow, they feel well-judged to fit with the tone of the piece and although early on I was wondering why there were no aliens on board, as events unfolded I could understand the reasoning. It would have been so difficult to carry such intense scenes with anything other than human faces and the Doctor being the only (other) alien aboard was key.

So, bravo to the cast. And bravo to David Tennant and Lesley Sharp, especially, for making what could have been such silly scenes into such captivating, compelling exchanges. I'm sure there was more than one outbreak of the giggles during shooting, but it was all straight faces watching it here. Bravo to the director. And, honestly, credit where it's due: bravo to Sir Rusty, OBE. (Do we have to call him Sir now, I'm not sure?) Time enough in weeks to come for big world-threatening Dalek-and-god-knows-what-else climactic face-offs. On this occasion, Keep It Simple paid off. Thank you for helping me keep a promise to a mate and making it so easy! Ha!

A nice, tense scenario, well-handled and well-played. And surely too simple an idea for anyone to pick very many holes in. We'll see. Over to you, Stuart. :)


Stuart Douglas said...

I've never seen such an obviously sarcastic review! If you weren't dripping with ill-disguised spleen and barely concealed irony while writing it, then I'm the Earl of Wessex.

Surely you agree that 'Midnight' was basically an excuse for Mr Davies to vomit out his usual

- racism
- sexism
- gay agenda?

All of which unpalatable bigotry (I was surprised that the alien didn't turn out to be in wheelchair to be honest) was wrapped up in

- a nonsensical premise (if the Doctor wants to see the Sapphire Waterfall why not take the TARDIS?)
- a series of wafer-thin and unlikely events(Why did the alien rip the front of the bus off for example?),
- a ludicrous baddie (what the hell are to we assume that the alien eats out there - sapphires?) and
- a resolution which makes no sense (unbelievably Davies seems to be suggesting that the Doctor was wrong!)

And don't get me started on the so-called 'clue' that gave the alien away! My friend Crispian said 'Molto Bene' the other day while we had a latte and biscetti in a local Italian cafe we frequent after our weekly visits to the National Gallery - does that make *him* an alien voice stealing lesbian? I think not.

The case for the prosecution rests...

SAF said...

Lol. Well, that's worthy of applause. Plus, er, of course I am totally gutted with the way you've utterly and completely ruined the whole Midnight experience for me.

Of course, I'm less concerned with the racism and the obvious gay agenda in Who than I am with the sexism: in Silence in the Library/Forests of the Dead, the Doctor leaves his wife in a virtual afterlife to look after the kids, when she could be out pursuing her archaeological career, while he goes gallavanting off on his adventures. *Unemployed* adventures, I might add. What a chauvinistic waster.

Stuart Douglas said...

SAF: "the Doctor leaves his wife in a virtual afterlife to look after the kids"

And they're not even her and the Doctor's kids - they're his 'special pal' Donna's kids, in fact.

Bit suss, frankly :)

SAF said...

I'll say.

"Here, luv, look after my girlfriend's kids while she and I take a spin round the galaxy."

Oh well, River will have the last laugh when Donna snuffs it. Unless the Doctor manages to upload her into the virtual afterlife as well. There'll be hell to pay then. ;)