Steve Goble

Choose life. (Deuteronomy 30:19)

After eight episodes off, the house-writer is back.

One thing he's always been very good at is establishing characters quickly, and that's essential here, as most of Midnight is one very long scene set inside a coach. Although we're travelling across an alien planet, (points scored there) everyone apart from the Doctor is human.

Anyhew, the plot is all going well, with the Doctor's well-defined travelling companions all introduced okay, and initially this looks to be a comedy episode. Scenes are even being linked by non-diegetic on-screen captions, complete with a post-modern sound-effect of someone typing them.

Who is typing this?
Personally I never like that, as I think it breaks the illusion and looks a bit smug, but here it's also unnecessary, simply repeating the fade-outs' message that some time has passed.

Anyhow, when the windowless coach breaks down in the middle of an alien nowhere, the tone grows darker, as its occupants are terrified by the knocking coming from outside. There shouldn't be any life out there at all.

Suddenly, once again, the shot of Rose silently yelling "Doctor! Doctor!" appears on a screen behind him. As in The Poison Sky, there's no explanation for why she'd be yelling this before during and after not even making contact, and I doubt we'll ever find out what it's doing here in the future either. Anyway, as before, it's a major distraction from the action.

Then... actually can you guess what happens next? I'll give you a clue: it's the same thing that always happens in this show. Got it? Yes, that's right, one of the passengers becomes a zombie.

Well, all right then, but this had better be the 22nd and final time.

She starts to repeat what everyone is saying, and suddenly this becomes the most dialogue-heavy Doctor Who story ever, challenging even Douglas Adams' verbosity. The entire cast does an excellent job here. It's very well rehearsed, and must have been mind-numbing to edit, as this situation continues for quite a long time, with her mimicking not just everyone's words, but their inflection too. (and yes, she does get a line wrong at one point, inserting "but" on the start of Hobbes' "That's impossible" – the editor's fault, and who can blame them with all this to order)

Eventually the zombie catches-up, and reaches the stage where she can speak the passengers' words in sync with them. An editing slip of a different kind it seems as, after realising this, the Doctor runs a series of tests to ascertain what she's doing – tests that would have made more sense before the realisation.

Aside from wondering who she is and what's happened, everyone including the Doctor is baffled as to even how she's doing it.

And the really tragic thing is, those three questions never get answered. Awful really.

As the bystanders become more and more scared, the Doctor loses his usual authority over them, and they come to blame him for their predicament. Their motivation for this decision is weak at best, but the fact that it happens is an original situation for him to be in.

Soon the zombie's only chanting in time with the Doctor's words, until eventually the inevitable happens – she begins to speak before he does.

The Doctor collapses on the floor, unable to do anything except mimic whatever the zombie says. He's well and truly beaten.

The zombie is now, very badly, pretending to be the original woman again, and noone notices quite how much she's hamming it up.

The zombie only gets defeated, and the Doctor saved, when one of the guest-characters realises that zombie-woman is speaking using only the words that it has learnt from the Doctor, specifically the French phrase "allons-y." Trouble with that of course is, the alien never heard him say "allons-y," because he said it before the alien had boarded. Maybe he said it again later, but the editor cut it out?

Anyway, somebody makes the usual token self-sacrifice, and everything is all right again, because the alien is outside again. Why it doesn't just come back again is a question never even asked.

Neat start to the story. So what happens in the rest of it?


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