I've been both surprised and disappointed that most people have not recognized the skill of Russell T Davies.
He not only revivified the Doctor, but his scripts have had tiny little touches in them that reveal a benevolence of spirit and a keen understanding of people that is mostly lacking in entertainment today.
The latest episode of Doctor Who, Midnight, I hope will be a wake up call for all of the doubters.
I must this time also call attention to the director, Alice Troughton, who did a magnificent bit of work here.
I said last time that this episode looked like what the staff of Star Trek: The Next Generation called a "bottle show," one contained in existing sets to preserve budget money.
I was wrong.
It does, correctly, use one set for the majority of the episode.
But it's not a bottle. It's the most difficult thing a writer can accomplish: setting everything within a small, restricted area and not only keeping viewer interest but -- and dear god, you have to really be a master writer to pull this off -- scare the living shit out of the viewers in the process.
Let me tell you that before I watched this, I saw a multi-million dollar recent motion picture that was designed to be scary.
Doctor Who put me through a wringer! I'm sitting here with chills still going up and down my body from the ride it put me through. And it's a good half hour later as I type these very words.
This is the shot that began to raise the hackles on me.
Now look at this:
Looks like a pretty simple shot, huh? Oh no. Wait til you see it for yourself!
Talk about being creeped out! I was right along there with all of them.
I want you to notice that everything is brightly lit. And it was still scary as all get out!
It becomes dark -- but that's when things actually -- and masterfully! -- calm down. Notice the star effect on the flashlights.
What does the episode turn out to be about?
OK, you must turn away at this point: SPOILER AHEAD! Do not read further until after you've seen the episode!
It's about us. We as individual human beings.
And the Doctor is shocked by seeing who some of us can be.
Even the people you wouldn't expect to be a certain way.
I highlight three shots of David Tennant because I wasn't keen on his performance in the past three episodes (including the 2-part library). Here he has redeemed himself. He pulled off something only a damned good actor could ever accomplish.
In the end, we find out who we really are. Ultimately.
This script is master caliber. It's the kind of thing Rod Serling would do in the best episodes of Twilight Zone: The Monsters are Due on Maple Street, The Shelter, One More Pallbearer, and others. This episode is also a lot like a movie that's rarely aired: The Incident.
Too many people are in love with the gadgetry of SF. Or the particular twists a show like Doctor Who enables a writer to indulge in. Those are all well and good. However, ultimately, everything is all about the people living among that gadgetry and having to react to those twists.
Rod Serling never forgot that. Nor has Russell T Davies.