Friday, 25 July 2014

Why 'Midnight' is the most terrifying Doctor Who episode ever, not 'Blink'

I've been re-watching Doctor Who (Netflix, I do love you) and it has to be said- the more recent episodes don't quite measure up to those early seasons. The villains are so often sympathetic (at least to an extent) and almost always chilling but at the same time a lot of fun.

Donna Noble is, by far, my favourite of the Doctor's companions. The show's creators so often just give the Doctor a pretty face who adores him and it's just getting annoying!

Who couldn't love this face?
People remember 'Blink' as the most iconic scary episode which I can understand; it gives you a visible villain, and it's all about one person becoming a hero. Then, of course, the monologue from the Doctor at the end along with the shots of statues in public spaces is pretty fucking creepy.

BUT. Midnight is scarier. Way scarier.

While Donna stays behind at a spa, The Doctor takes a tourist bus across a planet to the 'Sapphire Waterfall'.

The Doctor spends the journey encouraging conversation between the other passengers and getting to know them. There's the middle aged couple with a moody teenage son, the Professor studying the planet with his assistant and the solo female traveller going through a bad breakup.

This is not something you'd ever see on the Tube.
The bus has to take a detour through uncharted territory for some reason, and ends up stopping suddenly. A lot of stuff happens that I won't go into but it results in the passengers being stranded with something possessing the solo traveller.

Yes, it's Merlin. Let's stay on track shall we?
The host decides to throw the possessed woman out of the bus. Soon, everyone is prepared to do so, but then the creature starts imitating the Doctor alone. The passengers accuse the Doctor of being involved, driven irrational by fear and ignorance, the idea to throw out both the Doctor and the creature to their deaths surfaces.

This is the strength of 'Midnight'. There is no evil creature trying to destroy the universe- just a new life form and Humanity's fear of difference. The creature eventually traps the Doctor into speaking second, and pretends that the creature has passed into him and released the solo traveller.

This scene is awful to watch.
The Professor and Merlin's dad grab him from behind, and begin dragging him to the door. Merlin joins them tearfully, as his mother and father shout at him to help, but the Professor's assistant and the Host notice something's wrong.

It's only when the creature shouts 'Allons-y!' That the Host makes her desicison. She grabs the Solo traveller and pulls her to the door, smashing the door release and pulling it out with her.

Released, the Doctor falls to the floor and clutches it in desperate relief, chanting 'It's gone... it's gone...' breathlessly. Finally realising what it was that they were about to do, the other passengers sink to the floor in silence.

After the recovery vehicle arrives to pull them away, the doctor finally says. 'The Host. What was her name?' and no one can answer him.

My family comes from Germany, and I had relatives who were part of the Hitler Youth. Maybe because of this I find the idea of the 'herd mindset' truly terrifying. If people I love can be persuaded to believe in something brutal and inhumane then it's very difficult to view groups of people favourably.

I love people individually, but as a group they can be terrifying. Remember that Derren Brown show? 'The Gameshow'? Or even, in real life, the London riots?

This is how things like the Holocaust happen. This sort of thing is happening now- in Israel and Palestine. The weeping angels may have been set in our world, but the 'evil' in this episode is from our world, and still pervades our collective consciousness.

For me, Blink is a fairly straightforward 'spooky' episode. But if you're stuck in a room with a bunch of people under a perceived threat from an 'alien' group of people, then you should be careful what you say.

What if you say something vaguely sympathetic?

What if the people you're trapped with begin to think you're 'one of them'?

What might that group of people do to you?

It's awful.

And we never found out. Not what the Host's name was, not what the creature was or what it wanted. We only know that the monster wasn't anything from another world. It was us. It was always us.

We must not look at goblin men
we must not buy their fruits
who knows upon what soil they fed
their hungry thirsty roots