Soap Opera Weekly: Night Shift 7/14/08

Well, it was bound to happen, and this was the week DOCTOR WHO delivered a major clunker. “Midnight” was easily the weakest episode of the season — and perhaps David Tennant‘s entire run.

“A space truck full of strangers traveling across a diamond planet called Midnight — what could go wrong?” the Doctor asked. Plenty, as it turned out. A large part of the problem stemmed from this being the 10th episode, the traditional money-saving installment often called the “Doctor-Lite” story (See “Love and Monsters”and last season’s “Blink.”), in which the Doctor barely appears. But this season the idea was to save cash by using basically one set and virtually no visual effects (rumor has it the effects budget was eaten up by the impending season-ending trilogy). Executive producer Russell T Davies was obviously shooting for a sense of claustrophobia, but the brightly-lit Crusader vehicle just didn’t work.

What did work? The Doctor, of course. Tennant was given a chance to showcase his Doctor’s personality, and his love of travel, adventure and people were all front and center. As he tried to convince Donna to come on the tour, his excitement was palpable. After the tour bus got stuck, the Doctor’s gregarious nature was completely infectious; in no time he was engaging the other passengers in conversation, turning strangers into… well, acquaintances, at least. He entered the cockpit and convinced Joe to open the windows, showing the driver and mechanic a vista no other person had ever before laid eyes on. The Doctor’s eyes were sparkling brighter than the diamond-encrusted landscape they surveyed. And there was that few seconds of Billie Piper‘s Rose, on the monitor behind the Doctor, where he missed her, as usual.

But the story went downhill when the monster made its “entrance.” The sequence leading up to the entity breaching the hull was nicely tense and the screaming really jangled my nerves. But when the creature possessed the woman and began mimicking everyone’s voices, it quickly grew grating. Befitting his experience, the Doctor diagnosed the situation and was intent on communicating with a new lifeform. (A species even he was unfamiliar with! No wonder he was excited.)

The study of group dynamics and herd mentality was somewhat interesting, but I generally watch DOCTOR WHO to be thrilled and filled with wonder, and this story just didn’t fill the bill. I spent some time pondering how this story reminded me of the Fourth Doctor adventure “The Leisure Hive,” another tale about trouble on a resort planet that also disappointed.

The ending was unsatisfactory as well, with the nameless hostess dragging the creature back out into the extonic sunshine — but it lives out there, so while its human host was toasted, it was surely not killed. I presume the Doctor alerted the Midnight authorities to avoid Winter Witch Canyon in the future.

I also presume that “Midnight” was merely a palate-cleanser before next week’s “Left Turn,” which I understand takes the season in an entirely unexpected direction — with guest stars, including the long-awaited full return on Rose! I cannot wait!

And I presume you will return for the next installment of Night Shift

Originally posted on Soap Opera Weekly.com

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