Doctor Who, “Midnight” Review

Midnight, an episode of Doctor Who, aired last night here in the US.  It happens to contain some interesting bits from a religious perspective, and the episode was written by Russell T. Davies.  I’ve discussed the overall themes of Doctor Who from a religious perspective here, and this episode provides more discussion opportunities from the Christian perspective.  There are spoilers for Midnight abounding, so if you haven’t seen it yet and plan to, skip this post until you do.

First, this was a wonderful episode, one of my favourites of the new season; it was well written and wonderfully acted, especially by Tennant, and the woman who played Sky, Lesley Sharp.  The story begins with The Doctor boarding a transport on an alien world to go to a tourist attraction, and the situation rapidly declines from there…of course through a series of events the transport breaks down in a never-before-explored section of the uninhabitable planet, leaving The Doctor stranded with the other passengers, a Hostess, the driver of the transport, and the mechanic.  The ominous music soon begins and there comes a strange knocking on the hull of the transport.

Here the three main religious positions became symbolized; you had the atheists represented, “there’s nothing out there/there can’t be anything out there,” the agnostics, “how do we know if there is or not?” and the believers, “there is something out there.”  Chalk one up to the believers, for there was indeed something out there, and it wants in.  There was a line from one of the passengers reiterating that there literally cannot be anything out in that wasteland, and The Doctor replies, “I’m glad you’ve got an absolute definition of life in the universe, but perhaps the universe has ideas of its own,” which is, again, ironic to me, since the line was written by RTD, an atheist.

Of course we then have an alien version of a demon possession, quiet effectively pulled off and very creepy.  It also pulled up childhood memories that everyone surely “possesses;” those lovely juvenile games of repeating everything your brother/sister says in order to drive them nuts…it works here too.  The alien entity takes over Sky, a passenger, and begins “absorbing” knowledge (and apparently power) by mimicking every single thing everyone says.  And, as it progresses it winds up just like it did in our own childhoods; with everyone screaming at the mimic to “STOP!” and threats of cold-blooded murder; this time in the form of, “let’s chuck her out the airlock.”

During the mimicking, Jethro, a teenage boy decked out in goth-like style, is joining in the yelling and pandemonium, getting the alien entity possessing Sky’s body to mimic back to him, “six six six.”  Revelations 13:18 Here is wisdom. Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast: for it is the number of a man; and his number is Six hundred threescore and six. Yes, the majority of the time that someone writes something creepy and evil, 666 gets thrown in for good measure.

Back to the murdering part.  This was interesting because it was a study of human (and apparently alien nature), as fear and panic takes over…surprisingly The Doctor is just as panicky and fearful as everyone else, although he’s got his sense of fascination with a new entity entirely intact…ordering everyone to banish thoughts of chucking the demon possessed, oops, I mean alien possessed passenger out the airlock…that is until the alien narrows down her next victim to The Doctor himself, and “takes his voice.”  Freezing The Doctor in place, causing him to mimic Sky and causing the passengers to turn on the Doctor, now wishing to chuck him out the airlock instead.  All of a sudden we, after The Doctor is saved by The Hostess (she realizes The Doctor has had his voice stolen, grabs a hold of the demon…alien possessed woman and sacrifices herself and saves the Doctor by ejecting herself out the airlock, possessed woman in tow),…we see that chucking her out the airlock wasn’t a stupid idea after all, but apparently was the right thing to do…I wonder if RTD really thought this one out…

Anywho, everyone is left sobered and shaken, including The Doctor, even after the survivors are rescued.  Many people have been commenting on the Doctor’s rather inflated view of himself lately, and some even believe he has crossed the line recently by taking decisions out of the hands of others, and carrying out his own will.  In this episode I thought it was interesting because, we get to see again, that The Doctor, though powerful, is not anywhere near the level of God, or an actual messiah.  He says to the lot of them, near the beginning of the episode, “I guarantee everything is fine” and also, “We’re going to get out of here alive, I promise.”  By the end of the episode, nothing is fine, and four humans are dead…so much for a limited being’s guarantee and promise… He also admits later to Donna that he has no clue what the thing was that did the possessing.  Now, to me, this is a good thing, it shows that he is indeed fallible and capable of mistakes, and that he is actually much more human-like than alien-like, even in (or especially in) his pride, and cleverness.

Great episode.  Touched on several themes that are important to mull over for us Christians (and everyone else); fear, pride, anger, the dark side of human nature, self sacrifice, and connecting with our fellow human beings.  I would love to get other people’s thoughts on these themes, and on the Episode itself, if you feel like leaving a comment.

5 Comments

Filed under Atheism, Of Interest, Reviews, Sacred Secular

5 responses to “Doctor Who, “Midnight” Review

  1. Rabid1st

    Imagine my surprise in finding you on my LJ! You are everywhere! Is it sad that I admit I am not a regular reader of your blog? But I thought you did make some interesting points on the atheist/messiah thing. I will say that I think this episode is very important to the crucial questions surrounding this Doctor. He is not God…or a god…lonely or otherwise. And this episode really shows him at his fallible best…underlining his weaknesses, arrogance and oh, that lovely line about being the one in charge because “I’m clever.”

    I almost felt that was a self-reference for RTD…because it made me twinge so much. I’m clever, too. And I wrestle with that tendency to just be the one who decides everything because I usually get the answers first…because…as this episode clearly demonstrates…you might get the answer first and still have the wrong answer. As the Doctor…despite being clearly clever and mostly right…certainly does here.

  2. kliska

    Greetings! Yes, I’m everywhere these days! I too felt this episode was an interesting twist on The Doctor’s cleverness, and was having a good chuckle at the other passengers’ reactions to his pronouncement.

    I tend to be more reticent to take the lead, [Doctor]despite my obvious cleverness[/Doctor], and tend to play the watcher a bit more, until either the situation or the conversation gets a bit out of hand…I just found his lack of answers refreshing for the character, and was terrified right along with him as everyone turned on him, and then when he was frozen to the spot (which really does speak to Tennant’s wonderful acting). What was he thinking when he asked, in paraphrase, “Which of you could actually chuck her out the airlock?” The more pertinent question might have been, “Which one of you would…”

  3. Melinda Harper

    “Which of you could actually chuck her out the airlock?” immediately reminded me of “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.”

    Otherwise, just because murder solved the basic problem when it was finally carried out, does not prove that it was in any way “the right thing to do.”

    I’m not certain that is what I would want to take away from this: if you are trapped somewhere and frightened that a bogeyman — be it ghost, alien or demon — is trying to get you, and then some person irritates you with a childish game, it becomes your prerogative to murder them.

    I believe that I would gladly perish before taking another’s life out of petty fear. I am also fairly certain I command the mettle to stand out against an angry or frightened mob intent on murder.

    Until I saw this episode, I felt like average Western Culture had finally elevated itself beyond the virtually unanimous display made by these passengers. This narrative shook that confidence in me. The position taken by your article and then Rabid1st’s comment take me all the way back to square one.

    Linny^

  4. Kliska

    But you see, there are two sides to the coin, and that is precisely what I was getting at. I don’t think the story came out the way RTD had intended it to be. I don’t support the idea that chucking her out was the actual right thing to do, no indeed. But, the way RTD structured the story and the way he concluded it lent itself in some ways to that interpretation, IMO. Did he mean it to? I don’t think so, I think it was a flaw in the story’s structure.

    Do I think average people would react the way RTD portrayed the passengers? Undoubtedly. As someone who holds a Masters in psychology, I know it happens. Fear feeds off of fear; you get fear spreading like a fire and it’s hard to stop it.

    From another POV, Christians are called to calm, and that is something I think all my fellow believers should understand, and even dwell on. If ever faced with such a circumstance (not sci-fi but a real life danger), it should be approached with calm, not fear. Easy to say, hard to do.

    It’s odd to me that you would label what the the alien being was doing as something that was a mere irritation…that’s the creepiness of it; it wasn’t mere irritation, and the more the people, including the Doctor caught on, the more panicked they became. What was more astounding was the fact that no one tried to rally the people into just shutting up.

    Could you stand up to an angry, murderous mob? Could I? “Would we?” is perhaps a better question. We’d both like to think so I’d imagine, and I’d pray that I could, but until we are faced with the situation, I can only pray that the Lord would give us the strength if we need it; and also not to lead us into temptation.

    The whole conversation reminds me of one of my favorite quotes from the movie “Men in Black;”

    Jay: Why the big secret? People are smart. They can handle it.

    Kay: A person is smart. People are dumb, panicky dangerous animals and you know it.

  5. Melinda Harper

    I wrote a modified version of this episode entirely sans-scifi (since some people won’t tread sci fi to discuss philosophy) and posted it on Yahoo Answers, asking what people think they would do:
    http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index;_ylt=ApF_uAEv1WQqBKW2BzCYr8Xty6IX;_ylv=3?qid=20080804201440AAUscFE

    and I’m glad to hear that, at least from the rationality of your couch, everyone is against murder ^_~

    As for Russel’s planning, keep in mind this lead in to his 2-part season ending: Davros called The Doctor to think back on the effect he has had on those around him. While The Doctor preaches love and peace, others sacrifice themselves (often against his wishes or advice) and end up saving his very hide, as well as others. That leads to an interesting moral puzzle in itself.

    Your quote leads directly in to MY favorite Men In Black quote:

    Kay: 1500 years ago, we knew that the Earth was the center of the universe. 500 years ago, we KNEW that the Earth was flat. And — up until 15 minutes ago — you knew that we were alone on this planet.

    Imagine what you will “know” tomorrow. ^_^

    Linny^

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