"Baaaah! Taking a big space truck with a bunch of strangers across a diamond planet called Midnight. What could possibly go wrong?"This is about the time every season since Doctor Who revived its run that we get "filler" episodes before the big multi-part finale. Sometimes they go well (last year's "Blink" which was written by Steven Moffat, who has received exceptional praise for the two-part story of the previous weeks) and sometimes they don't go well at all (cough-cough "Fear Her" and "Love & Monsters" cough-cough). This year it chimes at "Midnight".
Essentially a one-scene play apart from the bookends, the eponymous planet of "Midnight" is an interesting world: the entire surface is crystal, and the star it orbits puts out enough light to flash-fry exposed flesh. But none of this has stopped a thriving resort from being set up on Midnight's surface. While Donna gets in some sunbathing beneath 15-foot thick glass windows, the Doctor joins a four-hour bus excursion to see something called the Sapphire Waterfall. But it would have been a very boring episode if that's all that the plot entailed: naturally, things go wrong.
"Midnight" has some notable curiosities to it. This is the first Doctor Who story since 1975's "Genesis of the Daleks" that does not feature an appearance by the TARDIS. It is also the first since "The Deadly Assassin" that puts the Doctor in a story without benefit of any companion. And David Troughton, who plays Professor Hobbes in the episode, is the son of Patrick Troughton who played the Second Doctor from 1966 to 1969.
It's a fairly good episode, although it may not have as solid a resolution as most fans of Doctor Who would come to expect. Toward the end it begins to drag a bit. The mood of "Midnight" is one of claustrophobic paranoia: something that seems somewhat at odds with the usual tone of Doctor Who. Between the setting and the group of strangers who band together to survive, I was reminded of the movie Pitch Black and also The Horror at 37,000 Feet, an early-70s made-for-TV schlock-fest starring William Shatner. But coming right after "Silence in the Library"/"Forest of the Dead", it would be hard for any episode to rise to the occasion. I think in that respect, "Midnight" holds its own pretty well.
I'll give it 3 Sonic Screwdrivers out of 5.
Next week: Rose returns! It's "Turn Left" and we'll see if I can get a review of it up sooner than I've managed lately :-)