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22 February 2015

Will Brooks’ 50 Year Diary - watching Doctor Who one episode a day from the very start...

Day 783: Midnight

Dear diary,

It's a sign of just how far Doctor Who had come by this point in the revival that they feel confident in producing something as… experimental as Midnight, to air on BBC One prime time on a Saturday evening. It's about as far away from Daleks and Cybermen, or anything else you might expect from the programme at this point, as it's possible to get.

And you know what? It's great. It feels really nice to dip out of the usual pattern and do something a bit different with the Doctor, and it lets us see this particular incarnation in a new situation - the Doctor who's perhaps most reliant on his words as his only weapon (as recently exemplified by stories like The Doctor's Daughter) having his words removed, and being left defenceless.

It also serves as a nice counter-weight to Voyage of the Damned back at the start of this season. There, a group of 'humans' thrown together by circumstance pull together for the good of all, standing tall in the face of danger (even if they might not always agree), and making sure that as many people as possible can come through. Midnight on the other hand shows a different side to 'human' nature - with the group turning in on itself, and coming desperately close to committing murder. There's some beautifully observed moments in here along the lines of examining human nature, perhaps none more than Val's comment right at the end;

VAL

I said it was her.

I almost wonder if the script is partly so strong because it gives Russell T Davies the change to write about something real again, having spent the last few years having to write about Judoon on the Moon, and the last of the Daleks, and the Cybermen pushing across from a parallel universe. Taking any kind of recognisable creature out of the equation for this episode means that we have to really focus on the very true interaction between the characters, and although that's something that Davies often writes into scripts, here it feels like it's being given a whole host of extra weight.

You can't discuss Midnight without passing some comment about the sheer skill that has gone into producing it. For a story almost all filmed on a single set with a small core cast, I'd not be surprised if this was the most technically challenging episode that the production team had tackled up to this point. About halfway through, I decided to plug in a set of headphones so I could really appreciate the skill that's gone into making this one work, and I don't think I've ever really appreciated before just how good it is. Even when Sky and the creature aren't the absolute centre of attention, you can still hear the repetition going on in the background, and it's somehow eerie and beautiful at the same time… but it must have been a nightmare to get right!

For the first time in absolutely ages, I’ve watched today’s episode twice - not because I wanted to follow the story again as such, but because I wanted to hear the commentary. Almost every episode of the Russell T Davies era has two commentaries for each episode - the one on the DVDs, and the ones still available on the BBC website as ‘clips’ for each episode. The online commentary for Midnight features Julian Howarth (Sound Recordist), Paul McFadden (Supervising Sound Editor) and Bryn Thomas (Boom Operator), and it feels only right that the sound team get to take the spotlight on this episode, and you really get a sense for how much effort everyone put in to make this episode the best it could possibly be. If anything, it makes me respect the episode even more!

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