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    Thursday, 19 June 2008

    Midnight Redux

    Upon reflection, I have realised that there was something that didn't sit well with me in last week's Doctor Who episode, 'Midnight'. The ending.

    The episode's villain psychically takes control of the Doctor's mind. From what we know of the Doctor via previous experience and from what we can see on Tennant's very expressive face, I think the audience is meant to assume that the Doctor is fighting a battle against this being in his mind, giving everything he's got.

    Showrunner and writer Russel T. Davies has made quite a point of the Doctor's own psychic abilities over the last few seasons. He has shown the Doctor using his mental abilities to unlock another person's memories ('Girl in the Fireplace') and to awaken new senses (allowing Donna to hear the Oodsong in 'Planet of the Ood'). He has even shown the Doctor using psychic power to levitate, project force fields, telekinetically disarm the Master and so on ('Last of the Time Lords'), albeit with the help of the entire human race.

    Given all of this, and always remembering that the Doctor is (within his mythology) possibly the most resourceful and determined being in the universe, it seems very strange that the episode should end NOT with the Doctor winning the psychic battle but rather, with the unnamed Hostess valiantly sacrificing herself for the good of a group of people who she didn't know and who treated her with no care or compassion whatsoever.

    Obviously, this ending was chosen simply because it provided a cheap and dirty way of pulling at our heart strings. It might have worked if not for River's sacrifice the week before, which was one hundred times more emotive, largely because it was realistic to (what we know of) that character.

    The Doctor loves life and he doesn't kill... unless he really, really needs to. How much more interesting this episode might have been if RTD had shown the Doctor reversing the psychic control at the last moment and forcing the entity out of the "truck" NOT because it had necessarily been unrelentingly evil but out of a need for self-preservation. How much more might the ending have resonated with audience if we'd been left with the image of the Doctor alive but shaken to the core by the experience, questioning his morals?

    This ending would also have heightened the dramatic irony of the episode significantly as it would have strongly juxtaposed the Doctor's earlier moralising about their rising hostility to a new life form. It also would have provided the perfect opportunity for another "I'm sorry. I'm so sorry" moment for the Doctor.

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