Saturday, June 14, 2008

Doctor Who Discussion notes: 'Midnight'

For the first time this series I got to watch a Dr Who episode when it was broadcast. This week was 'Midnight', a holding operation before the return of Rose, and probably the Daleks.

Last week there was a lot about death, and in what way we're able to live on after death, using technology as a way into some big questions. This week it was all about human nature.

So if you've split coffee on your John Stott notes, watch the 45 mins on Iplayer and discuss it. Plot summary and a few sample questions below...

Plot summary (warning: spoilers). The Doctor and a small group are travelling on a tour around the planet 'Midnight', which is very beautiful, but completely lifeless because of the toxic rays of its sun. The ship stalls, in the middle of nowhere, and whilst they are waiting for a backup ship to collect them, something starts knocking on the hull.

Next thing you know, one of the passengers, Sky, has been taken over by something (we never see what it is), and she starts to repeat everything that people are saying, copying words, inflexion, body movements. The 'creature' develops, until it is saying people's words at the same time, and then before folk actually say them. The other thing that develops is paranoia, as the other passengers (whipped up particularly by Lindsay Coulsons mother figure), become more and more frightened, and agree first to throw Sky off the ship to certain death (though she hasn't harmed anyone), and then the Doctor because he is too sympathetic.

Soon the creature begins to control the Doctor as well, and the passengers start to drag him towards the exit. The officious stewardess suddenly realises that the Doctor has been right, and takes herself and Sky out of one of the exits, sacrificing herself to save the others. The Doctor comes back to his senses, and everyone else realises they nearly killed an innocent man. He asks if anyone knew the stewardess's name, and nobody (not even the man who'd done the trip 14 times before) knows it. (nod to the Shawshank Redemption here?) Lots of awkward silences.

It's a bit 'Lord of the Flies', what happens when mob hysteria takes over in a confined space, and turns a group of normal people into (almost) murderers.

- What does it take to turn normal people into murderers? It happens - Rwanda, Germany, etc.
- The mother figure doesn't try to drag the Doctor overboard, but incites the others to do so. What voices in society, or our own circle of friends and family, are the ones loading bullets for others to fire?
- Standing with others is risky - the Doctor is nearly killed for trying to protect Sky, even when he doesn't know if she's benign or evil. Who are the people we're afraid to stand up for? What have we suffered for defending the victimised?
- The Doctor openly states that he's the cleverest person on the ship. Is this vanity, or just truthful?
- The other passengers are quick to take offence at the Doctors words: how does this affect their conversation? Could they have responded differently? What else could they have said?

- If the episode shows us as we really are, then we clearly need protecting from ourselves. a) Is this how the Bible sees it? b) In the light of this, are government plans for ID cards and extra detention a good thing? Or are institutions even more dangerous than individuals?


  1. The episode doesn't say a thing about how people really are. It describes how one writer thinks people are. Somehow someone repeating what people say doesn't seem like the type of thing that would incite them to panic.

  2. Fear can make people do funny things, sure there's a lot of clever camerawork and directing to rack up the tension, and it moves so quickly you need a pause button to stop and ask what's actually going on.

    History tells us that normal people are capable of turning on their neighbours, given the right climate of fear and a bit of encouragement from the cheerleaders of hate. Maybe the episode stretches it a bit, but I've come across plenty of stirrers (the mother), and folk who've gone with the flow of something bad even when they weren't sure about it (the son), never mind the other character sketches on show. There's plenty to discuss, even if you don't buy the plot developments.