Doctor Who 4.9 and 4.10: Forest of the Dead and Midnight

There are lots of spoilers for both episodes below, so they’re kindly hidden from innocent eyes beneath a cut.

Forest of the Dead

I think everyone has already covered everything about this episode over the last week, so I will just say that I thought it was an excellent episode. It didn’t go where I thought it would, you had to pay attention because the different plot threads had hints and moments throughout, and everyone pulled out everything they had. Just great.

Midnight

I wasn’t expecting much from this episode, I have to admit. I don’t know why – perhaps it was that Donna was hardly there? – but I’d expected this to be one of those filler episodes before the big meaty one starts.

For the first ten minutes I thought that I was right. It was light and fluffy and a little silly. It was going to be Doctor Who-lite.

And then the bangs outside the truck started and it turned into a tense, unnerving episode that played with psychology and fears and everything else. It was a bottle episode with all the drama coming from the characters and their reaction to the situation. Not one hint of gore or scary aliens, no prosthetics, no CGI except for the beautiful background snap-shots we had of the planet.

In short, everything came from the acting and the writing and it was all excellent. David Tennant had some fine moments, showing us the Doctor’s vulnerability when he doesn’t know what’s happened and demonstrating how much people usually believe in him and trust him when he takes charge. It was the distrust and the fear that the passengers had of this man who seemed to know more than he should that made a huge contrast to the usual way of things. At the end of the day he’s one man with no weapons and only the force of his personality holding things together.

The other passengers were also interesting. Most of them did fit firmly into the cliche stereotypes you put into this kind of episode, but they worked and I actually cared about them even when they were plotting how to kill the Doctor and Sky (sp?).

I have to mention just how creepy the alien possession was. Bad enough that everyone is arguing and ready to tear each other apart to save their skins, to have that thing repeating everything and then echoing just made the cacophony of noise that little bit scarier. And then to see her steal the Doctor’s voice, essentially rendering him helpless, it was the perfect touch.

The bit that really surprised me was how abruptly it ended. I didn’t expect the Hostess to be the hero and I was waiting for the other shoe to drop for the rest of the episode. It didn’t. We just saw the emptiness in those survivors, the shattered expressions of people who nearly did something truly horrific and know it.

The Doctor connecting with Donna at the end was just right and gave us a moment to see how Donna has grown. She would have continued teasing him at the start of the season, instead she stopped when the Doctor asked and sat quietly while he talked.

I hadn’t consciously spotted any of the repeating themes in the last few episodes, but this time I couldn’t miss the reference to the Medusa Cascade. I also spotted a reference to a lost moon, possibly an echo of the lost planets of the earlier episodes.

And yes, I did spot Rose calling for the Doctor in the view screen. My mum actually shouted at the Doctor to turn around at that point 🙂

I guess that over the next couple of episodes we’ll start seeing how all these themes add together. Part of me can’t wait to see what it all means, but another part of me is very sad at the idea that we only have three weeks left and, worst of all, no full season next year. I am determined to enjoy DW to the full for the remaining episodes because it really is one of the best things on TV at the moment.

2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Cristina
    Jun 16, 2008 @ 09:29:29

    I got the impression “Midnight” was an episode with a low budget. And I think I love Dr Who’s low budget episodes. “Blink” was done with the least money of the entire new series, and it terrorised me.
    I’m all for the psychological terror, when it’s inside you or just next to you, and there is nothing you can do, because you don’t even know what is going on.

    I am looking forward to the season finale. I am looking forward to see Rose again! As for next year not having any, that will mean I will not actually watch any TV. At least I know that nothing will happen to the Doctor, as otherwise there wouldn’t be a year break!

    Reply

  2. archerygirl
    Jun 22, 2008 @ 15:23:02

    “Blink” was done with the least money of the entire new series, and it terrorised me.

    “Blink” is one of my favourite episodes because it was so scary. It was such a simple idea that relied entirely on your imagination and it worked so well.

    Perhaps the low budget episodes work so well because the writers have to focus on a tight, well-written episode? They won’t have whizz-bang effects to distract the audience with so the writing really does have to carry the episode.

    Next year not having any DW apart from the specials has it’s good and bad sides. I’m hoping that everyone will return thoroughly refreshed and Steven Moffat’s S5 will be absolutely amazing 🙂

    Reply

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