“It’s midnight in the library”

The Doctor was standing on top of a balcony, overlooking a vast metropolis of futuristic-looking buildings that sat beneath a vanilla sky. It could have been anywhere in the universe, but he had Donna Noble with him, which would make it 2008 in real time (2009 in the Whoniverse, but we won’t get into that now). It was eerily quiet.

“You know what?” said the Doctor, after a moment. “This is the biggest library in the universe. So where is everyone? It’s silent.”

Thomas, sitting next to me on the sofa, said “Maybe it’s closed…”

For Thomas, this is a pretty sharp observation. It’s also astute political commentary, not only given the problems we’re having in this country but also coming the same day that a friend of mine informed me of a stunt to save a library in Michigan by staging a book-burning. (Make sure you watch the whole thing. The techniques used therein are somewhat underhand, but it worked, and it is nice to see the Tea Party get a kick up the backside occasionally.)

But I don’t do politics, at least not on this blog. Instead we watched an hour and a half of the Vashta Nerada (which, I’ve just Googled, can be rearranged to form ‘H: Data Save Ran’, which kind of fits with the episode. It has Alex Kingston before she became smug and irritating. It has Miss Evangelista, who gets processed and winds up looking like this:

Which freaked out Joshua no end. It has the usual Moffat preoccupation with interesting-scenes-delivered-through-technology, partly when Cal is speaking with the Doctor through the TV screen, and used to its greatest extent here:
——

MISS EVANGELISTA: Hello? Are you there?

Donna shakes her head in horror.

DOCTOR (whispering): Help her.

DONNA: She’s dead.

DOCTOR: Yeah. Help her.

MISS EVANGELISTA: Hello? Is that the nice woman?

DONNA: Yeah. Hello. Yeah, I’m, I’m… I’m here. You OK?

MISS EVANGELISTA: What I said before, about being stupid. Don’t tell the others, they’ll only laugh.

DONNA: Course I won’t. Course I won’t tell them.

MISS EVANGELISTA: Don’t tell the others, they’ll only laugh…

DONNA: I won’t tell them. I said I won’t.

MISS EVANGELISTA: Don’t tell the others, they’ll only laugh.

DONNA: I’m not going to tell them.

The lights of the neural relay are now blinking.

MISS EVANGELISTA: Don’t tell the others, they’ll only laugh.

RIVER: She’s looping now. The pattern’s degrading.

MISS EVANGELISTA: I can’t think, I…don’t know, I… I… I… Ice cream. Ice cream. Ice cream. Ice cream.

She keeps repeating those words.

RIVER: Does anybody mind if I…?

She steps to the skeleton and turns off the relay.

DONNA: That was… that was horrible. That was the most horrible thing I’ve ever seen.
——

I maintain – even four years later – that this is the best scene Moffat’s written for the show, and the Doctor’s hardly in it at all.

So we watched the Doctor snap open the TARDIS doors, and River making kinky jokes about handcuffs (sadly marking, even at this early stage, the beginning of her decline into a sex-obsessed harpy) and another of Moffat’s Villains That Talk Without Moving Their Mouths:

In fairness, the Empty Child was probably speaking behind the mask. And in fairness, Moffat didn’t come up with the Ood, or the Host, or the Cybermen, for that matter, but you can see what I mean. I do love them, because they’re frightfully easy to dub, but they have become a bit of a Thing.

Anyway, the ‘next time’ trailer was for this:

As I recall this episode polarised people, but I confess I’ve always liked it. I always felt it would work well on stage: it has that kind of claustrophobic, dialogue driven compressed violence that is so common in theatre. The characterisation is reasonably strong for a forty-minute science fiction drama, and it’s nice to see the Doctor apparently facing genuine jeopardy for a change without having a companion on hand to save him.

The point of the teaser is just that – to tease – to the extent that the reveal only happens at the very end, if it happens at all. And of course, in ‘Midnight’, there’s nothing to reveal. Inevitably, this disappointed Joshua.

“Oh, but we didn’t see the monster.”
“No, we didn’t.”
“But what is it?”
“Spoilers, sweetie.”
“Please tell me.”
“You’ll have to wait.”
“But please.”
“Oh, all right,” I said, squatting on the floor and pressing the DVD back into its case. “I’ll tell you: I don’t know.”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean I don’t know. We never really find out.”
“So we don’t see it at all?”
“…Not really, no.”
“Why not?”
“Because the writers thought it would be more fun that way.”
“Oh,” he said, confused.
“Come on. Time to sleep,” I said, leading them both down the corridor.
“Daddy, wait. Just stop. Turn around.”
“Why?”
“Just do it. Oh, phew. Only one shadow.”
“See, I was right there with that. It was going to be my next joke, and you got there first. Now: into bed,” I said, entering the darkened room. Before adding “Hey! Who turned out the lights!”
“Daddy, stop it.”

He didn’t go to sleep until gone ten. I am bowed down by guilt.

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Categories: New Who | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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2 thoughts on ““It’s midnight in the library”

  1. They have done Midnight for the stage in Manchester, at the Loss O’Gowrie, where RTD gave his blessing and they had to edit out (or change the name) the Doctor for BBC copyright reasons. Next week the same people are “adapting” the classic Robots of Death.

    http://www.greatermanchesterfringe.co.uk/index.php?option=com_community&view=events&task=viewevent&eventid=12&Itemid=115

    And did you know that Miss Evangelista is really Mrs Paypal and is probably loaded, and I see just divorced, so an eligible woman about town.

    • reverend61

      I didn’t know that. I’m happily married, but if I weren’t…

      One thing I never worked out about that episode was whether the dead people she encountered in the mainframe after uploading were consciousness imprints in the same way that the data ghosts were, or simply recreations from Cal’s memory. Or is there a difference? (I mean, it’s not River in there. It’s a copy. Red Dwarf all over again.)

      Midnight for the stage sounds good. Robots of Death is your classic whodunnit (no pun intended) so I could see that working. It’s (almost) next on our to watch list, right after The Deadly Assassin…

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