Midnight

DVD NTSC
Region 1
14-episode
box set

DVD PAL
Region 2
14-episode
box set
DVD PAL
Region 2
3-episode volume
(Doctor Who Story No. 201, starring David Tennant)
  • written by Russell T. Davies
  • directed by Alice Troughton
  • produced by Phil Collinson
  • music by Murray Gold
  • 1 episode @ 44 minutes
Story: The Doctor's excursion to see the sapphire falls on the planet Midnight goes awry when the transport car takes a new route and runs across a force no humanoid has ever encountered before. What form of life can possibly survive outside in the extonic rays of the crystal planet's sun? And why has one passenger started repeating everything that everyone else says?

DVD Extras (box sets only) include:

  • Audio commentary by director Alice Troughton, actor David Tennant (The Doctor), and writer Russell T. Davies.
  • Doctor Who Confidential featurette: Look Who's Talking (13 min.) with Davies, Tennant, David Troughton (Professor Hobbes),
    Lesley Sharp (Sky Silvestry), sound effects editor Paul Jefferies, dubbing mixer Tim Ricketts, sound editor Paul McFadden, and others...
  • Trailers & Promos

In-Depth Analysis Review

by Martin Izsak

WARNING: This review contains "SPOILERS", and is intended for those who have already seen the program.
To avoid the spoilers, read the Buyers' Guide version instead.


I nearly fell off my chair when I saw the opening shot of this story. Not just because it was one of the awesomely beautiful expensive ones crammed into the opening few minutes of the story. And not just because it clearly defined that we were on one of the alien planet settings that I prefer to see outnumbering the Earthly ones. Mostly it was because the production team for the new Millennium were actually giving us the second story in a row that did not take place on Earth. Whoa, that's a huge first for them. Bravo! That makes four stories so far this season outside of Earth orbit. Finally starting to home in on the Graham Williams ideal for the show's settings which I heartily approve of. Well done.

But, we shouldn't get too excited too fast. This show is the budget-crunching cheapie for the season. While at least using the solid backbone of the who-do-you-trust bottle story defense-against-the-unknown plotline, the action becomes a little TOO confined to make the formula work, and at no point really gives any member of the cast anything effective or constructive to do.


If I may draw your attention for a moment to Exhibit "A" - the science fiction series "Space: 1999", which ran for two seasons starting in 1976. In a ranking by TV critics and sci-fi fans for John Javna's 1987 book "The Best of Science Fiction TV", where both Doctor Who and original Star Trek placed within the top 5 sci-fi shows of all time, "Space: 1999" was voted the worst sci-fi show of all time, while its exquisite model work and lavish production design helped keep it on the air and make it noticeable enough to receive as many votes for worst show as it did. The show's chief failing, as I see it, was in its choice for main characters, all thrust week after week into situations that none of them were the slightest bit capable of either understanding or dealing with proactively. They were never the keen explorers skilled at encountering the unknown that sci-fi needs to thrive on. They were desperate every week. As critic David Schow described it: "Nothing made any sense. ... The characters were basically running around like rats in a box, and I got tired of waiting for them to start gnawing on each other."

Now we come to this story where Russell T. Davies basically makes a high ranking series like Doctor Who feel like it's turned into "Space: 1999". The story's bottle is full of characters without real skills to understand or deal with the unknown, and like the rats in a box, they start gnawing on each other before long. The Doctor is usually expert at blasting past such foolishness and dealing with the heart of the matter at hand, but all this is deliberately stripped away from him by Davies, until he is powerless to salvage quality interaction amongst the story's characters.

Now to be fair, this is partly a story point, thus limiting itself to the bulk of this episode until said point is well made, unlike the endless inability of "Space: 1999" to figure out how to rise above it to deliver quality science fiction. This tale is also expertly acted and directed to keep you glued to your screen wanting to see how it all turns out, and what exactly is behind it all. I just don't find this story point to be interesting or noble enough to sustain the main plot of 45 minutes of television, at least not if it wants to earn decent ranking within the season.

What is more interesting, and remains one of the story's successes, is the psychological mystery of what the enemy force is, something perhaps intangible enough to survive the deadly extonic rays outside, something that possibly evolved on a world of crystalline life forms, where each segment patterns itself based on the segment adjacent to it, until patterns form in both structure and resonant thought waves.... So despite the very weird humanoid character dynamics we get, the setting and the words describing the setting go a long way to supporting the concept scientifically and dramatically. It's just too bad more time, possibly nearer the end of the story, couldn't have been spent properly exploring this idea on screen, instead of descending into anti-heroic, unfocused retardation. The crystalline parallels to the copying phenomenon no doubt escape the bulk of viewers in the finished product. It's enough to make one envy the exploration of crystalline life in "The Krotons" (story no. 47 - one of the few complete Patrick Troughton tales, and slightly underrated in my opinion). Seriously.


Murray Gold scores this episode appropriately, and apparently had a lot of fun with it. While the music definitely works, the story hasn't given it a great deal of emotional range to try to target, so it winds up spending almost all its time building tension and suspense. It's a bit too much of a one-note experience for me to rave over it, but its unique sound seems to have made it useful enough that bits of it appear in many other late season 30 stories as well.
Music by Murray Gold
"Midnight" (suite of 3:07 duration)
and "Davros" are available on:
Audio CD - Doctor Who:
Original Music from "Series 4" (2008)

More info & buying options


Externally, I find a disappointing similarity in the look of the antagonist of this piece to the look of the antagonist in Davies' last story, "Partners in Crime". I think we returned too quickly to the tall blonde middle-aged executive-class British woman, making me wonder if Davies doesn't tip-toe around male villains a bit too cautiously.

And sadly, this is not a story where the climactic final act by the protagonists is something that the Doctor does himself, nor is it something to be proud of. Not Doctor Who's finest hour by any stretch of the imagination.

It is also worth noting that this story continues the recent trend of leaving out any and all materializations of the police box - in fact the TARDIS does not appear anywhere in this story in any capacity. Thankfully, the story is so focused on its own areas of interest, that one doesn't miss the TARDIS in this adventure. We know it's done its job in terms of taking our main characters to a fascinating new place in the galaxy and broadened their horizons, and that's enough. But it does make it more important that materialization be taken better care of in those prior stories that do need it: "Silence in the Library", "The Doctor's Daughter", "The Unicorn and the Wasp", "Planet of the Ood".... and on and on to include most of David Tennant's era in fact.

And it is also worth noting that this episode shatters a very long-held record on Doctor Who - that of the longest continuous scene. That record was held by "The Edge of Destruction" (story no. 3), whose second episode "The Brink of Disaster" began in the TARDIS console room and stayed there for 18 and a half dramatic minutes. "Midnight" now begins a scene after the Doctor comes back from the driver's cabin and stays in the passenger's room with him for 29 minutes and 13 seconds. That's longer than most entire episodes of the classic series. Mind you, in 1963 when "The Edge of Destruction" was made, they would do 18 minutes all in one take, and not spend two weeks shooting it as was the case here. "The Brink of Disaster" probably still holds a record in that regard.

Nicely, most of the mysteries brought up in this story are never definitively answered, art now leaving room for the ideas of the audience to fill in the blanks. Good show. It's just too bad the exploration of the concepts got pushed so far under the rabid displays of bad character.


Well, this story is good enough to beat "Partners in Crime" and "The Unicorn and the Wasp" (story no. 199) in the season rankings.... and that's about it. There are reasons why Doctor Who follows certain formulae, and this tale bravely deviated in ways that don't particularly work better.



This story has become available on DVD.
Click on the Amazon symbol for the location nearest you for pricing and availability:

DVD NTSC Region 1
14-episode boxed set
for the North American market:
in the U.S.
in Canada
DVD PAL Region 2
14-episode boxed set
for the U.K.
DVD PAL Region 2
3-episode volume
U.K. format only

Note: The full season sets contain commentaries, behind-the-scenes featurettes, and other extras. The smaller volumes only feature the plain episodes.


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Read the In-depth Analysis Review for the next story: "Turn Left"



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