Mental Flotsam, Mental Jetsam

Because the only thing that beats going crazy is going crazy with somebody else

Monday, June 16, 2008

Catchin' the Midnight Train to HELL

***Doctor Who Spoilers below. Y'all have been warned.***

This past Saturday's episode, Midnight, was one of the scariest, most chilling installments in the popular British scifi show for some time. At the end of it, the good Doctor was left reeling. No smile on his face, no witty rejoinder on his lips. He'd been struck to his core, and with good reason. The Doctor was wrong.

It practically never happens. Dr. Holier-Than-Thou usually has little difficulty in remaining superior to the humans he so diligently shepherds but in this instance, he was 100% dead wrong. (Think I'm wrong about the religious complex? The Doctor has been worshipped as a divine savior twice this season.)

At 900+ years of age, his experience and savvy almost always win the day. But not for the first time this season, the Doctor was powerless to do anything about the forces of evil-- or in this case, a bloody terrifying mimic.

The Doctor has not always been the best of protagonists. His intentions are certainly honorable enough. On several occasions he's been ready to lay down his life to catalyze the happy ending, only to have someone else jump in and save him the trouble. A girlfriend from the future, a sociopathic brat with a sudden attack of conscience; even his own daughter. One of the best episodes of last season, Blink, hardly featured him at all. His interaction with the real hero boiled down to this: "I'm buggered something serious, come and rescue me."

In times past, the Doctor has been charismatic, enigmatic and admittedly a coward in the face of real danger; his modus operandi has been to run away until he could come up with a plan which has always involved talking his way through the crisis with villains who had little reason not to ex-ter-mi-nate him. (Granted, if they did, there'd be no show.) But that didn't stop him from facing the challenge of his life in Midnight.

The Doctor was stranded in the middle of nowhere on a deadly planet with no Companion, no TARDIS and certainly no friends. His only company was a group of tourists who had zero tolerance for the kind of freaky $#!t that the Doctor faced on a weekly basis.

Week after week, the Doctor's steadfast belief in doing the right thing and talking things through has either saved the day or (often as not) inspired someone else to do it for him.

After an incident kills two crewmates, a passenger is possessed by a sort of living echo that gradually builds in power until it eclipses the Doctor's ability to talk at all. He's left in the thrall of a chilling, hungry-eyed creature that could swallow his personality whole; if the background music is any indication of his fate.

Trapped in a cramped mini-bus in a stew of growing paranoia, talking was the last thing he should have done. His noble efforts to communicate with Ms. Echo only made her stronger, to the point that she took him over. The terror in his eyes was as much a tribute to David Tennant's acting as it was to the Doctor's shortcomings.

Prior to the climax, the human beings with whom he was trapped had reached the conclusion that the possessed woman should be thrown out of the vehicle; a move that would have killed her and solved their problems. The Doctor objected and played right into Ms. Echo's hands. The panicking humans were ready to throw him to his doom after Ms. Echo cleverly pretended to recover as he got worse. Only two women unafraid to think for themselves were able to save him-- by throwing Ms. Echo out first.

The brutal act-first-and-feel-guilty-later mentality that he railed so strongly against ended up saving his life. What was his reaction? What did the Doctor say after the crisis had passed?

Nothing. He screwed up and he knew it. Someone was doomed the moment Ms. Echo was possessed. And the kicker? Only a Time Lord would have indulged her to the point that she could gain power.

If it had been a Dalek, or a Sontaran or any of a number of other, harsher species (humans included); they'd have discovered something was wrong and eliminated the threat with swift action. Pacifism flatly failed. The Doctor knew it, and was crushed.

Score one for us dumb humans.


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