Strangers on a Truck


 ”Understand the procedure now? Just stop a few of their machines, their telephones, their lawnmowers, throw them into darkness for a few hours, and then sit back and watch the pattern.”
-The Twilight Zone, ‘The Monsters Are Due On Maple Street’

Just when we thought RTD would be bringing us another lightweight, earnest little tale with a bonkers futuristic setting, a comedy sequence in the middle and a heartwarming message at the end, along comes Midnight, a curious little number, and quite an effective one.

You may think that many ingredients have gone into this pudding – Hitchcock’s Lifeboat? Possibly. The Twlilight Zoneepisode referenced above? Maybe. Some jealousy at The Moff getting the best writer award again? It’s tempting to see it that way, and interesting given the stories’ juxtaposition and the general geopolitics of Who‘s future nowadays (oh, an add a recent OBE to the mix for good measure). But it’s possible none of these were in Rusty’s head the day he put pen to paper and wrote The Version Of Voyage Of The Damned We Wish We’d Had Instead. 

The story has to be seen not just as an improvement of 2007′s tinsel lint, but also a step up from the story’s setting’s near cousin – Davies’ New Earth stories. Several elements are there – inhospitable environment? Check. Post-dual gender relationship? Present. Focus on the mundane (e.g. traffic, hospitals, tour buses) as a form of future entrapment as much as the present? Why hello again. From the outset you’d almost expect to see a Cat Nun gliding along in the background during the book-ending Donna scenes, but no. Midnight‘s different, and better. Mainly because it consciously uses less.

One of the biggest assets this story has is the casual dropping of the expository element. The Doctor’s fellow travellers are drawn vaguely, but for a change we know all we need to know early on. True, David Troughton’s academic gives us some filler info, but it’s not intrusive, and it’s grimly reassuring that at the end of the story, he’s just as fallible and unreliable as any other human on board. Crucially so; Davies’ point seems to be that no matter how good or clever or ordinary we may think we are, we’ll surely all go to pieces very quickly under the easiest influence. Even the Doctor isn’t immune; rendered impotent and speechless, he is almost literally dragged to his death. It’s only the resourceful memory of an altrusitic hostess (er, check?) that saves his life, and the day.

Good story then. Spooky, sure. Dramatic – yep, and well acted to boot. But if Moffat’s preceding story marked a change in the Doctor’s life then Midnightis no less intriguing for the change in storytelling RTD employs – using less, drawing on more. Molto Belle.


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