Sunday, June 22, 2008

You took the words right out of my mouth

Must have been while you were stealing my voice, you freaky alien parasite, you.

Better late than never - my thoughts on Midnight. Review of Turn Left to follow later.

It's easy to complain (as more than enough people already do) that modern telly, and notably modern Who, is too reliant on expensive computer effects. As if you could pull off a series of modern Who without recourse to any kind of CGI. But here's an episode that comes probably as close as it can - naturally there is still CGI, there's still a flying harness shot, there's still an explosion, but the showpiece special effect is the acting. It's like some kind of experiment in restaging classic SF TV in a modern environment, except that where The Quatermass Experiment failed miserably, Midnight succeeds, and the reason is undoubtedly the work that's been put in by the actors and by the crew pushing the actors.

You could easily imagine this as a radio play, what with the central gimmick being purely vocal. Go on, imagine it now. It's the 1950s, and now on the BBC Home Service - not for those of a nervous disposition - is Charles Chilton's new science fiction drama... Except that Charles Chilton would have spent a good long while examining the voice-stealing creature's motives before wrapping up with some sort of moral message.

And that's where Midnight falls short - no explanation. Where did the creature come from? What does it plan to do, beyond take over Sky Silvestry's body and escape? How did it survive in a supposedly uninhabitable environment? There are no answers. (Admittedly there is a moral, which can probably best be summed up as "Daily Mail readers are evil".) Now, a bit of mystery's fine, but with no explanation at all - no story to speak of - all you're left with is a set piece showing off the skills of the actors and the sound editing crew. This is entirely the problem I had with Lost (first series, at least) - that with no answers at all, the whole thing looked like hour after hour of actors showboating with a gratuitously enigmatic script. Thankfully Midnight only lasts fifty minutes, which is short enough that it can get away with this more easily. Wouldn't want Who to do it every week, though.

8 out of 10. I'm very tempted to give it 9, because I'm feeling a powerful need to give something in this series a 9 besides the Moffat story, but with such huge gaps in the plot - not even plot holes, just utter absences - I don't think I really can. But the acting and the writing in this one is so good that I can't give it less than 8. And it is a remarkable script, and a tour de force from David Tennant and Lesley Sharp. A definite high point in the season, but I'm still looking for something more substantial. Cue Turn Left...

1 comment:

Sarah said...

Daily Mail readers are evil! Heh heee! Sorry, I haven't anything more intelligent to say.