He’s waited so long. In the dark. And the cold. And the diamonds. Until you came. Bodies so hot. With blood. And pain.
This is, literally, one of the best episodes in new Who. Everything about it was so smartly written. I know when we think of creep factor in DW, we tend to always think of Moffat, but this was one of the few non-Moffat antagonists that seriously scared the shit out of me.This thing is ancient…it had been there for who knows how long, just waiting, biding its time. Who knows how many identities it has stolen in its life time…and it’s so powerful it could even “steal the voice” of a Time Lord.
Mind you, not only does this thing “steal someone’s voice”, it shows a clear capability to actually learn. This thing is learning as the episode progresses, creating a sync with whatever organism it encounters while it learns to mimic it, and mimic its thoughts, and possibly learn to think like said organism at a quicker speed. This creature, literally, became the Doctor for a brief moment and began to think faster than him.
There’s never even an explanation of what this thing is. You never even get to see it. It’s this entity, this thing. I can’t begin to explain how fucking brilliant this episode was. People can hate RTD all they want, but this episode was masterful. I’d say this thing, which is never even named, stands as probably the absolute fucking creepiest antagonist in the new series, followed really closely by the Silence and the ancient entity in The Impossible Planet/The Satan Pit.
There are also a lot of complaints about the way Davis writes the 10th Doctor and how arrogant he is, and I think this is one of the few episodes where his arrogance nearly gets him killed. This thing only took over his voice because he just had to tell everyone in the room how clever he was.
This isn’t even taking into account that the entire episode was told in one set. They never leave the shuttle bus It was nerve wrecking, and a brilliant decision. This is one of the reasons why I think series four of new Who is one of the absolute best in the new series overall.
^Yes to all of this.
Because normally, the people working at this ordinary level have barely any interaction with the Doctor. Sure, a few almost companions and family and whatnots. But the Doctor deals with kings and queens and prime ministers and captains and doctors and leaders and he can outsmart them all. But these people, in a normal Doctor Who episode would be a footnote. He’d pass them in a flash. He’s wow them in a flash and be off, saving the day, hunting down things. You know, Time Lord business. So it shows a couple of other things about the Doctor really, really well:
1) That the Doctor needs a companion, not just to stop him or to save him or to keep him company or to be the audience for his tricks, but to sometimes bridge the gap between his ‘otherness’ and everyone else. Because the Doctor with his sheer fucking glee about this thing is really scary to these ordinary people. We aren’t worried because we know and trust the Doctor. But the rest of the passengers? The whole time through this episode all I could think was how Donna would have helped, shown that the Doctor is reachable, trustworthy, that he’s telling the truth. The Doctor can’t speak on their level, he can’t understand their fear and ignorance on that visceral level. But Donna would have. And that’s where she could have changed the whole thing.
2) It shows how the Doctor relies so heavily on having the freedom to do what he needs to do. And he normally gets it because he can a) prove that he is clever, distracting the masses so he can slip away or b) impressing those in authority so he can take charge or c) he can run away in the TARDIS from the people trying to stop him. When those things are taken away, he’s really powerless. All he has is his words and that’s not enough. This is the man who can topple empires and cause supernovas. He’s destroyed planets and saved billions. And he’s powerless. He lost the power behind his words long before the creature took his voice. And oh god, the opening up of that possibility? Of the creature having his voice, his thoughts, his knowledge and the Doctor dead on the Midnight Planet? That’s terrifying.
3) The universe is full of ordinary beings. None of the people on this little vessel ever expected to face something like this. It is so far beyond anything they know. The Doctor now, he loves things like this. He has the arsenal to face it, he’s not scared, he’s excited, but everyone else? They’re on vacation. They do not want this.
Imagine for a minute that the stewardess was a little slower on the uptake? A little more scared, and little more terror-struck. A little more frozen, a little more unthinking. She realised what we did - and let me tell you, I was practically screaming at the screen I was so tense in this episode - but she couldn’t have really known, not 100%. Everyone else yelling and crying and working to pull the Doctor off the boat and her, realising that the creature is saying the Doctor’s catchphrases that she only heard a handful of times at most. She might have been wrong, but she knew, she could see the creature’s face, so freaking proud of itself. She could hear it. And she sacrificed herself. She had moments to make that choice. All without really knowing (like we in the audience did) whether she was doing the right thing. And she did it. She had that strength. You can see it in the fifth gif, that knowledge of what she has to do. That’s courage.
And that’s the best thing about RTD and the best thing about his run of the series. Ordinary people doing extraordinary things. Acting through their fear, those moments of courage. Being amazing. Being wrong and but trying anyway.
I think this episode is so fucking brilliant. It makes me so uncomfortable and tense and I don’t think I can stand to watch it again but it is perfect. A bottle episode with a microcosm of humanity.