"Now listen, all of you, for all we know that's a brand new lifeform over there, and if it's come inside to discover us, then what's it found? This little bunch of humans. What do you amount to? Murder? 'Cause this is where you decide, you decide who you ARE."The one where Humans Are Bastards.A "companion-lite" Psychological Horror Bottle Episode by Russell T. Davies, written as a contrast to the "Doctor-lite episode" that directly follows it.
— The Doctor
The Doctor and Donna go to an alien spa on a beautiful but uninhabitable planet called Midnight — because, all world-saving and death-avoiding aside, they really are just travellers. Donna relaxes at the hotel while the Doctor goes on a little sightseeing tour to a waterfall made entirely of sapphires."What Could Possibly Go Wrong?" asks the Doctor.What indeed.The shuttle bus takes four hours to get to the waterfall. The Doctor very quickly decides to tamper with the truly awful in-flight entertainment system and befriends all the passengers instead. There's the haughty professor, his timid but clever assistant, a bickering married couple and their moody teenager (who also plays Merlin), a bored hostess and a newly single woman by the name of Sky Silvestry, who really hates being newly single.The fun begins an hour or so into the trip. First, it's revealed that a landslide has blocked the normal path and the shuttle bus is going to take an alternative route that has been mapped by air but is through a zone of the planet no human being has ever set foot on before. A bit later, the shuttle bus stops for no apparent reason halfway to the destination and, because the local star doesn't emit regular sunlight but super-deadly radiation, they can't leave the bus. The Doctor convinces the crew to open the blinds for a moment, and the mechanic sees something running towards them from the horizon. Then something proceeds to bang on the sides of the bus, mimic the passengers' attempt at contact by knocking in response to their own knocks and finally rips off the drivers' compartment. Sky freaks out, thinking that it's her ex-wife coming to kill her, and the creature is drawn to her screams... and possesses her.Sky, hunched on the floor, starts talking. She repeats anything anyone says. The Doctor is intrigued, if a bit scared, and tries to make contact with whatever's inside her. It's only when Sky starts talking in sync with her fellow passengers that everyone realises they're in a horror story.The Professor's assistant recites lines from Christina Rossetti's "Goblin Market", which makes things a lot creepier. Also, Rose briefly shows up on a screen, screaming at the Doctor. Again. He doesn't notice.The Doctor still tries to befriend the creature, knowing there's a good chance that it's just scared, or curious, or trying to be nice. The passengers, however, take a vote to throw Sky into the sunlight. And while the Doctor tries to talk sense into them, the creature realises that he is the cleverest person on the bus, and begins talking in sync only with him.And now, the entire vessel is suspicious of him because of what are usually his strengths: his cleverness, his confidence, his take-charge attitude and the breadth and depth of his knowledge all mark him out as something other than human. Which he is, and that's the most dangerous thing to be in a mob of terrified humans. Nothing a sonic screwdriver could fend off.He never gets a chance to convince them otherwise, because they're all savvy — just without the knowledge that the Doctor is this story's hero, making them Wrong Genre Savvy in all the worst ways. The Doctor makes one last attempt to communicate with what's inside Sky...and suddenly Sky is talking before the Doctor talks, while the Doctor is forced to repeat everything she says. The monster, now fully cognisant, pretends that Sky's completely back to normal. It's inside him, she says. It's inside him, the Doctor hears himself repeating. Cast him out into the sun, she says. Cast him out into the sun, the Doctor repeats. The group quickly devolves into a mob divided: most want to push the Doctor out of the ship, but both the professor's assistant and the hostess argue that Sky is hardly acting normal, and that the entity might have stolen the Doctor's voice instead of possessing him. They're shouted down as the men onboard grab hold of the Doctor and start dragging him toward the doors. Sky gloats, remarking, "Molto Bene! Allons-y!". The Doctor repeats this helplessly...which is when the hostess realizes that she and the professor's assistant were right, as those are things the Doctor says, not Sky. In the nick of time, she grabs Sky, throws open the nearest door, and sacrifices herself to destroy the alien and save the Time Lord.This isn't one of those times when the Doctor just gets up and pretends he's fine. He's deeply shaken. So are the passengers: they are reeling in shock and shame, with the knowledge that they almost killed the wrong man. Val desperately tries to absolve herself, claiming she knew all along, but one look from the Doctor makes her stop.Twenty minutes later the rescue team arrives, and the Doctor has learned a few painful lessons about mob mentality. This episode marks the beginning of a shift in the Doctor's attitude: he realises that while most Humans Are Special, some Humans Are the Real Monsters when they get scared. Even worse, the Doctor finds out that no one even knew the name of the hostess. Not even the Doctor.The Doctor reunites with Donna, clearly shaken. Donna starts repeating him in jest — but the Doctor tells her not to do that, being absolutely serious this time, and looking like he's about to go crawl underneath a table.
- Aerith and Bob: In the "Bob" category, we have Joe, Claude, Jethro, Sky, and Val. "John Smith" is also considered common to the point where it's the go-to pseudonym. In contrast, we have Biff, Dee-Dee, and Winfold.
- Alliterative Name: Sky Silvestry.
- Agent Scully: The Professor insists throughout the entire episode that nothing can survive outside due to the absurdly strong radiation, despite all the evidence to the contrary. In the end, though, he's finally forced to admit that it must be something (though not without pressure from the others).
- Alone in a Crowd: The Doctor at the end, sitting in the aisle of the bus. Sky, too; she's the only other passenger travelling alone.
- Arc Words: The Medusa Cascade, and a disappearing planet (well, in this instance a moon).
- Bavarian Fire Drill: Subverted. The Doctor does his usual thing bluffing his way into the cabin and generally making it clear that he knows what he's doing... which leads the passengers to suspect he has something to do with the alien.
- Bittersweet Ending: This episode does not end on a happy note, as the best the Doctor can do is ensure the planet is abandoned before leaving as fast as he can with Donna. The creature is likely still out there and the Doctor remains decidedly shaken and traumatised by the ordeal. Made even worse by the fact that, even when River sacrificed herself in the preceding episode, the Doctor could still at least pretend he's fine. Here? He doesn't even bother.
- Bottle Episode: Takes place almost entirely in a single room, with half the main duo off-screen. There is a minimum of special effects, most restricted to CGI scenery. And it's still one of the creepiest episodes ever.
- It failed one of the classic reasons for a bottle episode, to save money, because the whole set had to be built to meet some pretty specific needs, the scenes with repeating (with delay or in synch) took loads of extra rehearsal time and retakes, and many of the scenes had to be reshot multiple times with each individual actor speaking in turn while everyone else mimed.
- Break the Cutie: Dee Dee Blasco, the professor's assistant. When she tries to speak up about having seen that the monster is still in Sky, and that they shouldn't trust her, the professor yells at her that she's, essentially, stupid and worthless. Of course, she's proven right.
- Burn the Witch!: In this case "throw the alien out of the shuttle", but it's the same mob mentality and hysteria.
- Bury Your Gays: Played with here by gay author Russell T. Davies. Sky's ex-partner was female, and the hostess notably addresses her passengers as "ladies and gentlemen and variations thereupon". Neither of these things is Played for Laughs — it's just considered normal by everyone and never commented on. Within the context of the plot, the Doctor relates to her most and tells her he also lost someone recently. The fact that Sky dies isn't because she's not straight, but because of her fragile emotional state, her ex-wife apparently having threatened to "get" her. She is still the "target" and explicitly queer as well as this having some connection to the plot.
- Can Only Move the Eyes: Victims of the... thing are eventually paralyzed this way.
- Chekhov's Gun: The Doctor's catchphrases. They save his life by a hair's width because the hostess recognizes them.
- Chiaroscuro: With everyone's flashlights aimed at Sky's face, it creates this effect. Even after the main lights come back on, Sky's face continues to be lit more brightly than everyone else.
- Continuity Nod:
- Death Glare: The Doctor gives a weary one to Val when she says "I said it was her" after Sky gets thrown out of the pressure cabin. Given how this comes immediately after she was shouting for Ten to be thrown out himself, it's certainly understandable.
- Death World: The "extonic" sunlight destroys any living creature within seconds — in theory.
- Deconstruction: This episode shows that the Doctor's modus operandi can make him look suspicious. In real life, a person that shows up for a trip at the last minute, doesn't tell you his real name, and this just happens to be a rare occasion for a detour and this person happens to be well informed; it's suspicious.
- Demonic Possession: Some kind of alien possesses Sky and later takes control of the Doctor's body.
- Developing Doomed Characters: We spend five or ten minutes meeting the other passengers before everything goes wahoonie-shaped.
- Dirty Coward: The father is obviously trying to look manly to his family in the face of a threat. In doing so, he accuses an innocent man of doing something he didn't do on rubbish he grabbed from thin air, shouts down any rationality, and attempts to kill said man. Bravo, Mr. Manly.
- Disposable Pilot: The driver and the mechanic are Killed Offscreen by the creature shortly after things begin going to hell with the least development out of all the characters.
- Driven to Suicide: Word of God says that Sky planned to kill herself at the waterfall.
- Eldritch Abomination: The thing that possesses Sky can survive on a planet where nothing is supposed to be able to survive, can't be seen, and can provoke madness.
- Enclosed Space: Nothing can leave the bus without being destroyed by the sun.
- Evil Gloating: This is the entity's undoing. It is too proud of itself when its plan is on the verge of success.
- Face-Revealing Turn: Subverted with Sky. She has her back turned after being possessed and when she finally turns around, she looks like normal. Except, there's this odd look on her face.
- Fighting from the Inside: Presumably the reason the Doctor pauses and stumbles over words when the alien is making him repeat things, and certainly the reason he manages to hook his foot around the leg of one of the seats.
- Foreshadowing: When the Doctor knocks on the door, and the creature knocks back, count the number of knocks. Even the closed-captioning calls attention to this one.
- Go Through Me: "If you try to throw her out that door, you'll have to get past me first!" So they do.
- He Had a Name: Variation. No one knew the hostess' name when the Doctor asked at the end.
- Heroic Sacrifice: The hostess pulls the possessed Sky out of the airlock.
- Humans Are Bastards: Everyone on this bus is, to varying degrees, selfish, impatient, cowardly, murderous and crazy psychopaths. It can be argued that the Tenth Doctor is never quite the same after this experience.
- I Don't Like the Sound of That Place: The planet Midnight. "What could possibly go wrong?"
- Invisible Monsters: The creature that possesses Sky is never seen. A few shadows are seen from the cockpit, but not by the viewers, and that's all.
- Ironic Echo: "Don't. Don't do that," is one for previous episodes.
- Jerkass Has a Point: The hostess is the first one to recognise just how dangerous the possessed Sky could really be, and to insist that they throw it out of the craft; as Russell T. Davies points out in the Confidential, she's proven absolutely right and that's really the only thing they could have done.
- The father, most of all. He suddenly, and angrily, insists the Doctor was there to lead them into a trap with zero evidence, and threatens the professor's assistant when she says otherwise, and keeps bellowing to prove his non-existent masculinity.
- It turns out the only reason why the professor allows the student to help him is because he needs someone to carry around his stuff — in reality, he considers her "average, at best".
- The mother tries to save her hide by insisting she was with the Doctor the whole time after the entity is thrown out the airlock. The Doctor just angrily stares at her.
- Just a Kid: Jethro's mother dismisses him as "just a boy" when his opinion differs from her own. It's ironic, because she had just sought out his opinion and didn't dismiss him when he agreed with her. It's especially ridiculous because he looks like he's at least seventeen (not to mention Colin Morgan was 22 when this was made, although he has yet to look his age).
- Kick the Dog: The Professor gets one when he angrily tells Dee Dee that she's "average at best". Then it turns out she's right.
- Knew It All Along: A non-humourous example at the end, when Val — one of the most vocal in insisting that the entity had left Sky — weakly claims, "I said it was her." The Doctor just shoots her down with a look.
- Ladies and Germs: "Ladies, gentlemen, and variations thereupon".
- Leaning on the Fourth Wall: The whole spiel by the passengers on how suspicious the Doctor is.
- Madness Mantra: A brief one that shows how horribly rattled the Doctor really was.The Doctor: It's gone. It's gone. It's gone, it's gone, it's gone. It's gone, it's gone, it's gone...
- Meaningful Name: Prof. Hobbes, named after Thomas Hobbes, the English philosopher who believed that "man is a wolf to man". It turns out he was right.
- Mind Rape:
- The thing absolutely broke Sky in order to steal her body.
- What the thing did to the Doctor. The terrified, utterly broken look on his face will probably stay with you for a while.
- Missed Him by That Much: Rose appears on the television screen mere moments after the Doctor looks away from it.
- Mouthful of Pi: The Doctor rattles off the square root of pi to an impressive length while investigating Sky's condition. The passengers find this almost as weird as her being possessed.
- Mr. Smith: When the passengers insist on the Doctor telling them his name, he gives them his usual alias of "John Smith", which only makes them more suspicious of him. It's subverted in that his official name really is John Smith, leaving one to wonder how the passengers reacted when help arrived and they found this out.
- Mundanger: Thanks to a little "push" from the entity, a tiny group of perfectly normal people come within a hair's breadth of killing the Doctor.
- Nightmare Fetishist: The Doctor is (initially) fascinated by the creature — it backfires and alienates everyone else. "You do have a certain... glee." More disturbingly is that after his ordeal, the insatiably and insanely curious Doctor shows zero interest whatsoever in finding out just what the hell the entity was. He just wants to get the hell out of there and for the planet to be evacuated and abandoned forever. To put this in perspective, this same Doctor was still intrigued by the mystery behind the Beast's origins after his encounter with it, and even said that continuing to search for answers to questions such as these was part of what drove him to travel. The Midnight entity so disturbed him he does not even want to think about it again.
- No Name Given:
- The Hostess. Very pointedly lampshaded. Also, in the credits she is just called "Hostess".
- The creature is only known to the fandom as "The Midnight Entity".
- Not Helping Your Case: Don't want to make the scared passengers even more suspicious of you, Doctor? Then don't refer to them as "humans" in a poorly-worded sentence in a fashion that excludes you from that group, no matter how technically accurate it is.
- Nothing Is Scarier: This is the first enemy in the show's TV history that is never identified. Not only that, but what makes it so much worse is that we don't even know if the creature is capable of spreading paranoia or if it was just human nature. We also have no idea if it's trapped on Midnight or if it can manifest in other places. The way that the creature describes itself, speaking of being from the "dark and the cold", is eerily similar to creatures like Death and Abaddon from Torchwood, not to mention the Beast.
- Number of the Beast: Jethro jokingly tells the creature "six-six-six" so it will repeat the number back to him as though it were a demonic force.
- Oh, Crap!: The alien, after realising it's exposed itself to the hostess.
- One-Word Title: "Midnight".
- Only Sane Man: The hostess is this at first, as she's the only person who realizes that the strange alien might be dangerous. Later, Dee Dee joins her in this role, as they're the ones who sense that the Doctor might be being used as a patsy by the alien and notice that Sky, despite claiming to be fine, is acting decidedly malicious and evil.
- Out-of-Genre Experience: The whole beginning of the episode seemed to play like a Hollywood romcom.
- Patrick Stewart Speech: Deconstructed when the Doctor is trying to keep the other passengers from throwing a possessed woman out into the planet's deadly sunlight; for once, he's drastically misjudged his audience and his ability to influence them.
- The Doctor: For all we know that's a brand-new form of life over there, and if it's come inside to discover us then what's it found? This little bunch of humans, what do you amount to? Murder? 'Cause this is where you decide, you decide who you are. Could you actually murder her? Any of you? Really? Or are you better than that?
The Hostess: I'd do it.
Mr. Cane: So would I.
Mrs. Cane: And me.
Dee Dee: I think we should.
- Psychic Link: It's created forcefully between the creature and the Doctor. Judging by the expression on the Doctor's face as he's forced to repeat after Sky, it's not an enjoyable experience. His screams take on a terrified pitch when Sky is being thrown out the airlock, after which the link seems to break.
- Psychological Horror: In hindsight, what made this episode creepy is a bit creepy in and of itself. The part where the entity halts the shuttle, knocks on the side, gets in (maybe), then rips off the cockpit... none of that was the really scary part. The scary part was just Sky (then the Doctor) repeating what everyone said then speaking in tandem with them — that mere act by itself coupled with humans being humans.
- Psychotic Smirk: The creature pulls it off when its plan is working perfectly.
- The Public Domain Channel: The entertainment screens on the shuttle bus only show old black-and-white Earth cartoons, and music videos from the The '70s. Unlike most examples of the trope, the characters are aware that they're old, and aren't especially entertained.
- Reality Ensues: The episode savages the Doctor's usual blustering Bavarian Fire Drill approach to a crisis. Instead of managing to get the people's trust, they view him with suspicion and think him very arrogant. It's all part of the Monster of the Week's plan.
- Right for the Wrong Reasons: According to Russell T. Davies, the Hostess was right in her suggestion to throw Sky out as soon as possible. It was the only thing they could have done, awful as it is. While she does a pretty good job keeping calm while explaining her pragmatic Cold Equation reasoning, the rest of the passengers are mostly scared out of their wits and grasp hold of the idea out of panic rather than reason.
- Running Gag: The usual humour of "No... no, don't do that." is thoroughly murdered.
- Saying Too Much: The entity really should have just stopped flaunting the fact that it had the Doctor's voice. If it did, it would have succeeded. Even if nearly everyone was too thick to notice Sky's sudden smugness, eventually the Hostess figures it out when she hears "Allons~y"...
- Screen Shake: When the creature rips off the cockpit of the bus, the characters are thrown around for a bit.
- Screen-to-Stage Adaptation The episode was adapted into a stage production. The cast of characters was reduced by one, with Jethro's lines given to other characters, but the script was otherwise complete; Sky's repeating and synchronizing was kept completely intact, done live with no editing tricks or retakes.
- Shout-Out: To Christina Rosetti's poem "Goblin Market". It makes an already creepy situation even creepier.
- Smug Snake: "Sky" sounds way too smug for someone who's supposedly been freed of alien control. The passengers really have no excuse for thinking the entity merely "moved on" to the Doctor.
- Something Only They Would Say: "Allons-y!" and "Molto Bene!" finally tips off the hostess that it's not Sky talking, it's the alien, stealing the Doctor's voice.
- Stealth Pun: The Hostess says that the Doctor just "came in out of the blue". Now, what colour is the TARDIS?
- Stop Copying Me: The possessed Sky repeats everything anyone says, and then synchronizes to say it at the same time. Instead of comedy, it's played for Surreal Horror.
- Tempting Fate: Lampshaded by the Doctor:The Doctor: Taking a big spaceship with a bunch of strangers across a diamond planet called Midnight... what could possibly go wrong?
- Thrown Out the Airlock: What they attempt to do to Sky, then the Doctor, is open the door and throw them out where there is no air and lots of radiation.
- Troll: Jethro decides to say "six-six-six" to the creature out of dark curiosity. He gets rebuffed by his parents for doing so and smiles for successfully pissing them off.
- Unreliable Narrator: Sky claims that she left her ex-wife on fairly amicable terms, but when the Entity begins hammering on the craft, she instantly launches in panic mode and cryptically says that "she said she'd get me". Maybe Sky put a galaxy between herself and her ex for a reason...
- Wham Line: "Do we have a deal?" Not for what was said, but because this is where the creature said it first.
- What Could Possibly Go Wrong?: The Doctor gets this exact line in the teaser. He sounds like he almost wants something to go wrong when he says it. It makes him look suspicious to the other passengers. Although the day's upcoming events will prove to be a lot more than he was hoping for...
- What You Are in the Dark: The Doctor's argument, quoted above, is about appealing to the humans' better natures and hoping that they will prove in this dark time that they are above murdering mobs. Unfortunately, it doesn't take.
Ready for the next episode...?
Ready for the next episode...?
... Oh dear...
... Oh dear...
Ready for the next episode...?
... Oh dear...
... Oh dear...