"Midnight" (4x08; BBC One, 6/12/08)
Read more after the jump.
I may be gauche for saying this, but I was never a Donna Noble fan. So I guess it's little surprise that my highlight of the fourth season was this Donna-less episode, which I watched towards the tail-end of a deliriously sleep-deprived all-night fourth-season Who marathon (no tacos), which is a great way to experience such a claustrophobic, paranoid variation on the lifeboat scenario.
The episode begins as a benign and chummy jaunt, but as befits its title, "Midnight" quickly spirals into pure horror when everything about the revived series, everything that's familiar, becomes an ingress for an unknowable evil. The Doctor's greatest virtues -- his curiosity in the new, his confidence bordering on arrogance, his impulsion to take charge, and to add insult to injury, his gift of gab -- are all systematically, sadistically turned against both him and the viewer, as the improbable keeps eating away at perceptions of safety until the impossible materializes: Sky's repeating becomes parallel, simultaneous echoing and, finally, prepeating. (Even Rose's cameo, on a TV screen, silently shouting for the Doctor but unseen by anyone but us, is transfigured from a moment of excitement into an anguished and futile cry of helplessness.)
Perhaps most nightmarish of all, the Doctor's unwavering compassion is set upon him; the other passengers suspect him of complicity with Sky precisely because he was the only one kind enough to speak with her prior to this disaster, and this perversion of compassion nearly costs him his life. If the Doctor as the ultimate believer in humankind is stripped of all his power and his righteousness, then where does that leave normal humans?
The lifeless, barren, frozen wastes of Midnight.
Indie rating: Fabio Orsi - "Find Electronica (Part 1)"