Thu, 19 June 2008
The Doctor and Donna take a holiday on the crystalline planet Midnight, which orbits close enough to its sun that the Xtonic radiation exposure would vaporise any living thing walking unprotected on its surface. Donna opts to relax at a spa while the Doctor takes a four-hour shuttle bus ride to the Sapphire Waterfall. Other passengers include the Cane family — Val (Coulson), Biff (Ryan), and their teenage son Jethro (Morgan) — Professor Hobbes (Troughton) and his assistant Dee Dee Blasco (Antoine), and businesswoman Sky Silvestry (Sharp). The staff are the driver Joe (Bluto), trainee mechanic Claude (Henry), and a steward who is only referred to as 'the Hostess' (Ayola).
The trip initially goes smoothly despite the shuttle being rerouted to a new course, but suddenly the shuttle stops. The Doctor checks with the shuttle's driver and mechanic, confirming that there's nothing wrong with the vehicle. He convinces them to open the shutter to look outside, and the mechanic believes he sees a shadow moving towards the bus. The crew calls for a rescue vehicle while the Doctor returns to the main cabin.
A few moments later, something begins knocking on the shuttle's hull, copying the passengers when they knock back. The knocking moves around the shuttle, making its way towards Sky Silvestry, apparently the most frightened of the lot, and dents the door she is standing by. The lights then temporarily fail and the shuttle is violently rocked. When the lights are restored, the seats near Sky have been ripped off the floor and she is cowering in the corner. An attempt to speak to the cabin crew reveals that their cabin has also been ripped away, exposing Joe and Claude to the deadly sunlight.
Sky initially remains motionless, but is coaxed into turning around by the Doctor. Attempts to get her to speak only cause her to repeat what she is told, making it clear that Sky is no longer in control. The delay between Sky's repetitions becomes shorter, until eventually she begins speaking in exact unison with the passengers. Cabin fever sets in, and the passengers contemplate throwing her outside. The Doctor's attempts to calm the situation fail when the passengers become suspicious of him, especially when he is unwilling to reveal his name. This is only amplified when Sky focuses solely on repeating the Doctor's words.
As the Doctor tries to reason with Sky, she begins speaking his words first, and the Doctor quickly becomes the one doing the repeating. Most of the passengers reason that whatever was in Sky has now passed into the Doctor, while the hostess and Dee Dee reason that this is just the next step: stealing the voice of another. The other passengers refuse to listen and begin to drag the Doctor towards the nearest door after being goaded by Sky. However, the hostess realises that Sky is not talking in her own voice when she uses two phrases the Doctor had used earlier. Before the other passengers can throw the Doctor out, she sacrifices herself by dragging Sky out of another door. The Doctor slowly recovers, and as the passengers wait for the rescue shuttle, he realises that no one knew the hostess' name. At the spa, a mournful Doctor reunites with Donna.
Rose Tyler appears on one of the shuttle's television screens shortly after the lifeform attacks the transport, echoing a similar appearance in "The Poison Sky". In both instances, she silently shouts for the Doctor, who is not there to see the image in the first instance and is looking the opposite way in this episode. Rose is also mentioned by the Doctor by name along with Martha and Donna.
This is the second full story featuring the Doctor without a companion in the main narrative, the first being The Deadly Assassin (Mission to the Unknown in 1965 featured neither the Doctor nor his companions). It is also the only time where the adversary is neither seen nor given a name.
When the Doctor is asked for his real name, he lies and replies with the name "John Smith", a common alias of his, which is not believed. The mystery behind the Doctor's name and the use of a simple alias is a recurring theme in the series' revival.
This episode is the fiftieth episode filmed for the revived series, and was filmed at the same time as "Turn Left". Donna has a minor role in the episode (appearing in only the pre-credits sequence and the final scene), while the Doctor has a minor role in "Turn Left".
David Troughton, cast here as Professor Hobbes, was a late replacement for Sam Kelly, who broke his leg and had to withdraw from the production. Troughton joined the rest of the cast in Cardiff with just two days notice. An actor now known for his stage work with the RSC as well as television, he is the son of Patrick Troughton, who portrayed the Second Doctor. He had a long association with the early series in the 1960s and early 1970s, appearing as an uncredited extra in the first, fifth, and sixth episodes of the Second Doctor serial The Enemy of the World as Private Moor in the sixth episode of the Second Doctor serial The War Games[, and as King Peladon in all four episodes of the Third Doctor serial The Curse of Peladon.  More recently he has appeared as the Tinghus in the Doctor Who audio adventure Cuddlesome.
Based on BARB overnight returns, "Midnight" was watched by 7.3 million viewers, giving it a 38% share of the total television audience.  against ITV's live coverage of a UEFA Euro 2008 international football match. The episode received an Appreciation Index score of 86 (considered "Excellent").
The Guardian's TV reviewer Sam Wollaston described the episode as "great... it's tense and claustrophobic, and gnaws away at you." He praised the fact that all the action happened in one confined space with an unseen enemy, saying "this is psychological drama rather than full-blown horror; creepy-unknown scary, not special-effect-monster scary." The Times's reviewer Andrew Billen was more critical, writing that Tennant's Doctor was becoming "increasingly irritating". He called the episode "sheet upon sheet of dialogue" that "felt too much of a writing exercise to be really scary" and a case-in-point of how the 2008 series "fails as often as it succeeds". Billen did, however, praise the episode for its claustrophobic atmosphere and for showing the series was "not afraid of variety [and]... dead scared of repetition".