Doctor Who’s CGI and prosthetics teams have done sterling work creating some iconic monsters over the years, but some scripts don’t require their input at all.
Not just a cost-cutting exercise, some of the creepiest and most thought-provoking episodes of Doctor Who revolve around creatures that we never actually see.
Here CultBox guest writer Ellie Mann takes a look back at some of the best…
The Doctor’s always been a glorified space tourist – albeit one with a penchant for going “off guidebook” – and in Russell T Davies’ ‘Midnight’, he joined a bus full of holiday makers, on what promised to be an exciting excursion to a Sapphire Waterfall.
Of course, with the Doctor onboard, things were destined to go wrong and the bus promptly broke down, resulting in an unexpected bonding session for the passengers. Just as everyone seemed to be getting along, there was an ominous knocking on the outside of the bus and from there, things quickly went pear-shaped. With the heat shields closed, we never got so much as a glimpse at what might be outside, in fact the source of the knocking remains a mystery to this day and that’s because, like many Doctor Who episodes, ‘Midnight’ isn’t really about a monster, it’s a study of human behaviour and from the moment the knocking starts, we see the progression of the passengers’ anxieties.
First they panic, then they try to attribute a rational explanation to what’s happening. When that fails, the paranoia sets in. With no way of seeing the creature, every sound becomes amplified; they imagine the creature shifting, getting closer, trying the door … coming for them. Cue some fantastic ‘throw yourself around and hope it looks like you’re under attack’ acting from the cast, as the creature infiltrates the bus and heads straight for lone-traveller Sky Silvestry.
Though it stays hidden, it’s clear from Sky’s dead-eyed stare and sudden urge to repeat every word that the other passengers say, that she’s been possessed by the creature and the troubling question on everyone’s mind is “what if it comes for me next?” It’s their differing responses that drive the rest of the action. Some try to collect data to make sense of what’s going on, others look to their fellow passengers for guidance; but when their survival instincts kick-in, the urge to rid themselves of the danger becomes overwhelming.
Before the Doctor becomes immobilised by the creature, he pleads with the others not to hurt Sky. Aware of their plans to throw her out into the toxic atmosphere, he asks “could you actually murder her?” and the question is directed as much at us, as at them – in the same situation, would you be the best or the worst of humanity? Worryingly, the bus passengers elect to kill the Doctor instead but thankfully, the observant Steward realises something is amiss and throws Sky into the x-tonic sunlight, sacrificing her own life in the process.
Once the danger has passed, we’re left to ponder a few things – if we never saw the “monster” can we be sure that it really existed? If not, who is responsible for the deaths of Sky and the Steward? The only thing we can be certain of, is that the humans were prepared to kill another person to protect themselves.
So, who are the real monsters here?
Continued on next page…