The monster speaking as “Sky Silvestry”: Cast him out. Into the sun. And the night.
Episode star rating:***** (out of a possible five)
This episode appears to have a strange mix of influences: The Green Death (which includes the idea of a companion refusing to accompany the Doctor to view Blue Sapphires; the Third Doctor travels to Metebelis Three without Jo Grant) and – following homages to 2000AD’s Max Normal and Swifty Frisko in Gridlock – 2000AD’s Helltrekkers (a story of a wagon train trek in radiation-shielded tanks across the Cursed Earth.) The core concept of the episode however is startling and new to this viewer.
In a regular Doctor Who story, the Doctor strides into the situation, making himself known. He stands out from the crowd. Sometimes this means he encounters some trouble, but usually he can bamboozle the monsters with some flim-flam. His status as an outsider and an unknown quantity are things he plays to his advantage. However, the very qualities that help the Doctor in a regular story are a danger to him here.
The habits and catchphrases of the Tenth Doctor specifically also seem to hinder him – for example – Jethro the Space Goth, like Queen Victoria before him, is mistrustful of the Tenth Doctor’s fascination of the unknown. His outsider qualities, his “otherness”, exacerbates the passengers’ paranoia that the monster thrives upon. The Doctor sees himself as a traveller, Val Cane sees him (as she says) “Like an immigrant?” The Tenth Doctor’s habit of self-congratulatingly proclaiming himself “clever” means he isolates himself further.
The monster initially cannot be reasoned with, cannot be bamboozled. Aside from the repetition then synchronisation of the passengers’ panicky protestations, the monster exists mainly in some atmospheric lighting and Lesley Sharp’s expressive performance. Eventually, when the monster speaks there is some intriguing poetic language, which makes use of the format of short lines hypnotically repeated, short lines with apparently conflicting meanings.
He’s waited so long / In the dark / And the cold / And the diamonds
Cast him out / Into the sun / And the night
The starlight void / The emptiness / The midnight sky
At the end, the monster can be read as a metaphor for the potential dark creeping paranoia – even on the brightest of days – that is part of people’s mistrust of the “other”, people who are different.
That’s how he does it / He makes you fight / Creeps into your head / And whispers
UPDATED AFTER 2017 RETHINK: one * added to rating