A recent episode of Doctor Who entitled “Midnight” struck me as very reminiscent of an old Twilight Zone episode named “The Shelter“. Both stories took place in a very confined place with a small cast in a dire situation. As emotions ran high, the concept of human decency came into question. I love high-energy, high-stress stories like these that tackle the human condition.
In “The Shelter”, a group of neighborhood friends argue over the right to be in a bomb shelter (truthfully the right to survive) as they believe nuclear missiles are soaring their way. The family with the bomb shelter is locked inside while the other neighbors demand to be let in. Arguments ensue and emotions become extraordinarily tense. In desperation to survive, these neighbors are willing to sacrifice the feelings of others, the right to private property, friendship itself, and ultimately they submit to violence. As the neighbors smash through the bomb shelter door, the air raid is called off as a false alarm. Thus the former friends are forced to live with what they said, their actions, and somehow return to their normal lives.
In “Midnight”, a group of tourists trapped on a tour bus argue what to do when an unexplainable presence possesses one of their own. The danger they face by being trapped is very real (immediate death by solar exposure if they open the door to the broken-down tour bus). The question becomes: what do they do with their fellow tourist who is now possessed by the very creature that trapped them. At least two people have already died, and the tourists believe they may be next. As in “The Shelter”, the instinct to survive drives everyone to terrible choices. While panic ensues, emotions boil over and the tourists decide to murder their fellow tourist who has become possessed. Part of the drama in this scene comes from the fact that the tourists are about to kill the wrong person. In the end, the tour hostess sacrifices herself to destroy the possessing entity. Since its science fiction, the high tension level is blamed on the alien presence. However, the emotional impact of the story works just as well without the sci-fi excuse. Again, the band of characters are forced to live with what they said, their actions, and somehow return to their normal lives.
Really great claustrophobic and frantic storytelling in both. I’ve always believed that science fiction is at its best when it uses outlandish settings in contrast with very real, down-to-earth dramatic situations. Check out both stories, definitely worth your time.