"42" is another episode that scares the daylights out of me, though for a much less philosophical reason than "Midnight"—I just can't imagine a more painful way to die than by burning alive. And the eyes just… ::shudders:: Yeah, this episode gave me nightmares. So I couldn't imagine that The Doctor really recovered so completely, so quickly, at the end.
Of Courage and Cowardice
It was too quiet. The silence was positively suffocating, offering as it did absolutely no distraction from the memories of that day. The Doctor shuddered as he recalled the sensation of burning alive from the inside out, and suddenly found he could not stop trembling. His own desperate, childish words echoed in his mind, making his face burn with shame: I'm scared, I'm so scared.
He had never, in all his centuries of existence, been as frightened as he'd been with that sun creature inside him. Not because of the destruction he might wreak—he was no less dangerous on his own. He frightened himself quite enough in that regard. Not because it was killing him—he'd faced death before. He almost welcomed it; it had to be better than the bottomless pit of guilt and regret that threatened to swallow him up. No, what had robbed him of every ounce of his courage was the pain, the sheer agony that had permeated every cell of his body. Burning alive… burning… burning…
It had been absolutely beyond his endurance. He had always prided himself on his ability to bear pain stoically, to lock it away in the back of his consciousness and ignore it, but this, this had reduced him to a writhing, screaming wreck. No other physical torment—not the deadly radiation of Metebelis III, not the slow spread of raw Spectrox through his blood, not even the Time Vortex tearing his very atoms apart—had ever so completely unmanned him. The very memory of it threatened to overwhelm him.
Burn with me.
Running his still-trembling hands through his hair, he tried to steady his shaky breathing. But the more he struggled for control, the closer he edged toward falling apart entirely. His breaths started to resemble hitching sobs, his knees threatened to drop him to the steel grate, and his hearts tried to burst free of his rib cage. He'd put on a good front for Martha and the remaining crew of the cargo ship, but now, alone, with no one but the TARDIS to witness, it would be so easy to just go completely to pieces.
Oh, Martha had been right. She'd meant it as a joke, but she'd been right—who needed a great useless coward like him? All he'd accomplished on this little adventure was to complicate things. Instead of swooping in and rescuing everyone and being the hero, he'd turned himself into just another victim to be saved. He'd set out to be the knight in shining armor, and managed to find himself in distress.
What must Martha think of him now? He thought back on the way he had writhed on that table, whimpering with pain and fear. He must be the most cowardly man she'd ever met.
As Martha got ready for bed, The Doctor's desperate voice echoed in her memory, making her heart glow with pride even as it ached for him: I'm scared, I'm so scared.
Of course he'd been scared. She'd been bloody scared, and she hadn't been the one burning up from the inside out.
What had Martha awestruck was how long he'd held on. The creature had overpowered Ashton and Korwin instantly, as far as she could tell, and if the rest of the crew were anything to go by, they were not weak men. But there had been nothing left of them.
Yet The Doctor had fought it, and held it at bay. Despite what had to be unimaginable agony, he'd held on long enough to tell her how to save him. And when the creature had thwarted that plan, when there was no hope for him anymore, he kept on fighting until he'd figured out how to save the ship. He'd had no way of knowing that the creature would release him, but still he'd fought.
Martha shook her head in amazement, recalling the way he had writhed on that table, whimpering with pain and fear. He was the bravest man she'd ever met.