“Knock knock.” “Who’s there?” “Doctor.” “Doctor who?” “Correct!”
Knock knock jokes for DOCTOR WHO have gone from a lighthearted exchange between our beloved Tenth Doctor David Tennant and Bernard Cribbins (Wilf!) on the British show Never Mind the Buzzcocks to this season’s spooky episode about the creaks in your house. Steven Moffat, from the Weeping Angels to the Silence, never misses a chance to terrify, and this episode is perhaps the creepiest one we’ve had since Season 8’s “Listen.”
The episode starts out with Bill house hunting with a few of her friends – a strangely domestic start for a Doctor Who episode, which I suppose should put us all on edge right away. No luck, until they come across a mysterious landlord, who offers them a huge, Gothic-looking mansion. Is it creepy? Yes. Drafty? Yep. Does it creak a lot? Yep. But the rooms are huge, and the rent is cheap. Bill is a bit skeptical, but thanks to peer pressure ends up signing on the dotted line. The lesson of this episode: read the fine print.
It’s actually kind of adorable to see the Doctor helping Bill move in. I never thought that would be a use for the TARDIS, but actually it’s kind of perfect for that. Of course there’s some explaining left to do when Bill’s roommates see her walking in with one of their professors. They kind of wave it off as him being her grandfather – another Susan parallel – although it’s hilarious how the Doctor doesn’t want to to go along with it at first. I think Twelve sometimes forgets he no longer looks like Eleven!
Of course the Doctor turns on the charm, and it’s great to see him be the “cool” professor, the one the students look up to and respect for being different and talking to them like their adults. Bill, of course, is eager for the Doctor to leave, but things get dicey when the landlord shows up again.
Ah, Monsieur Poirot. You have been missed! David Suchet pulls off just the right amount of creepy in this role, talking to the walls and tapping on them, hitting a tuning fork against them and listening, enough to make Bill and her friends seriously freaked out. And they should be – one of their roommates has already been eaten, sucked in through the walls.
What’s going on in this house? The Doctor investigates while Bill and her friends try to find a way out, discovering that the doors have sealed themselves shut.
This episode was a bit unnerving for me, and I applaud the Doctor Who production team for being able to have that effect. The doors sealing themselves was a terrifying touch; I also wish I’d been able to watch the binaural version of the episode, because the use of sound, with the creaking and the groaning in the walls of the house, would have been brilliantly scary.
It’s not just the walls eating people – bugs are coming out of them and devouring the roommates, Mummy-style. It turns out the bugs are in thrall to another monster – a dryad.
Great production design on this! The last time we had evil tree people was “The Doctor, the Widow, and the Wardrobe,” but luckily this time the tree person in question is both much scarier and much more sympathetic.
I thought the twist with the landlord being her son was clever, but it was David Suchet’s performance that really sold it; it turned a plot point that could have been gimmicky into something genuinely tragic. His soft “No, no” when the dryad, his mother Eliza, allows the bugs to consume them made me believe that, emotionally, the landlord is still the little boy we saw in the flashback.
I’m also very grateful that all of Bill’s roommates were restored – otherwise I think Bill would have to be in for some serious therapy!
So, another solid Doctor Who episode comes to a satisfying end. I don’t know about you, but I’m really enjoying this season. I love Bill, and the episodes feel more like they did in the Russell T. Davies era circa Season 4 (the best season of New Who, at least I think so). There’s no ultra-complicated season-long arc to slog through, it’s just exploring the universe and getting to hear stories from the Doctor. I loved the one in this episode where he talked about taking over for a hostile alien bassist – I’ve missed touches like that, that really make the Doctor’s character and make him feel like he’s been a part of history (like Ten in “Gridlock” – “I love that coat. Janis Joplin gave me that coat!”).
And then we get the ending scene – what’s in the vault? Or more like who? My money is on the Master/Missy – especially with the foreshadowing of the knocking (which also ties back to Season 4!). Why are they in the vault? How long do they have to be in there? What happens when they get out? All questions left to be answered – perhaps in next week’s episode, “Oxygen”!
Season 10, Episode 4 (S10E04)
Doctor Who airs Saturdays at 9PM on BBC America
Cailin is a screenwriter and an aspiring TV writer. When not writing, she’s busy convincing random passersby that Firefly was the best show ever, converting her co-workers into Whovians, and waiting for the next season of Sherlock.
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Cailin Coane | Contributor