Views from the Stalls and Views from the Sofa - My reviews and thoughts on all things theatre and television. Follow me on Twitter @LikeTheMonth_

Sunday, 4 September 2011

Doctor Who - 'Night Terrors' - Series 6 Episode 9 - Review

What’s the Story?
 Mark Gatiss returns to Who to script this creepy standalone story, where the Doctor hears the distressed call of a boy called George, terrified of the monsters in his bedroom, or more specifically his wardrobe where his parents have encouraged him to lock away all his fears. With George’s Dad Alex (guest star Daniel Mays) not knowing where to turn to help his son, The Doctor warns him that ‘monsters are real’…

What’s the Verdict?

Night Terrors’ could not be more different from last weeks instalment, with a smaller scale (no pun intended) episode that sets out to scare. The atmosphere is certainly creepy, and the setting works particularly well, especially if you have ever walked past one of those enormous piles of rubbish on the street! The scene where they each individually met a neighbour was brilliantly edited together. The peg dolls were extremely well realised, with their large expressionless faces, slow movements and tatty clothes I could certainly believe why a child would put them in the back of a wardrobe. Nothing has yet displaced the Weeping Angels as the scariest monster in my eyes, however the Peg Dolls have the potential to become a memorable monster and the dolls house set was nicely recreated, complete with wooden food and wooden saucepans.

I love Amy and Rory together and Rory immediately assuming they were dead…again…was a brilliant touch. This episode was swapped with The Curse of the Black Spot from the first part of the series, and with that knowledge you can see why there is no mention of Melody/River here. By placing the episode immediately after last weeks revelations, it does seems a bit incongruous however, and perhaps a line should have been added to show that she was still in their thoughts. Claire not being pregnant in the photo’s would also probably have led to The Doctor looking at Amy’s Pregnant/Not Pregnant scan and there was a nice bit of foreshadowing of ’the flesh’ towards the end. I also felt that Amy and Rory seemed a bit disinterested in the plight of the small boy, unusual given how Little Amelia met the Doctor and how terrified she was of the crack in her bedroom wall (if this still happened and if she still remembers this post The Big Bang?)

Matt Smith was on fine form as The Doctor and formed a nice little partnership with Daniel Mays’ Alex. A strong point of the episode was seeing The Doctor breezing in and taking control again; I have always thought Smith’s Doctor is brilliant with children, he seems to form an instant bond with all of the children in the show and I imagine it makes him a popular Doctor with the children watching at home.

This episode certainly played on common fears and it works well when Doctor Who uses everyday objects, in this case wardrobes, lifts, dolls and bin bags and shows how inherently creepy they can be when in the wrong context. I can imagine a few children were eyeing their wardrobes suspiciously last night. I generally enjoy the darker episodes of Doctor Who, it was certainly atmospheric and children’s rhymes will never fail to sound disconcerting!

However, from my perspective there was something missing from the episode and it felt a bit too familiar, like a new version of ’Fear Her’ (admittedly a better version, but still.) It may just be that I have found myself so involved in the ongoing series arc that the standalone episodes do not hold as much excitement for me, and ’The Doctor’s Wife’ remains the only standalone episode of this series I can imagine myself being able to consistently rewatch and enjoy.

I didn’t think that the revelation that George was an alien ‘Tenza’ worked particularly well; sure, I didn’t see it coming but then I’m not sure whether the episode actually needed that element either and the explanation was hurried. Although the atmosphere was stoked up nicely in the dimly lit dolls house, perhaps a bit too much time was spent doing this, as the ending felt a bit rushed with Alex going from rejecting alien George to accepting their son George remarkably quickly.

Overall, Night Terrors was a solid, scary episode, with an excellent new monster that I’m sure had its desired effect on children. I accept that the show does need to have standalone stories, but for me ‘Night Terrors’ was not as engaging as ‘Let’s Kill Hitler’ and doesn’t have the same replay value. The great thing about Doctor Who however, is that there really are stories for everyone, I don’t believe that one episode will ever please every fan and those that dislike the arc will hopefully have been more satisfied with this weeks offering.

Best Lines

Neighbour - ‘You’re not coming in, you could be anyone’.
The Doctor - ‘I could be. But I’m not.’

Rory - ‘We’re dead aren’t we. The lift fell and we’re dead.’
Amy - ‘Shut up’
Rory - ‘We’re dead. Again.’

Rory - ‘The TARDIS has gone funny again. Some time…slippy…thing. You know, the Doctor’s back there in Eastenders-land and we’re stuck here in the past’.

Alex - ‘Maybe it was things on telly, you know?
The Doctor - ‘Right’.
Alex - ‘Scary stuff, getting under his skin, frightening him. So we stopped letting him watch’.
The Doctor - ‘Oh you don’t want to do that’ *smiles*

The Doctor - ‘When I was your age, about, ooh a thousand years ago, I loved a good bedtime story. The Three Little Sontarans, The Emperor Dalek’s New Clothes, Snow White and the Seven Keys to Doomsday’.

The Doctor - ‘Through crimson stars and silent stars and tumbling nebulas like oceans set on fire. Through empires of glass and civilisations of pure thought and a whole, terrible, wonderful universe of impossibilities. You see these eyes? They're old eyes. And one thing I can tell you, Alex. Monsters are real.'
Alex - ‘You’re not from social services are you?’
The Doctor - ‘First things first, you got any jammy dodgers?’

Rory - ‘Lights are great aren’t they? I mean if this place was all lit up we wouldn’t even be worried at all.’

Alex - ‘We went into the cupboard! How can it be bigger in here?’
The Doctor - ‘More common than you’d think actually’

The Doctor - ‘We’re either inside the dolls house or this is a refuge for dirty posh people who eat wooden food. Or termites, giant termites trying to get on the property ladder’.

The Doctor -’It’s like trying to remember the name of someone you met at a party when you were two. And I can’t just plump for ‘Brian’ like I normally do’.

The Doctor - *Sonic fails to work* ‘Wood! I’ve got to invent a setting for wood, it’s embarrassing’.

The Doctor - ‘Might pop back around puberty mind you, always a funny time’

Nursery rhyme -’Tick tock goes the clock, even for the Doctor’.

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