Doctor Who Series 6 Episode 9: Night Terrors

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What’s It About?
The Doctor receives a cry for help from a child on modern day Earth via his Psychic Paper. Investigating this, he encounters George – a child with Pantophopia and must discover the source of his fears. …

Review It

Mark Gatiss returns once more to pen an episode of Who. I personally think this is a stronger episode than his previous scripts (The Unquiet Dead, The Idiot Lantern and Victory of the Daleks) and one that reaches right into the heart of a portion of the viewing audience. It’s easy to imagine being scared and asking for help against “the monsters” and what child wouldn’t want The Doctor to turn up to help? The script splits the Time Lord from his companions early on and Gatiss uses this to pace the story nicely, with moments of slow, creeping dread (Amy and Rory’s storyline) together with the detective story of The Doctor (nicely oblivious to their plight) working to determine what is happening.

I think one of the reasons the episode works so nicely is the execution of the supporting cast. The old lady, with her stooping walk and mumbling to herself could easily be turned into a Witch in the mind of a child. The landlord is foul enough without any work to appear as some kind of bullying ogre… The “monsters” of the episode are also nicely executed. hideous wooden-doll faces, string hair, a stiff walk and chilling “little-girl” laugh. The fact they just “want to play” and then turn you into one of them? Definitely the stuff of nightmares. The down side to this is that when one of the companions has something awful happen to them, it’s difficult to then feel the danger. As soon as it happens, you know it’ll be all right in the end. Gattis made this mistake in “The Idiot’s Lantern” but it had far more of a lessening of the threat in “Night Terrors” for me.

I really enjoyed the concept of “locking your fears away” that is exactly the thing a parent might try to reassure a child being turned on it’s head and the use of the Doll’s house (I have to admit, my fiance picked up on the Doll’s house before it twigged to me) as a not-quite-right location was superb and allowed for creepy-old-house action in an otherwise urban setting. Let’s just say I’ll not be trying that one on any child of my own now. Just in case!

And the niggles?

My main niggle this week is to do with the post-resolution sequence. George is suddenly cured of all fears, even those he had before the main trigger happened? Hmm… not so sure about that, Mr. Gatiss.

In summary:

A creepy tale that does that Moffat thing of reaching into the mundane to create the fear. A much better insight into a child’s every-day fear than “Fear Her” and one that I think will have an impact on anyone looking at a doll’s house!

Rate It: 4 / 5.
Dry Slaps: 1 – Still not convinced by the post-resolution.
Reviewer: WedgeDoc

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3 comments

  1. The episode was beautifully directed, but the story itself fell quite flat (and gets worse the more I think about it).

    I’ve written a bit about what I see as the central problem with the Ponds this season, and would love your thoughts on the matter.

    http://theoncominghope.blogspot.com/2011/09/problem-with-ponds.html

    • Had a read of your blog there and found it interesting. I think the Ponds have become quickly indifferent to the wonders of the universe and seem to think that no matter what happens, all will be OK in the end. After all, Rory’s died before, the universe ended and hey, look! Everything’s fine!

      I too feel that their apparent indifference to Melody’s fate seems particularly jarring (as I commented on last week). In some ways, this is where Russell T Davies managed to outshine Moffat – when The Doctor and Rose began to really enjoy themselves they were brought down to Earth with a bang. Well, with a cross-dimensional seperation at any rate.

      Personally I love the Ponds, but like you say this is more due to their charisma and the actors themselves than the writing of them necessarily.

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