THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS
“A haunted house and wood-lice from space”. That’s how The Doctor describes this weeks adventure and it’s a doozy. This episode takes a handful of horror clichés and puts them in a blender with a dash of Doctor Who. We get the creaky old house, a forbidden room, a group of teenagers and a creepy landlord. It’s been a while since an episode had me riveted to this extent but this one provides a sense of claustrophobia and impending doom that holds the viewers attention.
The plot is straight out of a horror movie. A group of students, including Bill, get a great deal on a big house, the only rule being to stay out of the tower. It all seems a little too good to be true, and it is. Soon enough, they begin disappearing one by one and the landlord seems to be acting very strangely. Looks like a mystery for a certain Timelord.
So we’re four episodes in to series ten, now. I think it’s safe to say that every series has one episode that is a bit of a clunker. Who can forget series two’s ‘Love And Monsters’, but so far series ten seems to be putting out some fairly decent stories. ‘Knock Knock’ is no different. Pretty much the entire episode takes place in one location but the script is so well done that it works and proves that the stories don’t always have to be mega-budget, set-piece heavy adventures set of exotic worlds. For all of the complaints from a vocal minority of fans about Earth-based plots, I think it’s safe to say some of the best Who stories have been small-scale stories set on our charming little mudball.
This episode has some wonderful performances from both Capaldi and Mackie. Mackie, in particular, shows a side of her character who’s slightly embarrassed by The Doctor and actively insists that he leave when she’s trying to impress her new housemates. She refers to him as ‘Grandfather’ which is a nice little callback to Susan from the Hartnell days.
The show is stolen by David Suchet as the landlord. He plays him as a sweet, kindly older gentleman but with an quiet menace about him. A key scene is where he arrive as if from no-where one night to check-in with his new tenants. He’s ever so pleasant and polite as he logs their requests until one of them asks about the tower. Suchet’s mood turns on a dime and becomes threatening as he tells them to stay out of the tower. Then an instant later he’s back to pleasant. You knew straight away that there was something else to this guy, but that scene cemented it.
I confess, I’ve not seen a lot of Suchet’s work. I’m aware of him from Poirot but that’s about it. He was easily my favourite part of this episode. His character was like a Scooby-Doo villain given depth and I really enjoyed the performance.
The relationship between Bill and The Doctor is given a different facet during this story. Both display a little discomfort with an aspect of the other’s behaviour. The Doctor get’s skittish and changes the subject when Bill starts asking about Timelords and regeneration. On the flip-side, Bill is uncomfortable when The Doctor is hanging around when she’s attempting to ingratiate herself with her new friends. It makes interesting viewing after a few years of companions that seem to like being around him all the time. It reminds me of the character dynamic when Donna Noble was in the TARDIS.
A review of this episode wouldn’t be complete without a mention of the crew behind-the-scenes in charge of lighting, set-design and sound for giving us a genuinely spooky setting and claustrophobic atmosphere and pulling it off so well. While this episode succeeds on the strength of the performances, without the atmosphere, it wouldn’t have been nearly as good.
The mystery of The Vault is increased with the end of this episode. Whatever The Doctor is keeping in there clearly understands him and can play the piano!!
What is it? Who is it? The door has Gallifreyan markings. Could it be The Master? Whatever the answer, I can’t wait.
Overall this series is shaping up to be the most enjoyable of Capadli’s run and ‘Knock Knock’ is another solid addition to his final year in the role. If only he’d had these stories a few years ago.
All photos are © BBC and used with permission.