Doctor Who – Night Terrors (Contains Mild Spoilers)

Rating:

 

This week writing duties were in the macabre hands of Mark Gatiss. Long time regular Who writer, co creator of Sherlock, one-quarter of The League Of Gentlemen, accomplished author (his Lucifer Box series should be a TV series), actor of stage, screen and radio. He has even been in Doctor Who, playing Dr Lazarus in ‘The Lazarus Experiment’ and he also supplied the voice to Danny Boy in Victory of the Daleks and A Good Man Goes To War. I am indeed a fan of his work through all his various outlets. Anybody who has seen his brilliant documentary ‘A History Of Horror’ can testify he has an encyclopedic knowledge of the genre and a genuine love of it to.

So it has always come as a shock that with the exception of the masterful, ‘Unquiet Dead’ from series one all his episodes have always felt they were lacking something. There has never been a shortage of ideas in his episodes and I have enjoyed every one that he has written, but given his background I just expected more from him. So it’s extra pleasing that Night Terrors is easily his best episode yet, and it’s bloody scary as well.

The Doctor and co rush to the aid of a frightened child, hardly the most exciting set up but it would have to be one very scared child to get a message to the Doctor.  What really works is that the episode is tied in that most unstable and unrelenting fear, a child’s imagination. This is where I give extra credit to Gatiss for recreating many a sleepless night from my childhood. Clutching the sheets terrified of what could be lurking in the darkness or under the bed. Innocent objects became creepy shadows on George’s wall.

Daniel Mays plays George’s strung out Father, Alex, and while it’s always great to see Mays on TV (Funland, Ashes To Ashes), I would have liked to have seen him in a meatier role. As Mays got to fight off killer dolls with a giant pair of pink wooden scissors, that in itself is something impressive to put on the CV.

George is no ordinary little boy; in fact he’s not a little boy at all. George keeps all the things that frighten him in a scary looking wardrobe, no Narnia to be found in this wardrobe, only the stuff of nightmares.

Amy and Roy take the elevator ride from hell and end up in a dollhouse, which they soon discover is inhabited by horrifying peg dolls. Once again Doctor Who delivers behind the sofa moments, I love that this episode had that unsettling feeling you have the characters you know and feel safe with but the situation is anything other than that. These kinds of stories come along only too rarely (Blink, Unquiet Dead, Tooth and Claw) so it was brilliant that the episode really went for it.

The dolls in the house in the wardrobe (there’s something you don’t write everyday) sing a disturbing nursery rhyme, one that I am struggling to get out of my head.

Tick tock goes the clock

And what now shall we play?

Tick tock goes the clock

Now summer’s gone away?

 

Tick tock goes the clock

And what then shall we see?

Tick tock until the day

That thou shalt marry me

 

Tick tock goes the clock

And all the years they fly

Tick tock and all too soon

You and I must die

 

Tick tock goes the clock

We laughed at fate and mourned her

Tick tock goes the clock

Even for the Doctor

 

Tick tock goes the clock

He cradled her and he rocked her

Tick tock goes the clock

Even for the Doctor…

This sends shivers down my spine, there’s always something unnerving about nursery rhymes when used in horror, Nightmare on Elm Street proved that point. It’s used to powerful effect here and was just another reason why this episode really was satisfying.

There were a lot of nice touches to Amy and Rory being trapped in the dollhouse, it was obvious that’s where they were as soon as the wardrobe was opened but that didn’t spoil anything. Matt Smith was on particularly good form, clearly still loving every moment of playing The Doctor.

A thoroughly enjoyable episode that made me wish I was a kid again, but only because it would of scared me witless. This was an episode you could watch with no prior knowledge of the series, as the series arc has gotten bigger and complex (in the best maddest way possible) it was nice to have a great scary adventure away from the core story.

In my opinion series six has just gone from strength to strength, and I truly love Doctor Who being on post summer.  It didn’t further the core story (apart from the last 10 seconds) which I’m sure will annoy some fans but the stand alone stories are just as important as the season arc.

Wasn’t too sure of what to make of the trailer for next week’s episode but I am already counting down the days, hours, minutes, seconds and micro seconds until Saturday.

Chris Suffield

———————————————————————————————-
Vulture Hound is now available to follow on Twitter (www.twitter.com/vulturehound) and friend Facebook (www.facebook.com/vulturehound)