Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Doctor Who: Night Terrors ( review with spoilers )


OK, I say "with spoilers" but, as this review is so ridiculously late, I'm guessing most people who want to see this episode have already done so. Night Terrors is one of the most old school Who episodes we've seen for a while, especially coming as it does straight after the brain-frazzingly bonkers Let's Kill Hitler. It tells a very simple story of a young boy who lives in a state of almost constant fear of his surroundings. He's scared of the shadows cast by his toys at night, by the rumbling sound of his tower-block's lift, the old lady shuffling past his window - just about everything. His parents are at their wits' end and are contemplating "calling someone in".....


They don't need to: young George has already called in the Doctor. Somehow, his repeated prayer of "Please save me from the monsters" has reached through time and space and alerted the one man who can help him. The Time Team promptly materialise on George's council estate and begin investigating. The Eleventh Doctor appears even more out of place in this landscape of tower-blocks and bin-bags than his two predecessors, who both spent a lot of time in such familiar surroundings. But don't worry: the story soon drags us back to Steven Moffatt's patented Who landscape of the dark fairy tale.

George has a "thing" that helps him deal with his fears: anything he's frightened of gets put in his cupboard. This cupboard soon turns out to be a Narnia-like portal to another world and its influence spreads throughout the tower-block. Amy and Rory, along with the old dear from next door and the cartoon-nasty landlord, find themselves deposited in a dark, spooky mansion, being chased by blank-faced giant dolls...

"You see these eyes? They're old eyes. And one thing I can tell you, Alex: monsters are real..."


Night Terrors has all the makings of a classic Doctor Who story, but doesn't quite make it. The scenes in the doll's house are suitably atmospheric and the peg dolls are sure to give sleepless nights to countless nippers across the land, but it seems to take an age to get there. The problem with the early scenes ( for me, anyway ) is the lack of a real threat. We see George's fear but have no idea if anything is really happening outside his imagination. Personally, I would have moved the scene of the old lady being pulled into the pile of bin-bags to the pre-credits sequence. This may be an obvious "hook" but at least it would establish that something concrete is happening. It also needs to be said that the father/son bonding story resolution, while quite touching, is getting a bit samey: we've already seen it twice this season. Like the very similar Fear Her perhaps this script needed another draft to give it that extra impact?

I don't want to be too negative about what is an enjoyable little story with some good, creepy images ( at times reminiscent of Jan Svankmayer's Alice ) and which definitely improves with repeated viewing. But I'm not too sure about Amy's new look...

4 comments:

That Baldy Fella said...

Yep, I agree. I liked it and I wanted to like it more but something about it just didn't quite come together. Certainly not as tedious as Fear Her but feels very slight like that episode.

cerebus660 said...

Mind you, I'm sure there are plenty of young kids who watched that episode and will remember the freaky dolls well into adulthood...

Steve W. said...

I agree too. Given Gatiss' track record, it was better than I feared, but not as good as it could've been.

cerebus660 said...

It's a shame , really - I like a lot of Gatiss's work ( League Of Gentlemen, Sherlock, Crooked House, the Lucifer Box novels ) but think he's only written one totally successful Who episode, The Unquiet Dead. That one really is a cracker.

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