Five Thoughts About Doctor Who: Night Terrors

Sorry for the reduced service, it’s late and I need to sleep. I do hope large misshapen dolls don’t come for me in my dreams and try to turn me into one of them. Or I don’t lie awake in bed thinking about it. Okay, so what do we have, apart from spoilers to the episode of Doctor Who that aired tonight.

1. Fear Him

You know that was one scared kid. Terrified he was and convincing in that fear. Brrrrr.

My eldest daughter was annoyed that River Song wasn’t in it, but my youngest was gripped and stayed close to daddy with a big smile on her face. Doctor Who specialises in a certain kind of safe fear for kids. Stuff that should disturb them, given a family context and the sure knowledge that the Doctor will sort it all out. Meanwhile their mind starts whirring with possibilities and we ended up having long chats about the existence of monsters from this one.

They are currently sleeping sound as a pound, while I’ve got the jitters.

2. The Paul Abbott Touch

Okay, yes, this is the budget episode. No outlandish planets, no period costumes, just some paper mache heads which are meant to look fake. Look, you got a TARDIS smashing into 1938’s Hitler’s offices last week, Numskulls, CGI transformations and a regeneration to boot. Time for a breather.

I always thought the Powell Estate in Doctor Who was a little bit clean, a little bit tidy, a little bit cosy as far as council tower blocks go. This is more like it. Piled up bin bags, people hiding behind their front doors and stinking lifts. Complete with sold off council flats, grabbed by a landlord with a bulldog on a leash. Paul Abbot, in many ways Russell T Davies’ mentor was always meant to write an episode of the first series of the new Doctor Who but it never worked out. This has that touch.

It is written by Mark Gatiss though, from a very different school. Could be be showrunner number three? He’s steeped in Doctor Who lore. Like Moffat, he made Doctor Who parodies that aired on TV. He’s written four episodes so far. He’s starred in another. And it looks like he’ll be back as Lazarus at the end of this series. He co-produces and co-writes Sherlock with Steven Moffat.

So he’s definitely got an in.

3. Finally A Scary Bin

The first episode of the Eccleston Doctor Who had a very unscary bin, that ate up Mickey with a belch. So this redeems that slightly. Also we get a decent lift death scene coupled with a great awakening line from Rory as the repeated death scenes are becoming an injoke. “We’re dead, again.” And does the “Eastendersland” mention mean Dimensions In Time is in continuity now? Well we get a reference to the stage play shortly after…

4. A Nightmare Before Christmas

Yes, weird misshapen dolls come to life are scary. But I bet most kids actually want one now. This could be the monster hit of Christmas for toy shops, kids all wanting a very different kind of Amy doll indeed. Quite strong things as well.

And we get a proper Power Of Love story ending too. Just like the old days (and, um, last week I guess). But given the traumas Amy and Rory must have gone throygh last week, you thought they’d have been more touched by a child in trouble. And be more moved by the scene with George and his Dad- especially when Rory never got to hold his daughter. That’s what you get when you swap the already filmed episodes round in order, and have to add a bit here and a bit there…

5. The Doll House Is The Cornfield

There’s an absolutely classic sci-fi story by Jerome Bixby that got turned into a Twilight Zone episodeĀ  featuring a small child with the powers of a god who has totally transformed his world into what comforts him and banishes those he doesn’t like, or think different to him, to the “cornfield”, never to be seen again.

The power relationship is very different here, but that which scares George does go elsewhere… old ladies, lifts, anything is game.

But again we have a creature who is not what he appears to be, who cannot be seen for who he is, hiding in plain sight, changing the way people see it, and their surroundings. Is this a bit of a thing, now for Doctor Who?

Has there been a scarier sentence in Doctor Who than “Claire can’t have kids” in context?

Night all. Don’t get carried away by the dolls.

About Rich Johnston

Chief writer and founder of Bleeding Cool. Father of two. Comic book clairvoyant. Political cartoonist.

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