Mark Gatiss (who, going from his interview on Confidential
, is now Scottish - that's what working with The Moff on two different TV shows will do to you, I guess) returns to write his fourth Doctor Who
story. Calling the episode "Night Terrors" is going to raise a certain amount of expectation about how scary it's going to be, and it seems to have got a mixed response - my response was pretty mixed as well.
There's a lot of great stuff in the episode but it doesn't hang together all that well, the story seemed to take ages to get going, especially on a second viewing, and then we end up with a rushed, cheesy ending. (The amount of episodes ending in father/son moments are getting a bit much now, but I'm interested in the fact that this seems to be a theme for the series - because what with the River Song arc you'd expect it to be parents and daughters, not sons.) Amy and Rory are still nowhere near worried enough about Melody/River and are just off seeking adventures, although of course the episode running order was switched between this and the pirate episode, so as written and filmed this was actually before the big reveal. And I'm not sure how much I can criticise this really, if Amy was demonstrating anything close to the actual reaction of a mother whose child has been adbucted it would be way too dark for a family show.
I kind of want to blame director Richard Clark for the fact that the story wasn't as scary as it should have been, creepy dolls in the dark should be an obvious one but a lot of the timing was a bit off (notably the first time we see a shadow walk past at the end of a dark corridor; there's just nothing sinister about its movement.) On the other hand he and the design team make a great job of giving a generic council block (one apparently owned by a Victorian slumlord. Er, OK?) a very real sense of personality.
Lots of nice stuff in there of course, it being Gatiss there's lots of geeky in-jokes, including of course the nod to The Shining
, and I loved "Snow White and the Seven Keys to Doomsday." It's good to see even the Doctor is no match for Mrs Treacher from How Not To Live Your Life
, even when Leila Hoffman appears to be doing a Frank Spencer impression at times. The story's conclusion, with the Tenza revealed as a "cuckoo" reminded me of the Sandman
story arc "A Game of You," with a bit of "A Doll's House" thrown in as well of course. Daniel Mays is good casting as Alex, and half my Twitter stream seems to have fallen in love with him a bit (personally I still have to decide if I can even forgive him for Moonlight
.) And the adage about not working with children and animals holds true, not just with Jamie Oram as a convincingly otherworldly little boy but with the performance of the episode from Bernard the dog, looking bored as his owner is sucked through the carpet into another world. (It was sad to see the effort they went into for this effect on Confidential
, given that the end result just looks like hurried CGI.) Still, despite the problems with the episode's execution I wouldn't mind if we did
get the sequel suggested at the end with George as a teenager - with the Tenza's ability to make his feelings literal it could be a lot like the "It's a Good Life" Twilight Zone
story, another influence this episode reminded me of.