Dr Who Night Terrors Review
After sitting through a long weekend of horror films at FrightFest 2011 last week, I was in shape for the Night Terrors episode of Doctor Who tonight.
The set-up: a boy having nightmares about monsters in the cupboard reaches out to the Doctor for help. The Doctor turns up and finds that monsters are real and the child is not what he seems.
The framing device of monsters at night is fertile ground for a Who episode and setting it in a normal location like a block of flats allows the producers to play up set-pieces like piles of rubbish which eat people and malevolent elevators which transport occupants to other dimensions.
The episode was interestingly directed: lots of through the corner or cracks in doorway shots and subjective angles heightened the paranoia as well as help frame the world from the child’s point of view.
The lighting also played a key part in telling the story: the sickly green and yellow of the council estate made the environment seem more menacing and weird than the old dark house the characters eventually find themselves in.
The trouble with this episode was that a proper sense of threat was never developed. There was a lot of building-up but the monsters, when they were revealed, weren’t all that scary. To be honest they seemed more like half-finished Blue Peter creations.
The episode also fell down to Scooby-Doo logic: Amy and Rory were sent off a la Shaggy and Scooby and inevitably ran into the monsters well before the Doctor. The characters’ propensity for walking aimlessly around a dark house was annoying. And in any case, wouldn’t the Doctor have given them some method of communication they could reach him on after all they’ve been through by now?
The Doctor spent a good portion of the episode talking and performing with the father, before his case of selective amnesia (What is this we’re dealing with?) was cured (I now know the monster I’m dealing with and here’s the cure.)
Most disappointing was the episode’s conclusion: it felt hurried and too easy an answer given how the story had been set-up.
Children are generally not what they seem when it comes to Doctor Who. In the episode “Fear Her” the Doctor dealt with a child who could make things disappear. In “The Empty Child” we had zombies in gas masks.
It would be great to see an episode where children aren’t portrayed as weak, or dependent on adults to solve their problems. Maybe a child saves the Doctor the next time one features so centrally in an episode?