Dr Who Night Terrors Review

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?

posted by admin at 10:27 pm  


  1. The episode was beautifully directed, but the story itself fell quite flat (and gets worse the more I think about it).

    I’ve written a bit about what I see as the central problem with the Ponds this season, and would love your thoughts on the matter.


    Comment by theoncominghope — September 4, 2011 @ 8:35 pm

  2. I was really disappointed with this episode. It took so long to get going and the ending was just incredibly weak. I’m a big fan of the current doctor who story arc with river song and the doctor but its always great to get plenty of stand alone episodes in each series too. Somehow this one just didn’t deliver.

    The concept of scary monsters in the cupboard is a great one and very fitting for doctor who but it lacked direction in the story telling amd the overal structure.

    In my opinion too much time was spent on dialogue between the doctor and the dad character  with nothing progressing any further.

    The idea that am and Rory can go on adventures without mentioning their missing baby seems ridiculous.

    There were far too many shots of the boy with the torch in his bedroom to portray how terrified he was.bWe got the setting ofthe story early enough without needing this scene repeated over and over.

    Somehow i just felt bored. We were almost half way through the episode before the doctor opened the cupboard.

    There were some comic moments but doctor who is largely drien by plot and this very much lacked in the first 20 minutes with nothing really happening.

    When it comes to doctor who, Mark gatiss doesn’t seem to know how to fill a 45 minute episode without losing the audience.  When he did victory of the daleks, the plot was rather weak and it ended very quickly, with a painfully long ending that dragged  for twn minutes after the main story had been resolved. 

    In this episode, The revelation of the boy being an alien added nothing to the story for me and for whatever reason, I didn’t seem to care whether he was an alien or not. The ending was also weak, with the way to stop the monsters being simply  to overcome his fear of rejection. I would have expected better from a professional writer. If rejection was all the boy was afraid of then why was he afraid of monsters? How did the 2 fit together?

    There were some good ideas in there but they just didn’t gel for me.

    Comment by Michael — September 5, 2011 @ 12:04 am

  3. @theoncominghope

    As you point out, the Ponds’ missing kid is the elephant in the room. It was a huge cliffhanger for the end of the last series, such that going forwards, every successive problem seems of lesser importance.

    Comment by JP — September 5, 2011 @ 8:55 pm

  4. @Michael

    The bit where they finally opened the cupboard was a bit nervy, but again, a bit of a let down.

    The exchange between the doctor and the father was pretty funny (“You’re not from social services!”), but contrasted with the moment the dad runs in slow motion to hug his child at the end made the latter seem inauthentic.

    Comment by JP — September 5, 2011 @ 9:03 pm

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