We all knew this week was going to be spooky. It’s called Night Terrors, it’s written by Mark Gatiss and there were giant dolls chasing people on the previews; it had spooky written all over it. But it wasn’t just spooky — it was a pitch-perfect, fantastically spooky episode in an increasingly brilliant series.
But let’s start at the beginning. The Doctor gets a message on his psychic paper saying “Save me from the monsters” from a little boy who is scared of everything. Never one to resist a distress call (He’s quite a nice man, really) he rushes off to find out what’s going on.
What’s going on is, quite frankly, a bit weird. The little boy, George, isn’t actually a little boy at all; he’s a cuckoo-like alien who needs to feel needed. His “parents” couldn’t have children so he transformed himself into a baby and plonked himself in their lives. But when they couldn’t cope with parenthood they talked about getting help, and George overheard. Panicking that they didn’t want him anymore he became afraid of everything, and everything he was afraid of he sent into the dollhouse in his bedroom cupboard, where terrifying six-foot Tim-Burton-animated-film-alike dolls roam singing sinister nursery rhymes.
Yeah, like I said, bit weird.
Rory and Amy are quickly sent into the dollhouse and are soon joined by the nasty landlord, the creepy lady from across the way and, eventually, the Doctor, George and his dad. The dolls close in on George, but his dad fights his way to him (brandishing a giant pair of pink safety scissors), sweeps him up in his arms and declares that he is his son and he will never, ever reject him. Little alien boy is happy, everyone gets let out of the freaky dollhouse. The end.
It was a traditionally (if we forget about Victory of the Daleks, and let’s face it, we should all try and forget that episode) creepy Mark Gatiss episode, and one that worked spectacularly well. Along with clowns, menacing dolls with empty eyes who sing sinister nursery rhymes are quite high on the list of horrific things that you wouldn’t want to be locked in a dark dollhouse with. There was no gore, no death and the only violence was George’s dad biffing the dolls in the stomach with his giant safety scissors, but the entire episode was terrifying. Only Gatiss could have pulled off such an idea with such aplomb.
They couldn’t have chosen a better director, either. Richard Clark directed the utterly beautiful episode The Doctor’s Wife from the first half of this series and brought the same dark but somehow lovely feel to Night Terrors. From start to finish, it’s strangely bewitching to watch.
To complete the set of perfect components for this episode, we have the actors. Not Matt, Karen and Arthur — we know they’re good — but Jamie Oram and Daniel Mays as George and his dad. Jamie Oram was a heartbreaking wide-eyed and trembling George, looking small and sweet in his stripy pyjamas. I’ve been in love with Daniel Mays since he played Jim Keats in Ashes to Ashes, and the only bad thing about this performance is that he’s now out of the running to play the Doctor one day.
The only gripes I have are with how the episode fits in with the series as a whole. As a stand alone episode it’s perfect, but it doesn’t seem to make sense with what went before it. Are Amy and Rory just going to give up on looking for Melody as a baby? There wasn’t a mention of her through the entire episode. Are we supposed to accept that because they got to have Mels as their best friend they saw Melody grow up and are satisfied? Really? Really? If not (and I flaming hope not) then why didn’t they mention her, even once?
Those in charge at Who Towers also clearly suddenly thought “Ooo, bit of a series plot arc going on here, maybe we should add something about it into this episode” and stuck on a reminder of the Doctor’s death at the end. It was a bit naff, really — added nothing to the series plot arc or the episode.
Still, overall it was brilliant. I know this series is only two episodes in, but it’s looking jolly good so far. I hope they keep it up.