Sunday, May 7, 2017

In Which I Review Doctor Who (10x4)

So, to review, in the first three episodes this season, the Doctor and Bill have had a modern day introductory and opener, a futuristic space romp, and a journey into the past. In other words, all the classic formats Doctor Who is well versed in when a new companion enters the scene. It sounds like it's time for the Doctor and his companion to head home and touch base with the here and now and that's exactly what this week's episode "Knock Knock" does. This is another good, solid and canon compliant episode that is filtered through still another classic lens: the haunted house trope. This isn't the first episode, even in modern Who, that tackles ghosts, ghouls and a house that creaks an inordinate amount. Doctor Who likes to flirt with horror as much as is it does science-fiction and fantasy; like the Doctor and his blue box, it doesn't need to stay in one place for very long to make an impact. It's a fun and spooky ride this week so let's stare hard at those wooden fixtures and go! 

Like the episode "Smile," this week's story does not need to be overthought. All the hallmarks of any good spooky haunted house caper are here: a giant empty home, a creepy undertaker who's probably at fault when it comes to whatever the attractive, unsuspecting, and young adults find within the walls of said house that, on the surface, just seems to good to be true. Honestly, all that's missing is a talking brown dog and someone yelling "zoinks!" There isn't anything revolutionary here and certainly this type of episode has been done before, like season seven's "Hide." "Knock Knock" does have a bit of twist with the denouement of how the landlord and the wooden figure, Eliza, are related to each other. One would suspect the landlord to be a father trying to preserve his young daughter, not only because it's what the landlord actually tells the audience but also because it's an easy TV trick to gain sympathy for someone made out to be a villain. The fact that the family ties are opposite--a mother and her son--is a nice neat turnabout that, likely, most of the audience wouldn't have seen coming. If there's one major complaint--and to be fair, it's not a major major complaint--it's that this episode separates Bill and the Doctor for too long of a period. This prolonged separation does show how the burgeoning chemistry and combined quick wit of the two are an integral part to making a solid episode into something more but Bill on her own--or the Doctor with someone else--is nothing to scoff at because both characters are pretty well defined as is. If there is one nice through line, it's in the comparison of the Doctor and Eliza, the wooden mother who is living off the matter and energy of the tenets her son brings to the house (yes, there's a bit of a heavy-handed metaphor here that the Doctor is "living off" the young companions that the TARDIS or fate bring him). But tellingly, it's the Doctor's plea to the wooden woman that there's no point in surviving if you're going to lock yourself away that directly proceeds the Doctor telling the figure behind the Vault that he's a prisoner of this planet. There's no point for the Doctor to survive forever if he's locked away in an Earth-based university. For whatever reason, the Doctor has made a really out of character oath to stay put on Earth and not use the TARDIS--an oath he's since broken with Bill. Much like Eliza, the Doctor is living half a life, not a full one. But where Eliza chooses to move on, to end the horror she and her son have inflicted on poor students, the Doctor is grasping the TARDIS consoles with both hands, going back out there to the vast and wonderful tomorrows and yesterdays like he was always meant to.

Miscellaneous Notes on Knock Knock 

--The figure behind Chekhov's Vault seems delighted that several university students got eaten by space lice. Definitely the Master, then! But which one--Simm or Gomez?

--I think I shall say this every week until we get an answer but what exactly is the point of Nardole? Especially when the Doctor and the Vault seem to be enough to keep the figure locked in the Vault?

--This episode makes clear that Bill did not know what a Time Lord is or that they regenerate. She does learn about the former but the latter remains elusive. Since Peter Capaldi is leaving, I guess Bill is going to get the "surprise!" regeneration.

--Speaking of, Peter Capaldi is such a delight especially with his awkward and quiet humor, like crunching a chip at an inopportune moment.

--Yes, Bill. The Time Lords did wear funny robes and big hats.

--"I'm scared." "Don't be." "Why not?" "It doesn't help."

--The bugs were creepy as hell; like bedbugs on steroids.

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