Doctor Who episode 795: Night Terrors (3/9/2011)

‘This is just an average day at the office for me.’ At the time, I thought this was something and nothing. Watching again, it’s like Mark Gatiss is clinging to the soul of Doctor Who at the moment when the show was at risk losing itself. For starters, what a joy for the Doctor to respond immediately to a child’s distress call – in stark contrast to recent examples of him ignoring frightened children in favour of mucking about with pirates.

What fun, too, for the TARDIS to return to what might as well be the Powell Estate – albeit the Powell Estate reimagined as a frightening environment lit in sulphurous yellow, crawling with menacing adults: scary old ladies; a rough landlord with his dog; mysterious strangers who joke about letting the monsters gobble George up. I really enjoy Amy and Rory’s underwhelmed, sniffily middle-class reaction to the estate – their comfortable existences haven’t yet brought them into Rose Tyler’s world. The sequences of them dubiously knocking on doors while the Doctor throws himself into the search for the scared boy feel like justification for their punishment – banished into a sinister house haunted by a Sapphire & Steel style nursery rhyme and hunted by the brilliantly creepy peg dolls.

Night Terrors

I also like the Doctor’s investigation, which has shades of The Lodger as he crashes into an ordinary family home to uncover the uncanny, declaring that the monsters are real and dismissing the suggestion that kids shouldn’t be allowed to watch scary telly. The resolution might have hints of Fear Her, but this is better for the change of scenery inside the doll’s house, and by making George himself the monster. Really, this is all pretty unremarkable – but a basic, by-the-book goosebumps episode is exactly what the show needed at this point. Re-evaluation required.

Doctor Who will return in The Girl Who Waited

Next Time: The Gathering



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