Doctor Who - Episode 10.04 - Knock Knock - Review
Read on below to to see how Mike Bartlett did adding to the legacy of spooky Doctor Who.
This was Mike Bartlett's first episode of Doctor Who and he took the Doctor and Bill to a big dark creaky house that Bill was renting out with some class mates. The setting is intimate. Nearly the entire episode (besides the vault stuff which will be discussed later) takes place in that house. No need for planets and galaxy hopping; a house will do.
Other than the setting, the music helped it be very spooky as well. Some new compositions mixed with some old favorites made the experience that much more frightening. I would be curious as to how a child would react to this episode.
The director, Bill Anderson, did a fantastic job contributing to the atmosphere and feel of the episode as well - the pacing and beats and character reaction shots were all done extremely well.
The basic plot is that the house seems to eat people and there is a creepy landlord (played by David Suchet) that can control it and draws people in because he needs the house to eat people, for reasons The Doctor figures out later. Plus, he has eyebrows that are almost as impressive as Peter Capaldi's, so he's a great adversary for him.
The Doctor knows there is something off about the house so he accompanies Bill inside, where she passes him off as her grandfather. This is worth pointing out because on The Doctor's desk in his office is a picture of his real granddaughter Susan. The camera lingered on it enough that they wanted us to notice it, it wasn't just an Easter egg meant for the eagle-eyed viewer to see after multiple viewings. Then in this episode she said "Grandad" a few times then said "Grandfather" which is what Susan called The Doctor. I've watched this show long enough to know that it would be very unlikely this is a coincidence. What it all means? I am not sure. Will we see Susan again? Is Bill a key to that somehow? Does it tie into the vault? We will find out, but these things can't be just a happy accident, and they are worth pointing out.
What we do know is that this is Peter Capaldi's last season. So it is worth noting that they are planting the seeds of regeneration into Bill's mind and into the audiences mind to get us ready. It's interesting it is being done this early. It wasn't explained to Rose for instance until right before he did it. Again, there has to be a reason. That word is too important to this show to just be "filler".
There were, however, little throwaway references that were meant to reward long time viewers. The Doctor asks The Landlord who the Prime Minister is, and makes suggestions. One of those suggestions was Harriet Jones, who was Prime Minister on the show during the Eccleston/Tennant years. I love little name drops like that. Especially ones that make sense and aren't shoehorned in just for the sake of it.
Bartlett, for a first time writer in the Who world, got the essence of how the show works right away. He had the Doctor beat the bad guy the way he always does - he outsmarts them. He uses his words to win the greatest battles in the universe and that is what makes him so spectacular. Sometimes it is done better than other times, and Bartlett nailed it. Having Peter Capaldi say your words certainly helps, but Bartlett wrote a strong narrative for the show and deserves a lot of the credit.
Maybe I am looking too much into this (A Doctor Who fan overanalyzing something? Outrageous!) but I saw the tuning fork that the Landlord used as a metaphor for this season. They have tuned it to perfection so far, each episode has been strong and while I liked last weeks episode better, this was still a strong entry into an amazing season and the momentum doesn't seem to be going away any time soon.
At the end of the episode, we were treated to more vault information - our biggest and best clues yet. Whoever is in there was referred to as "our friend". That is interesting because The Master and The Doctor have always considered themselves "friends" albeit in the loosest of definitions. The Doctor also gave the person in there a piano. That doesn't sound like a prisoner to me, but someone he is protecting - keeping safe. That is the exact definition of what a vault is for, so that makes sense. He also brought dinner down to the vault, The Doctor wants to open it up, eat dinner with the person and tell them the story of this week's adventure. That changed my whole thought process on who I think is in the vault.
I always thought it was The Master. Keeping Missy in the cage would make sense, she is dangerous. But now I am thinking of something different. What if the person in the vault is a post-library River, and the vault is helping her restore her consciousness to a body? River could be in the vault, too weak to be on her own, and on some sort of life support in there. That could also be why Nardole is so invested in the vault as well. After all, he was with River before he was with The Doctor. The Doctor eating dinner and telling stories to River seems much more plausible to me than him doing it with Missy, who would find it vomit-inducing.
The episode as a whole was strong. Creepy house, amazing costume/makeup for the the woman in the tower, and a story of a child's love for their parents made for great sci-fi television. The vault teases at the end of each episode work very well because this is the most intrigued I've been for an over arcing mystery on the show in some time.
Next week's episode looks scary too. With a title like "Oxygen" and a strong writer like Jamie Mathieson, we are sure to be in for a treat.