Sunday, September 04, 2011

My Review of Doctor Who's 6x09: "Night Terrors"

Written by Mark Gatiss
Directed by Richard Clark

The Doctor: “You see these eyes, they’re old eyes and if there’s one thing I can tell you, Alex, monsters are real.”

Ever since the first trailer for Series 6 has aired, this episode has been quite an anticipated one. Probably because it was filmed so early but sadly, that’s also something that hinders this episode as well to a certain degree.

Mark Gatiss has been something of a divisive writer for this series. While “The Unquiet Dead” seems to be popular with certain viewers, both “The Idiot’s Lantern” and “Victory Of The Daleks” have had the opposite reactions and something tells me that “Night Terrors” is going to be another polarising story for the writer.

Personally, there were parts of this episode I enjoyed a fair amount but sadly, there were also a lot that bothered me to the core and the biggest cause for concern were Amy and Rory. If Gatiss couldn’t do anything decent with them, why bother using them at all in this story? It would’ve been better for them if they had just stayed in the TARDIS for all the use they were here if I’m being honest.

It’s not so much that they got seperated from the Doctor that was a problem but more that their separation for him did little to actually advance the plot. Sure, they went down a creepy lift and wound up in a doll house but most viewers probably would’ve guessed that before they were menaced by those creepy dolls as well.

As for Amy being turned into a doll – that was another thing that seriously mystified me as well – where was Rory’s reaction? For a guy who waited nearly 2000 years guarding his wife inside the Pandorica, Rory seemed oddly unfazed by Amy’s transformation and as a doll, it didn’t last long for Amy anyways, which made it more of a missed opportunity for the series too.

I think another thing that really stood out like a sore thumb in this story was the lack of continuity with Melody as well. I didn’t expect countless references to the character but considering the themes of this episode (fears, abandonment, parental instincts); it did seem odd how both Amy and Rory didn’t at least allude to their own child.

I guess for some viewers having an episode that was completely standalone would’ve been a good thing but for me, this episode should’ve been aired during the first half of the series as it was intended to. By airing it in the second half and not referencing the events of the previous four episodes added to the disjointed feeling with this overall story, despite the last scene reminding us that the Doctor knows about when he’s due to die.

As for the story itself – it’s a bit of a “Fear Her” redux, isn’t it? A scared alien child needing the Doctor’s help, only this time around, it’s the Doctor who has to seek out the alien. I wished the reveal of George being an alien had been a shocker but it was actually telegraphed so obviously that I didn’t really react to it at all.

Of course I will now talk about the stuff I did like about the episode – the Doctor. A scared child calls for his help and he heads to aid the child in their hour of need with no hesitation. That level of selflessness is definitely the Doctor down to a tee and it’s there where Gatiss gets things so right in this story.

The way the Doctor, Amy and Rory go around the block of flats trying to find George was nicely comic without trying too hard and the Doctor’s interactions with Alex (who takes on the companion mantle more than Amy/Rory in this episode) were fantastic to watch, weren’t they?

Daniel Mays might have brought the nastiness in spades with Jim Keats but as Alex, he perfectly captured a father’s frustration and fears over being unable to help his own child. Alex’s relationship with George was definitely the pivotal storyline in this whole episode and also worked itself as the resolution as well.

I can sort of accept the cheesy-ish manner in which Alex decided to accept George for what he was in order to get everyone out of the doll house in the cupboard but I also liked that after everything was sorted that Alex still had some fears about what George could turn out to be when he’s older.

In terms of George being a Tenza alien, interesting idea for an alien but it could’ve done with a bit more development. Similarly the dolls were creepy and childlike in this episode but it would’ve been nice if we had gotten an explanation for how they were able to turn both Amy and Mr Purcell into dolls during this story.

As for Claire – anyone feel short changed by the character? I suppose Alex’s presence with the Doctor more than made up for it but it would’ve been nice if she had factored more into the story and that’s another gripe I have with this one.

Also in “Night Terrors”

This episode was originally meant to be the fourth one of the series but was pushed to the second half when “The Curse Of The Black Spot” was brought forward.

George: “Please save me from the monsters.”

Alex and Claire had a method of putting things that terrified George into the cupboard, which is where all our main characters also ended up in (the doll house was there).

The Doctor (to Amy/Rory): “Today we’re answering a call from the scariest place in the universe – a child’s bedroom.”

Amy: “We’ve got to find that kid.”
Rory: “Or maybe we should let the monsters gobble him up.”

The Doctor’s bedtime stories as a child included “The Emperor Dalek’s New Clothes”, “Three Little Sontarans” and “Snow White And The Seven Keys To Doomsday”. You know any of those could make for a great story next season.

Alex (re George): “I don’t know, I’m not an expert. Maybe you can get through to him.”
The Doctor: “I’ll do my best.”

George: “A doctor? Have you come to take me away?”
The Doctor: “No, George. I just want to talk to you.”
George: “About what?”
The Doctor: “About the monsters.”

Proving that this show is education, I learned that pantophobia means a fear of everything, which could also include pants when you think about it.

The Doctor (re opening the cupboard): “You don’t want to do that.”
Alex: “Why?”
The Doctor: “Because George’s monsters are real.”

Amy (to Rory): “I take it all back, panic now.”
Dolls: “Don’t run away. We want to play.”

The Confidential for this episode had Matt Smith, Karen Gillan and Arthur Darvill singing their theme for the BBC3 series.

Alex (to George): “Whatever you are, whatever you do, you are my son and I will never ever send you away.”

Chronology: Early 2011, considering George’s age in this episode was stated a few times.

I’ve watched this episode twice and while I’ve softened a little, I have to admit that “Night Terrors” suffered from it’s placement in the series, not utilising its ideas/themes better and for the shoddy treatment of Amy and Rory in the story. It’s probably one of those stories I’ll like more on repeats but the bad stuff does stand out a little too much and it could’ve been a little scarier.

Rating: 7 out of 10

No comments: