7 September 2011

Doctor Who - Night Terrors

This will contain spoilers.

Emotional response
Oh a scared child, well I can relate I'm still a scaredy cat.
Of course the Doctor will come and help -and not just leave while the mystery's half solved and a child is lost and still in danger! (My objection to the end of Day of the Moon started intellectually but over time it's migrated into the emotional too.)

Anyway... this looks suitably creepy and it's in a mundane and downbeat sort of setting. Reminds me of Fear Her -which I seemed to enjoy more than most (I quite liked the Isolus - I felt sorry for it)- but in darker way. That poor kid is so freaked out and the way he moves so hesitantly and carefully is good acting.
When you're a scared child you just want to curl up in a ball and remain motionless with your eyes screwed shut. Of course that's not so good from a televisual point of view.

The mansion is confusing change of scene, we totally guessed it was a dollshouse, obvious really.
Oh those dolls are so, so creepy! And you just knew they were going to move and be evil!

Mean landlord is really a lonely soul with only his dog for company. It's a misleading if comforting view of a bully.

Aargh! The scary dolls turn people into more scary dolls! There's no stopping the things! Of course the second it happens to Amy we know it's not permanent, so that's OK.

Some good lines and some funny scenes in the flat. Feel bad for the dad, a strange man shows up, at first is helpful, then won't leave. Then the mean landlord shows up and is threatening. Then he discovers his son isn't really theirs and his life with the kid has been a lie constructed by an alien cuckoo. Incidentally I totally said cuckoo way before the Doctor did, and figured that the kid didn't know what he was.

All better by the time mum comes home and everyone's having a jolly time in the kitchen. Though possibly the Doctor should have provided more info about the care and feeding of an alien child.

That was a creepy episode with a nice ending.

Intellectual response
Rory and Amy are unimpressed by  location but they are on a planet in history, you'd think they could step outside their own perspectives a bit.

Daniel Mays and Matt Smith have good chemistry together, not surprising they're both good actors (Mays was best thing in Outcasts). The dad is clearly fearful of many things, including nasty bully landlord, an adult fear. Briefly thought maybe the kid was a somehow a younger version of the dad - oh no turns out kid's an alien. One of the main problems with Who is that that's pretty much always the answer. It can ruin the fantastical aspects of the show, whilst still being fairly poor SF as there's little exploration of the alien itself. The Doctor just says what it is and what it does and that's that. I think that's the tricky thing with having such a knowledgeable/powerful character.

Also there seem to be a fair few aliens just drifting about the universe looking for places to belong. I still like and feel bad for the little Isolus, but we don't even get to see what a Tenser(?) is, so really the Doctor might as well have said 'magic kid'.

The dollshouse thing was obvious after the wooden copper pan, and the point rather laboured by Rory and Amy refusing to open curtains or think about their location and the stuff they found there (that lantern was clearly oversized but there was no comment).
If you want to see a really good example of this kind of situation read The Magicians of Caprona by Diana Wynne Jones, I won't say more to avoid spoilers but it's very well done.
Not really sure what Rory and Amy are actually doing. I guess they're just there to run from the dolls, which are creepy enough on their own anyway. Also what happened to the old lady? I assume she ended up in the dollshouse, but then we don't see her. Is she a doll?

It was a creepy episode and provided decent enough chills and discomfort to contrast with familial scenes. The inclusion of other people besides the TARDIS crew and the family made it seem like a wider problem, though not as serious as in Fear Her. Not impressed by Rory and Amy though, they seemed fairly unconcerned by a mission to help a scared child - though given recent events I guess that's perfectly normal.

It feels like something's missing, what could it be?
Oh yeah. The baby!

Seriously these people lost their baby and they don't seem to give a damn. In a kid-based episode they seem unconcerned by anything other than their own safety. It's just cold.
In Fear Her Rose was all for investigating the disappearance of children that weren't related to her at all. However Amy and Rory seem content to forget they even had a kid (unplanned and unexpected though she might have been). I realise they know some of her backstory as River/Mels, but surely they also know that she had to die (possibly many times) to get to that point? And I realise logically-speaking that interfering with Melody's timeline could mess a lot of things up, but surely as a parent you would rail against that, sensible as it might be.

Of course we all know babies are a right pain on TV shows, they don't do anything dramatic, they don't have dialogue, they're unpredictable as performers and they take up a lot of time and attention. I suppose this is really a very convenient way of having your main characters have a child without actually having to worry about all that icky, boring, domestic, un-televisual child-rearing stuff. Possibly I'm being very cynical here, but I must say I'm hard pressed to find another reason.

I appreciate that finding Melody can't be the focus of every episode, Doctor Who is an adventure show and being too baby-focused would put people off, I get that. But shouldn't there at least be a scene where Amy and Rory comfort each other, or discuss their loss, or at least act as though they're aware they have a child? Their husband and wife chemistry was good, but so far their parental instincts are just dreadful.


  1. "Mean landlord is really a lonely soul with only his dog for company. It's a misleading if comforting view of a bully."

    I thought it pointed out he was such an asshole that even the dog didn't care - he got sucked down into the carpet, and it just sat there grinning :)

    Also, I too do wonder about the Melody/lost child thing - ok, so they didn't see her grow up, but Amy at least carried her to term and gave birth, and Rory seemed pretty keen in 'Angels Run', so... where's that gone?!

    It could be totally dominating in a story sense, but then... it probably should be?

  2. I meant that it's comforting to imagine that a bully character has little in their life -or at least it is if you've been a victim.

    Yes, the Melody thing definitely needs to be far more important. I can see why they haven't made it the dominant plot thread, but they shouldn't have just completely ignored a missing baby.