(all spoilers! don’t read till you’ve seen the episode! this is a love fest only — all complaints and bitching must come from a place of love / previous: “Let’s Kill Hitler”)
I’m not at the edge of raging with frustration like I was last week, but I am deeply mystified. Where is the Doctor Who that I love? I’m not even talking about all those poweful Christopher Eccleston and David Tennant episodes, though there’s that to consider, too. “Dalek”? Terrifying and touching. “Midnight”? Holy shit. But I fell in love with a show that was, long before that, all wobbly sets and garbage-bag monsters and it all still worked anyway. Cuz it was about the writing. I understand that Doctor Who has been dealing with cut budgets and downsized everything. But that’s why the writing has to be so sharp. It doesn’t cost any more to be brilliant and clever and full of Doctor Who mojo when it comes to the script. And “Night Terrors” completely misses that.
I’m so disappointed in Mark Gatiss.
So the little boy — who is, to be fair, adorable — is actually an alien. Which gives him the power to really, actually put the things that scare him in the cupboard. But not much else. Other than that, he’s nothing more than a scared little boy. Even though the Doctor tells us several times that “monsters are real,” there are, in fact, no real monsters at all, just things that are scary to a small boy but that are nevertheless nonmonstery that he puts in the cupboard. There’s nothing, it turns out, to justify the Doctor being so terrified of what’s in the cupboard.
“Whatever is in that cupboard is so terrible, so powerful, that it amplified the fears of an ordinary little boy across all the barriers of time and space,” the Doctor says. But that turns out not to be the case. At all.
We never even learn what’s so special about the kid that he’s able to get his cry for help into the TARDIS.
I can’t escape the sense that if his parents just took away George’s flashlight, half his nightmares would end.
There’s no there here. It’s all completely anticlimactic, and it’s not even amusing how the anticlimacticness of it plays out. Is the giant glass eyeball supposed to be funny?
The scary wooden dolls turning newcomers into scary wooden dolls: where did that come from? Is George afraid of being turned into a scary wooden doll? Or was this just a random scary thing?
It’s all almost the exact same story as “Fear Her,” only not as good, because it’s far less developed. Is the massive perception filter that keeps everyone from remembering that George’s mother was never pregnant also keeping people from noticing that their neighbors are going missing? Or does George only on this very night start sending people into the dollhouse?
I may be just an unfrozen caveman lawyer, but it seems to me that these are the first questions you ask during a story pitch, not unresolved problems that still linger after the story has been broadcast.
There is a bigger problem, too. This whole story — what there is of it, anyway — is about a child’s fear of being abandoned by his parents. “Whatever you are, whatever you do, you’re my son,” says Alex to George. How does this not remind Amy and Rory of the child that they lost, and are no longer bothering to look for? How does this not send them into a crazy spiral of guilt and rage? Nope! Instead, they’re off on more adventures on planets and in history and stuff. Hoorah!
Can there really be any other answer but that none of this is real, or that an enormous perception filter is futzing with all of us, or something? “It’s good to be all back together again, in the flesh,” the Doctor says to Rory and Amy at the end. Or “in the Flesh,” perhaps? And what shall we make of the Doctor’s response to Rory being flummoxed when asked to choose their next destination: “The whole universe?” Rory wonders. “Or universes,” the Doctor replies…
Still, a couple of enigmatic lines of dialogue at the end cannot make up for the fact that this episode is a whole lotta nothing.
Random thoughts on “Night Terrors”:
• The Matt Smith Doctor is so good with kids:
I’ll say it again: Let’s get a kid companion in here.
• Great quotes:
“It can’t all be planets and history and stuff.” –Amy
“He hates clowns…” –Alex, about George
“Understandable.” –the Doctor
“We’re dead. Again.” –Rory
(next: “The Girl Who Waited”)