Doctor Who, series 6.9: “Night Terrors” by Mark Gatiss

**Warning! Here there be spoilers! DO NOT read ahead if you have not watched through Series 6, episode 9 of Doctor Who. If you have, or don’t care, read on, but don’t get mad…**

It isn’t a season of Doctor Who without an episode about a terrified (and often terrifying) little kid.

When the Doctor receives a distress call, he answers. This time, though, it comes from the thoughts and fears of a young boy who is frightened of the monsters in his closet. The Doctor is making a house call to “the scariest place in the Universe: a child’s bedroom.” He, Amy, and Rory go to a large apartment complex to find the source of the distress call: George, a boy afraid of everything, bringing his parents to their wits’ end. Soon, people around the apartment begin to disappear, including Amy and Rory, and all the concern seems to center around George’s cupboard, which the Doctor is hesitant to open. Meanwhile, Amy and Rory have found themselves in a dark and twisty funhouse of sorts, populated by eerie dolls with ragged hair who pursue them, attempting to turn them into one of their own. George’s fears have taken on life inside the cupboard, and the Doctor must help him to face those fears in order to save his companiosn and allow the boy (who turns out to be an alien, in the end, but a benign one who just wants to be loved and to fulfill the need of a normal family) and his family to live a normal life.

While it’s always a slight letdown to depart from the main story arc, particularly following all of the major revelations and raised questions in “Let’s Kill Hitler,” Mark Gatiss‘ stories (like “The Unquiet Dead,” “The Idiot’s Lantern,” and “Victory of the Daleks“) are always worth it, making the pill of anticipation easier to swallow. This standalone goes back to the core of what Doctor Who does best: taking something with which everyone can identify–the monsters in your closet–and making it come alive. However, it’s not simply for the thrill of it, for the scare factor. Rather, the young boy must conquer his fears in order to move on. He does this with the help of his father. In a really tender moment, the boy does not have to do it alone; his father comes to his aid. George’s fears are amplified when his family seems to be coming apart. It is the reunification of his family, the affirmation of his father’s love, that does it. This is a really touching episode.

I have two slight criticisms:

1. We don’t address the River/Melody situation except for the final shot which reminds us all of the Doctor’s impending death (although, can you say its impending if we’ve already seen it? wibbly wobbly, timey wimey…). I’d just have liked to address the hugely significant impact of the previous episode.

2. There was an odd little “in case you missed what Doctor Who is” before the credits at the beginning. It felt out of place. Put it before the cold open, like other shows. This interrupted the flow of the episode. It was a good montage, but it was not placed well.

Honestly though, this was a solid episode. It’s another in a long line of what Steven Moffat and his team do best: primal fear, usually involving children (see: “The Empty Child,” “Fear Her,” “The Beast Below,” and many others). I really enjoyed it, and next week’s show, “The Girl Who Waited,” will likely be rife with mind-bending movements through time, as it looks like Amy will go through some really crazy, intense events.

P.S. I just realized that Mark Gatiss, a staple in the Doctor Who universe for quite some time now, writing multiple episodes, starred in “The Lazarus Experiment” in Series 3. I never realized it until I just happened to watch that episode this evening.

Previous episode: “Let’s Kill Hitler


4 thoughts on “Doctor Who, series 6.9: “Night Terrors” by Mark Gatiss

  1. First of all, George was never terrifying…he was too busy being adorable! Seriously, Jamie Oram was the cutest little boy ever!!! By the end of the episode, I wanted to adopt him!

    Oh, and it turns out this episode was originally slated to air in the first half of the season which means that the episode would have foreshadowed the whole Melody/River scenario. However, being placed here did make it seem oddly out of place. I’d have to think that The Doctor’s Wife knocked it out of place.

    Mark Gatiss was Prof. Lazarus as well as Sherlock’s brother in the BBC series. He is very versatile:-) Also, I love his episodes!

    In the end, I enjoyed this episode as a stand alone. I don’t think it was every really as scary as previews hinted at, and surprisingly I ended up tearing up at the end when George defeats the monsters by having his dad hug him.


    Dad stories get me every time:-/


  2. Pingback: Doctor Who, Series 6.10: “The Girl Who Waited” by Tom MacRae « Elementary, My Dear Reader

  3. Pingback: REVIEW: Doctor Who – “Night Terrors” | Squarise

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