Post Game TV Recap: DOCTOR WHO S6E9 'Night Terrors'

Post Game TV Recap: DOCTOR WHO S6E9

One of the reasons that a child's bedroom is so scary is it has no sofa to hide behind when the monsters come. So when a young boy becomes so scared that his fear reaches across time and space, The Doctor makes a house call...

NIGHT TERRORS

by Mark Gatiss

Directed by Richard Clark

 

George is a young boy so afraid of the things in his room and outside his window that his fear actually registers on The Doctor's psychic paper.  Unable to resist, the crew head for a block of council flats in present-day England.  While The Doctor eventually finds George's home, Amy and Rory enter an elevator that  promptly begins to plummet downwards and leaves them not dead, but transported to what appears to be a Victorian mansion, populated by eerie doll-like creatures who seek to increase their number.  The Doctor begins to realize there's something very odd about George - for one thing, His father swears he's natural born, but The Doctor finds photos of his wife a week before George's birth, decidedly not pregnant.  George is an alien who entered his parents' life like a cuckoo, convincing them mentally that he's their child.  He's begun to grow obsessed that things in his environment are a threat to his safety, and the mental power that convinced everyone that he's a normal boy goes haywire, and he begins eliminating the perceived threats by transporting them to a dollhouse in his cupboard, which is where Amy and Rory are.  Only when he begins to see The Doctor and his own father as such threats to things truly take a turn for the worse.

A solid scare-packed episode, perhaps ever so slightly predictable, but more in the exciting "Ah, I've guessed it" vein than the bored "Yawn, what else is new" sense.  Still lots of laughs to keep the tone from getting too dour, Mark Gatiss balances humor and horror, just as he did for those years chronicling the lives of the people of Royston Vasey on The League of Gentlemen.

A lot of folks made the comparison between George and Anthony from "It's a Good Life" on The Twilight Zone. (I had to waste my cornfield gag last week, didn't I?)  But I saw it more as a subconscious defense mechanism, making the manifestation of power closer to the Id monster from Forbidden Planet.  George's race is genetically designed to find someplace safe, so any threat to that safety will be responded to instinctually, not as an act of hate or outright enmity.  There's a small similarity to the episode Fear Her, in that an alien is responsible for people's disappearances in the neighborhood of a young child.  Its climax with the father reassuring George that he is safe mirrors the end of The Doctor Dances, with Nancy hugging Jamie and giving the nanogenes a base to repair him.

GUEST STAR REPORT

 

Daniel Mays
(Alex) was a regular on Outcasts and Ashes to Ashes, starred in the comedy Plus One, and you guessed it, will appear in The Adventures of Tintin - Secret of the Unicorn.

Andrew Tiernan (Purcell) has had a long career in film playing gentlemen of various toughness, including Guy Ritchie films and the TV Series Cracker.  In the genre, he played Victor Carroon in the live BBC broadcast of The Quatermass Experiment in 2005, which featured so many people who would work on Doctor Who, including this episode's writer...

Mark Gatiss (Writer) In the year since he wrote last season's Victory of the Daleks, he's written and starred in an adaptation of First men in the Moon, co-written Steven Moffat's Sherlock, not to mention appearing as Mycroft Holmes. He also wrote and hosts a three part documentary, A History of Horror with Mark Gatiss, He's back with Steven on Sherlock this series, and he got to write the adaptation of The Hound of the Baskervilles, which starred Who-lumnus Russell Tovey. Mark is listed as appearing in the last episode of the season, as "Fenric" on the IMDB, but the role is also rumored to be that of Professor Richard Lazarus from The Lazarus Experiment.

And by the way, the wig Gatiss wore as Professor lazarus was the same wig he used for hapless vet Mr. Chinnery in The League of Gentlemen.  Chinnery is a parody of Peter Davison's portrayal of Tristan Farnon on All Creatures Great and Small.

Jamie Oram (George) will be making a return to Doctor Who shortly - he's providing a voice for the next DW adventure game The Gunpowder Plot in October.

THE MONSTER FILES -

The Tenza, a new race of aliens, are born in space, searching for surrogate parents.  When they find them, they take the form of the parent's species, and using its latent psychic abilities, convince them that it is their natural-born child.  Since The Doctor doesn't see a reason to remove George from his family, apparently the Tenza aren't a malicious race.

BACKGROUND BITS AND BOBS - Trivia and production details

ANNUAL EXPENDITURE TWENTY POUNDS OUGHT AND SIX, RESULT MISERY - Each season has had a "cheap episode", used to stretch the budget a bit by writing a story with relatively few effects and simple location work.  Considering the work done on the season opener, it's no surprise this episode is rather light on CGI and elaborate sets.  It was filmed at a block of flats in Bristol, and a Georgian mansion, Durham Park, which is not in Durham.  Location shooting can be cheaper than building sets if the right spot can be found, and also opens up the studio to build sets for other episodes.

PERCEPTION FILTER, DRINK UP! - The ubiquitous perception filter makes a return to the series.  For a while there the concept was occurring more often than uses of the Sonic Screwdriver.  A perception filter keeps you from seeing certain things the user doesn't want you to, or keeps you from remembering or noticing certain changes in your surroundings.  They've been used to hide a whole bedroom in Amy's house, add a whole floor to Craig's flat, and make scary fish-people look like pretty ladies.  They're rendered useless once you actually see or notice the item being disguised - this is in comparison to the alien members of The Silence, who drop right back out of your consciousness once you turn away from them.

"I'm down them stairs like Sherpa Tenzing, then" - Tenzing Norgay was one of Sir Edmund Hillary's team to be the first to climb Everest.  The Doctor read a book called "Everest in Easy Stages" to learn how to climb out of the Pit on Chloris in The Creature from the Pit.

"I found, um, scary kids, does that count?" - Aside from the obvious The Shining reference, spooky twins have shown up in Mark's work before. The Denton twins, Chloe and Radclyffe, were regular characters in The League of Gentlemen.

"He hates clowns" "Understandable" - Sarah Jane Smith had a fear of clowns that came to a head in the SJA adventure Day of the ClownThe Celestial Toymaker had two clowns as assistants, and robot clowns worked for The Greatest Show in the Galaxy.  The Doctor even referred to himself as a clown - his first incarnation described his second as such on The Three Doctors.

"Back there in EastEnders land" - EastEnders is a long-running (25 years now) soap opera, running four new episodes weekly, and re-run in a single block on Sundays.  Judging from the number of times the show appears in actor's resumes, one would get the impression a performance on the show is mandatory to join Actor's Equity. In 1993, Children in Need broadcast Dimensions in Time, a crossover between Doctor Who and EastEnders.  It featured Doctors three through seven, as well as many of their companions, all trapped in Albert Square.  It was done as a fundraiser for the charity, and as a celebration of the show's 30 anniversary.  The show had already gone on hiatus at this point, and this was the only official celebration of the event. 

"Snow White and the Seven Keys to Doomsday" - In between the end of Jon Pertwee's run as The Doctor and Tom Baker's start, a play ran in London for four weeks entitled Doctor Who and the Daleks - Seven Keys to Doomsday.  Trevor martin played The Doctor, complete with a video sequence at the beginning, showing his regeneration from Pertwee.  The Daleks were attempting to collect the seven crystals of Karn, which would allow them to take over the universe in some fashion. Wendy Padbury played one of his companions (though not Zoe, her original role). A very young Simon Jones played the master of the planet Karn, years before he would become Arthur Dent. Writer Terrence Dicks recycled the name of the planet and a few other plot points from the story into the television adventure The Brain of Morbius.  Big Finish Productions produced an audio version of the play, with Trevor Martin returning as The Doctor.

"I've got to invent a setting for wood, it's embarrassing" - As we discovered in Silence in the Library, The Sonic Screwdriver won't work on wood.  So it won't seal wooden doors without a lock and won't stop rampaging peg dolls.

Alan Scott, the Golden Age Green Lantern had the same weakness - his ring wouldn't work on wood, or things composed mainly of plant matter, which includes Solomon Grundy.

BIG BAD REPORT / CLEVER THEORY DEPARTMENT -

Another stand-alone episode, so no real additions to the arc.  The nursery rhyme at the end was penned by Gatiss at the request of Moffat, so as to allow for the brief reminded at the end of the episode of The Doctor coming date with mortality.  The episode was originally scheduled as part of the first half of the season, swapping with Curse of the Black Spot.  The original version of the episode would have featured sliding door sequences as Madame Kovarian looked in on the great-with-child Amy.

NEXT TIME ON DOCTOR WHO -

Amy is trapped in a timeline moving faster than the one Rory and the Doctor are in, which requires her rescue to have a bit of hurry-up involved.  The Girl Who Waited is a seven-day wait away.

Vinnie Bartilucci's blog The Forty Year-Old Fanboy provides your daily minimum requirement of blathering and unfounded statements of personal opinion.

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