This week’s episode of Doctor Who is written by Mike Bartlett, one of the UK’s hottest telewriters and playwrights, and with a chance to take a shot at his favorite TV show, he wants to shine. Bartlett determines to out-scare the traditional haunted house story, with a house that eats people… Meet me after the time jump for my thoughts on “Knock Knock.”
We open on Bill and her five new friends looking for a place to live with six bedrooms. This new combo of friends is punctuated by Little Mix’s “Weird People” (we hear more of them later), to drive home the point. Speaking of weird, the French fry fanatic in me loves Bill’s shirt with the fries on it. It’s not working out so well, when suddenly an old man approaches them out of nowhere and offers his home to them, a gorgeous and spacious, and cheap, they jump at the offer. He seems a bit too happy when they all sign the contract.
Having recently been in the market for a new home, I know how important first a good realtor who knows your needs is, and how you should not jump at the first good place you find. But I suppose, this being Doctor Who, these kids are going to learn the hard way. Moving in on a dark and stormy night is probably not the best idea, but Pavel does it because he needs a place pronto. He pays for it.
The Doctor finally makes his appearance, helping Bill move. Not that Bill really has all that much to move to begin with. Well, I guess that’s what friends are for… but is that really a proper use for the TARDIS? And why does the TARDIS always have smoke in it this season? Either way, the move initiates more questions about who and what The Doctor actually is. This is the first time Bill has heard the term ‘Time Lord,’ and is fascinated. After joking about high collars and mentioning regeneration however, The Doctor closes the floor for questions.
Once at Bill’s new place, The Doctor senses (or perhaps he’s clued in by the spooky music) that something is amiss. Bill says it’s a bit drafty, but The Doctor can’t hide his other suspicions. The house does creak quite a bit. When Bill’s mates show up, they all recognize him as ‘The Doctor’ but Bill introduces him as her grandfather, and he’s a bit bugged by that. For those counting, that would be the second indirect Susan reference. As Bill passes Pavel’s room music is heard. They assume he’s playing.
Bump in the Night
Night falls and the five friends (Pavel is eternally in his room) hear noises in the kitchen, like they were reading from a horror movie script, they go to investigate, and discover The Doctor shambling around. He’s found that there’s no heating, the power outlets are outdated, and no phone reception, and no wind. That’s when the old man, the Landlord, drops by.
Played by actor David Suchet, another man who could not turn down working on Doctor Who, the Landlord, despite the ominously Time Lord-ish name, is not what we think he is. But he is scary, intense, and puts up a hell of a performance frightening the kids, The Doctor, and us viewers with his antics. Much like Bill, uncomfortable with The Doctor insisting on staying the night, the Landlord isn’t fond of him either. When The Doctor tries to trick him and asks who the Prime Minister is, the Landlord advises our hero that he shouldn’t stay the night.
Once folks start going to bed, the noises and bumps and skittlings go into overdrive, with knocks coming from various doors in a hallway. But then again, what does one expect from a house that eats people, right? Even The Doctor’s comparison of Little Mix to Quincy Jones can’t cover up that the house is stalking its inhabitants. Bill and her flatmate discover what’s happened to Pavel, and it ain’t pretty, as he is absorbed into the wood of the walls.
Once the Landlord takes the needle off the record, Pavel is completely submerged into the wall without a scratch. We learn rather quickly how the Landlord expects to extract payment for rent. He’s feeding the house. The Doctor and flatmate Harry go investigating and confront the Landlord as they learn it’s not just the wood, but some really creepy bugs as well. Oh yeah, this is a scary one.
Who’s Who and What’s What
As it turns out, the Landlord has been keeping his daughter alive with the creepy bugs, turning her into wood, to preserve her. Certain sounds keep the bugs under control and at bay, explaining how Pavel was only half-gone with the record playing. All sorted out it makes a certain sense, but the story’s one fault was keeping us in the dark as long as The Doctor was. That was part of my problem with annoying episodes of the past like “Heaven Sent” and “Hell Bent.” I guess they all can’t be gold, but I did like the father/son revelation, sad as it is.
In an episode titled “Knock Knock,” this is not exactly what was expected after last episode‘s end stinger. One might expect we would be seeing more of the vault, and we do, once the main story has ended. From within the vault we hear Beethoven’s “Fur Elise” and The Doctor offers to have dinner with whoever is inside. When he promises to tell the tale of the episode, with lots of people dying, the piano starts to play “Pop Goes the Weasel.” Yep, definitely sounds like Missy or The Master in there…
The best part of this episode is sadly left out in the editing process. It’s a shame that Bartlett was vetoed in making flatmate Harry the grandson of Harry Sullivan. I think that would have been cool, and he really did act like his grandfather. The grand-bit of course fitting in well thematically with the episode, and he would have been an intriguing companion. Shame. It could still happen.