S6(32)E09 – Night Terrors – Broadcast Discussion

3rd September 2011 • Blog Post by Seb Patrick •

Yes, yes, we’ve still got a review to catch up on – once any of us can actually put together some coherent thoughts on the all-over-the-placeness of “Let’s Kill Hitler”. In the meantime… it’s the Gatiss episode! It’s got to be better than “The Idiot’s Lantern”, eh?

Seb Patrick once met Paul McGann, who immediately pretended to be Mark McGann. He writes for Den of Geek, BBC America, Film4 and the official Red Dwarf website, among others. He owns over thirty toy Daleks and wishes the Dapol factory tour was still open.

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8 Responses

  1. Soooooo…. hmmm.

    I wanted to like this, but it’s just…. not quite right. There’s a lot of good elements (the dolls are sufficently creepy, there’s some god dialogue, the carpet sinking was good, Matt Smith is uniformly excellent), but nothing really gelled.

    The pacing was an issue – the first half of the episode was very slow, and not slow in a “building suspense” way – just slow in a “okay, we know they’re in a dolls house, get to the next bit” sort of way. By contrast, the ending felt very rushed and simple, and you’re left with a feeling of “Is that it?”

    A decent subplot of the dad having to face his own fear in the form of the landlord was quietly forgotten, but probably most jarring for me was Amy and Rory just not being quite in character. For a story focussing on a scared, lonely child, you’d have thought they’d have at least mentioned Melody and their loss. Of course this is easily explained by the fact that this episode was switched with the third episode, and there’s lots of little incongruities as a result. Rory and Amy are both much more flippant, the Doctor mentions ‘flesh’ (which if it were the third episode would have been a neat bit of foreshadowing, now no longer) and the final shot of the TARDIS monitor would obviously have been of Amy’s pregnancy scan, and not the date of the Doctor’s death.

    So overall, a come-down from last weeks delirious high, but probably not the weakest of this series… probably.

    The kiddies probably shat themselves blind over it tho’.

  2. Ridley

    I’d agree with the pacing issue. The episode just ended up becoming an information dump from what I thought was looking to be a decent episode. And I really want to like Gatiss’s episodes.

    Don’t like Rory’s mocking tone about monsters at all.

    Wish the cuckoo idea wasn’t just waved away.

    “He’s not really my son!”
    “But he is though.”
    “Oh okay.”
    *love saves the day*

  3. Seb Patrick

    It WAS a bit of a “love saves the day” RTD-style ending… but generally, I thought it was a pretty strong ep, probably Gatiss’ best since Unquiet Dead (although I do like his Dalek one more than most). Some good lines and stuff (“Snow White and the Seven Keys to Doomsday”), although there were characters/plots that didn’t really go anywhere (the nasty landlord, for example), and I feel like the whole thing was missing a big “reveal” shot of a tiny Amy and Rory looking out of the window of the doll’s house.

    Despite that latter point, I think the strongest point about the episode was the direction – the look and styling were utterly terrific. It actually felt like a very RTD episode (like something like Fear Her, only better), but shot like a Moffat episode – because Moffat’s run is all about storybook fantasy where RTD’s was about grounded reality (small points, such as the fact that George’s toys were all generic and old-fashioned, rather than being modern and/or recognisable trademarks).

  4. Andy M

    I was a bit underwhelmed by that, though it was still one of the stronger eps this series. As noted above, the first half hour really seemed to drag then the final act was a bit of an info-dump. And is just me or does Gatiss seem to get some of the shakier guest actors in his stories? It didn’t help that it seemed to be overly reminiscent of too many other NuWho stories: the whole plot was ‘The Empty Child’ complete with “I am your Mummy” ending, wasn’t it? With a healthy side of ‘Fear Her’ done properly.

    Also (pedant alert) the Doctor was told bedtime stories about Daleks? How come the 1st Doctor hadn’t heard of them then?

  5. I really enjoyed that.

    Very nicely shot, Matt Smith was alright, Karen Gillan was sidelined and then made of wood, Arthur Darvill was excellent as usual.

  6. Hendiadys

    I liked the set up and resolution, but found the bits in the dolls’ house generally underwhelming. The people turning into dolls didn’t quite have enough punch (maybe there wasn’t enough foreboding attached to the possibility of it happening), and I think writers of Who need to get right out of the habit of transforming and/or killing the companions and restoring them before the end of the episode. Done that idea now – move on. Crying wolf and all that.

    The worst part for me was when, trapped in the room with dolls at the door (dolls that didn’t seem to be any threat whatsoever once the door was barricaded), Amy and Rory insanely decided to un-barricade the door again, barge out and make a run for it to nowhere in particular. The problem was that there was no physical exit given to us or them – the resolution was all in the boy being loved by his Dad – and movement between the rooms wasn’t ultimately going to lead anywhere.

    It’s like the car chase in Matrix Reloaded. Where were they driving to ultimately, and how long was it going to take? If a sense of how much remains isn’t given quite near the start of something like that, then it doesn’t matter how much action there is, or how many things keep coming. After a while it just seems to go on and on. You can make dolls as scary as you like, but it starts to feel like padding quite quickly if you haven’t defined the limits of the threat to your audience.

    Better would have been if Amy and Rory had discovered that the front door and ground floor windows led nowhere, and that there seemed to be no normal exit from the house. So as audience we’d have a hunch that the resolution would be something more metaphysical. Then, having barricaded themselves into that room, they’d stayed there, and tried to understand what kind of place they were in and what was going on. A sober, non-panicky reflection because the threat is out of the way, but not going on for too long. Meanwhile, with the Doctor and the boy’s dad appearing in the house as well, the dolls would have been distracted to them in the stairwell, leaving the door and allowing Amy and Rory to join them soon afterwards.

    I wouldn’t change anything else after that. I thought the expressions of love between father and son were really lovely – perhaps it just resonates with my real life at the moment.

  7. I thought this was almost like an apology for the wasted opportunity that was ‘Fear Her’. They shared similar themes (disturbed children, elements of social realism) but ‘Night Terrors’ dealt with everything so much better. The housing block far more successfully managed the sense of a “community apart” than ‘Fear Her”s ridiculous attempt to invoke the same with a London street; the acting was generally very good, as was the writing (I particularly liked the fact that the father initially responds to the Doctor’s “monsters are real” assessment by basically telling him to fuck off out of his house); the threat was contained and location-specific rather than ‘Fear Her”s overblown “the whole world is threatened!” bollocks; and the ending was properly heartwarming, especially compared to ‘Fear Her”s notorious Olympic Torch moment.

    In many ways this demonstrated why Moffat is a better show-runner than RTD; ‘Fear Her’ had the worst aspects RTD all over it whilst, despite having Gatiss on writing duties, this had a very Moffat feel.

    If I’m going to look for negatives I’d say that the boy’s father became convinced of the Doctor’s assessment of the situation a little too easily (I’d much rather something had happened to make him change his mind rather than just him falling for the Doctor’s insisting tone) and I don’t think there was any real explanation of *why* the boy was so afraid of everything around him. Apart from that, though, excellent: one of the best this series and probably Gatiss’ best so far.

  8. Reboot

    …you forgot to set the thread for The Girl Who Waited to appear at the right time again, didn’t you? :p

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