Let me get one thing straight, I love Doctor Who – obvi, because I’m writing this blog, duh! I also love horror, massive fan and coincidentally I wrote my undergraduate dissertation of horror in Doctor Who. However, one thing which I love so much, and has as much of a place in my hearts as a show about an alien time traveller, is a show called Scooby-Doo, Where are You? and mash these three things I love together and you get a throughly enjoyable episode in what is building up to be Peter Capaldi’s strongest season. (PS, by the way, also a small bit of a Little Mix fan – appreciated the inclusion).
Firstly, I will acknowledge that “Knock, Knock”, the first in hopefully many contributions to Who lore by acclaim playwright and creator of Doctor Foster Mike Bartlett, is not perfect. There are some logic fails here and there, but my God, I think that was perhaps the point. This episode is so full of the tropes of horrors flicks, in particular 80s teen slashers and supernatural stuff too, that is almost seems like it’s purposeful in being that way. It even has the obligatory moment of exposition from the villain towards the end where all is revealed and the Doctor even acknowledges it as the “info dump” moment. To some people it may come across as dumb, but to me a big horror fan, it feels like an intended parody of the genre, with actual moments of dread sprinkled throughout. This may not have been what Bartlett was going for, but if so then, for this writer, he certainly put together an entertaining 45 minutes of television.
The plot sees Bill searching for some accommodation with her friends having returned to Earth following her first adventures with the Doctor. After a bit of initial struggle they meet the “kind” Landlord who offers them a big spooky house and spooky things happen, and the Doctor gets involved. I love how generic the plot is because it definitely feels like it is channelling an old episode of Scooby-Doo. It has everything from the gang of youths splitting themselves up for no good reason, to Bill and Shireen choosing to run up the stairs instead of down, and the book-case that hides a secret passage. It’s so tropey and Scooby-Doo like my God I love it for that. Fun fact: I wrote a Doctor Who fan fiction a few years back with the plot inspired by Scooby-Doo. No one cares? Moving on! Despite having some creepy moments, there is one moment early in the episode which is quite sweet and it’s the moment Bill hangs her mum’s picture in her new room, showing her where she’ll now be living. I hope she didn’t bring all her mum’s pictures with her because it’ll be a bit of a shame to have lost them all after the end of the episode!
As for the supporting characters, I quite liked Bills friends – in particular Shireen, Harry and Paul. Felicity and Paval kind of fell into the background, and while Paul was dispatched very quickly, he did have a lot of personality, and it was nice to see someone tall on TV (coming from someone tall, it’s nice to have that representation in there considering TV is populated by so many people under six-foot, lol). So fingers crossed Paul may make a return at some stage, he was probably my favourite. The friendship between Bill and Shireen also felt very real, however it would’ve been nice if we had gotten a brief glance at her in “The Pilot” just for that continuity. The character of Harry seemed to be the most utilised, being teamed up with Twelve for a large portion of the episode, and it was cool to see him show some initiative at times in the situation, even if it was to tell Paul he was logically the most likely to be able to defend them. Harry had a lot of companion potential, and considering we have been informed he is the grandson of Harry Sullivan (companion of the Fourth Doctor), it’s nice to know he might be doing his grandfather proud.
David Suchet also does an excellent job as the Landlord, being both creepy and sympathetic throughout. He has this sinister edge which is there in every scene and even once his tragic background is revealed in the back-end of the episode, he still has this villainous streak, showing that he still wants to kill to preserve the life he has made for himself. He is by far the stand-out, one-off guest star that has appeared in Doctor Who in the last few years. Towards the end of the episode we even started to get some Bates Motel vibes from the Landlord. The revelation, or “info dump”, of Eliza at the end of the episode, does slightly remove from the horror. It really is a case of once the veil is lifted the mystery was more exciting than the answers. That’s not to say there aren’t some really strong moments of horror – the imagery of Paval in the wall was terrifying, along with the demise of the Landlord and Eliza, which is just really grim to watch. The moment which is really creepy though is the moment after Paul has been taken with all the knocking, which sounds fantastic when watched in the binaural version on BBC iPlayer – would totally recommend checking it out.
Now like I said it’s not perfect – the dynamic between Twelve and Bill is mostly missing as they are separated for the majority of the plot. While it was good to see how Bill gets on by herself, I did feel she was very hostile towards the Doctor for no real reason at times. Weird. Also I wasn’t the biggest fan of the reveal, I thought the episode lost some momentum once the reveal of Eliza was made. Also like I said, there were some slight logic fails – like why there was never any investigations in 1957, 1977, 1997 about the other missing people?
Other than that stuff, I really did enjoy this episode and so far I’ve been loving series 10. I had my second shout at the TV moments from the season at the very end when the Vault opened but it cut to black before we saw anything. Thank God we’re going to find out what’s in there in “Extremis” – probably Missy. Was this my favourite episode of series 10 – no? But was it a bad episode – no! It was quite fun. There have been some superior horror entries in the show but this one certainly holds up. I really look forward to next week as it’s going to tackle one of my favourite types of stories from Doctor Who – base under siege! Thanks so much everyone for reading. Love you long time!
So here is my ranking of Series 10 so far:
- Thin Ice (8.5)
- The Pilot (8.0)
- Knock, Knock (7.5)
- Smile (7.5)