This weeks episode of BBC’s Doctor Who toned down the scale and delivered a more tense affair. Raising the scares and delivering on the frights throughout, was the fourth episode of Peter Capaldi’s final season a solid scarefest – or was its creaky plot Knock Knock’s undoing?
Compared to previous episodes, Knock Knock’s outing was a fairly low key affair. Instead of trekking to the past or into the far flung future, The Doctor invites himself into Bill’s new crib. Turns out her and her friends have found themselves lodging in a hungry house that just can’t help itself to snacking on the tenants. With a creepy old man living with them and a heap of sinister happenings unfolding, The Doctor and Bill have a lot of work to get down to if they don’t fancy becoming part of the furniture.
The sense of unease throughout this episode made for tense proceedings, but that doesn’t mean it was a great outing overall. I feel that the episode went a bit too heavy on the scare tactics and didn’t offer enough reason to care about the people in the episode. The plot kind creaks along, never really getting into its main stride. Not helping this was Bill’s band of bland friends, who were notable for their lack of detail throughout. Honestly, can you name any of them?
It’s a problem episodes like this have in Doctor Who, when they introduce disposable characters that serve one purpose, and while this weeks episodes disposable crew felt just bland enough to work – I was somewhat frustrated that the episode was asking us to care when they were being gobbled up by the house.. By the end we ended up with Bill and The Doctor anyway – so it makes the extra characters feel all the more accessory to proceedings. Why should I care if nameless guy #55 gets eaten by woodlice – the story hadn’t given me reason to care.
There were some great visuals in Knock Knock though. Seeing that one guy stuck, half-eaten in the wall was quite harrowing – while the reveal of the wooden lady at the end had some bite. Certainly the look of this episode added to the overall tone – creating a claustrophobic space for the audience to get scared in.
It was also nice of the show to give the villain a proper motive that actually made sense. The story was framed as that of a father saving his daughter – way in over his head but trying to do the good thing. This was made all the more important when the episodes big twist was revealed – as it shifted to a tale of a son trying to preserve his mum. Granted the premise feeding tennants to the house in order to keep his mum alive was quite horrific – but the show did it’s best to make him sympathetic. It’s aninteresting twist, that kind of fizzled out as the episode reached its conclusion.
Come to think of it – the end of the episode felt hilariously rushed. The conclusion felt contrived and, given that all of Bill’s friends survived without any lasting damage, it really undermined everything that came before it. I’m not a fan of times like this – when the show bashes the reset button in order to make the audience feel better. An episode without consequences is a dull affair – and one where there are no long-term consequences are even worse.
Ultimately that was the problem with this episode. It wanted to be tense and atmospheric, but didn’t want to do the work to get there. The ending was rushed and while the villain had an interesting plan – the episode struggled to squeeze everything in. A bit of a shame really – but certainly not awful. Just a creaky plot stretched too far.
Also how friendly is The Doctor and his captive, if they’re sharing takeaway? Arguably the most interesting point from this weeks episode.