Saturday, May 20, 2017

Doctor Who 10.04: "Knock Knock"

“Honestly, Doctor, there’s nothing going on! Nothing weird, nothing alien! Just an old house and a dodgy landlord, which is pretty standard for students.

In this season of “Doctor Who,” we’ve already hit two of the mail genres that the show’s various creative teams over the years tend to draw on: far future sci-fi and historical. With “Knock Knock,” we hit the final point of the trifecta with horror. Bill moves into a “too good to be true” old house with a bunch of roommates, and of course, all is not as it seems. There are bugs and dead mothers involved. Given that Bill’s mother also passed away when she was a baby (and the Doctor is quite protective of Bill as she moves out of her foster mother’s house for the first time), there is a general thread of parenthood running through this episode. I think the episode did some decent work to help solidify the how the relationship between the Doctor and Bill is going to be going forward, but as with most episodes in the Steven Moffat era of “Doctor Who,” the plot was more convoluted than it needed to be.

Bill and five of her friends/aquaintances are looking to move into a house together. They go to see an estate agent, but the pickings at their price range for a place with six bedrooms (couldn’t they double up if they’re that broke?) are slim. The places they are being shown are tiny with improvised bedrooms and they’re just not going to work. Just as the kids are feeling rather dejected, they are approached by a rather creepy older man who asks if they are looking for a place to live. He leads them to his rental house, which is rather dilapidated, but it’s huge, so the kids love it. Bill is a little hesitant to sign the contract, because she wonders if a big house at the price quoted is too good to be true (she’s a smart one, that Bill), but she agrees fairly quickly, too. Soon she’s packing up her stuff at her foster mother’s house and loading it into the TARDIS for the Doctor to transport to her new place.

When the Doctor and Bill arrive at the house, the Doctor starts to notice that some things seem off, and he gets very curious, wanting to know what’s going on. The branches on the trees are moving while there’s no wind, for instance. Bill introduces the Doctor as her grandfather (a nod to the First Doctor and his companion Susan, perhaps?), which the Doctor doesn’t take kindly to, because he doesn’t think he looks old enough to be Bill’s grandfather. This scenario, coupled with the Doctor’s natural curiosity, leads to the Doctor acting very much like a worried parent who is reluctant to drop their child off at college for the first time. It’s kind of adorable, really. Bill finds it rather irritating, though, especially when the Doctor starts playing the music on Bill’s phone for her new friends.

The first oddity is that roommate Pavel, who had moved into the house the night before, is in his room listening to some violin music on repeat and doesn’t seem to want to leave. Actually, if the other kids were paying attention, they would realize that he’s not making any noise at all. One of the kids, when asked about Pavel, says he just “does that” (hide in his room listening to music. Later, the Doctor observes that people don’t “just do” anything. Two other roommates of note are Paul, a sporty blonde who has a thing for Bill, so Bill has to inform him that, as a friend of mine from college would put it, she doesn’t like his genitalia. The other is Shireen, who seems to be a longer-term friend of Bill’s who is probably the person who got her involved with this whole group in the first place.

When the kids first try to settle in, thy notice all sorts of creaky noises. They try to brush it off as just being an old house at first, but it eventually becomes too much to ignore. The landlord keeps mysteriously appearing, too, claiming that he’s just checking up on them. Things get even more serious when Paul goes into his rooms, screams, and isn’t heard from again. That’s when Bill and Shireen finally acknowledge that something is very wrong, beyond typical student housing problems. The Doctor keeps investigating, and he figures out the source of the problem: basically, space roaches. They’ve infested the wood the house is made of, and they absorb people into the house. Judging from newspaper reports and photos the Doctor finds, about every 20 years, the landlord will find a group of unsuspecting students and sacrifice them to the roaches. The landlord claims it’s to save his daughter.

It’s Bill, however, who helps uncover the rest of the story. Bill and Shireen find their way up into the house’s tower, which the landlord had told them was completely inaccessible (and forbidden to enter even if it was accessible). When they enter the room, they meet the landlord’s “daughter,” who is a woman who appears to be wooden. Clearly the space roaches have been keeping her alive. The Doctor and the landlord both eventually arrive on the scene too (after the landlord makes sure Shireen is absorbed), and the Doctor and Bill figure out one final piece of the puzzle, the woman, Eliza, isn’t actually the landlord’s daughter. She’s his mother. As a boy, the landlord left a jar of space roaches by his mother’s bed (she was sick, and it was a present of sorts), one thing led to another, and the roaches kept her alive. Over the years, the landlord has continued to feed the roaches so that his mother can continue to live. This is a pretty poignant connection from Bill’s perspective, considering she lost her mother at such a young age.

The realization that she is actually the mother and is in control changes Eliza. She takes charge (although it’s never really explained why she believed she was the landlord’s daughter and that he knew best, which is disappointing). She also absorbs the landlord into the house. She doesn’t want to kill children anymore (she only did it because the landlord told her to and she thought he knew best, which, like I already said, pretty flimsy writing there), so she basically destroys the whole house. All of Bill’s roommates are resurrected, although now they’re going to have to start over with their house hunt. We end the episode back at the mysterious vault, where the doctor tells the person on the other side of the door (who happens to be playing piano) about his day. As soon as the Doctor makes the story sound especially gruesome, the person stops playing piano and the Doctor enters the vault to talk. It can’t be anyone other than the Master on the other side of that door, right?

No comments:

Post a Comment