Monday, August 25, 2014

Doctor Who--"Night Terrors"

“Night Terrors” feels a lot like filler. That is not a good thing to happen in the second episode in the back half of series six. I am also inclined to think Doctor Who episodes revolving around children are generally lackluster. Witness ’Fear Her,” if you dare to watch that one again. Your mileage may vary, of course.

The Doctor receives a request on his psychic paper from a little boy named George begging to be saved from monsters. Team TARDIS travels to a council estate in modern day London. They split up to find George. The doctor, posing as a social worker, finds the right flat. and meets George and his father, Alex. Amy and Rory wind up trapped in a doll house wherein everything is made of prop wood after their lift rapidly falls to the ground.

George has been terrified all his life. His mother has taught him all of his fears reside in his closet. The dollhouse in which Amy and Rory, not to mention the Doctor and Alex eventually are trapped is in the closet and full of scary looking peg dolls who stalk them. So there really is reason to fear the closet.

Skipping an awful lot of exposition, let me just say George is an empathic alien who decided to become the only child of Alex and Claire, two parents unable to have a child. George misinterprets a statement from Alex that he wants to send George away. The risk of abandonment is the source of his fears. When everyone becomes trapped in the dollhouse, alex must convince George he is his real son and would never abandon. George is convinced, so the peg doll monsters go away.

“Night Terrors” has some nifty visuals with the terrifying looking peg dolls, as well as some hilarious moments, such as when the Doctor nonchalantly explains the situation to Alex as he desperately fends off a group of the peg dolls with a giant pair of toy scissors. But elements like those are window dressing. It is the story that counts, but the story here is very lean. It takes a long time before anything interesting happens. It is only about the last fifteen minutes or so when the dolls appear that there is much of anything to hold your attention. Up until that point is nothing but gobbledygook about a lonely alien looking for parents to love him and afraid the ones he chose will reject him. I thought the premise was too silly to have any emotional impact. Surely they could have come up with something better to explain George.

“Night Terrors” is not bad, per se, but it is nothing special. The plot is unsatisfying, but the episode is still woryh watching for the spooky visuals. Those peg dolls are quite disturbing looking. There are some very funny moments, too, such as the one I mentioned above with the doctor casually lecturing in the midst of a life or death battle and a few I did not, such as rory suspecting he is dead yet again after the lift falls. Such moments are entertaining, but they can only carry a weak story so far. I would not skip “Night Terrors,” but I suspect it will be counted as the worst episode of the sixth series. At least I hope it does not get worse than this.

Rating: ** (out of 5)

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