06 September, 2011

Literally Terrifying (Doctor Who - Night Terrors ep. 6.9)

            Let me start by saying that this was one of the most TERRIFYING episodes of Who yet. The pre-credits (is that what we call the bit before the titles?) were brilliant. Exciting, chilling and for the first time in many series, a use of a 'Doctor' joke which was not shoe-horned into the script. The setting of this episode also helped create a feeling of unease, unlike all the science-y or pirate-y settings of this series. The shots of the tower block were claustrophobic, taking up the whole scene, and the harsh light and chunky, substantial looking flats got a perfect mix of realism and childhood fantasy.

            Moffat has done much to regenerate the 'scary' aspect of Doctor Who which arguably had been lost with Russell T Davies, until Moffat's episodes such as 'Blink' reversed the trend. The dolls were classic stuff of childhood nightmares, and the 'dolls house' became a terrifying representation of the little boy's fears. Alot of the movements were fluid and cartoon-like - the granny being pulled into the rubbish sacks, and Alex and the Doctor being dragged into the cupboard - which added to the childlike sense of wonder at the world, compounding a child's sense of fear at the unknown.
Razor-sharp dialogue between Alex (played beautifully by Daniel Mays) and the Doctor livened up what were otherwise heavy, heavy scenes, and it is again wonderful to see a writer's ability to flesh out a character or family within few scenes in a fourty-five minute episode.

           My issues with the episode again rested with treatment of death, and what seems to be irrational and unplanned character motivations. Amy died AGAIN, suddenly, and was then reversed back to her human self by the end of the episode; I found myself not even caring as the doll got her, as it is expected that she will always turn out ay-ok. Rory's reaction to this death was half-hearted - I'm pretty sure more would have been made of his wife's demise. Similarly, Amy does not seem to be motivated by a need to find her child or protect her. In comparison to Gwen in Torchwood: Miracle Day, who has recently stopped at no lengths to save her child, Amy seems quite happy to still not know the location of Melody. This is unexplained and unbelievable and sloppy convenience writing at the palm of the scriptwriter.

            Apart from similar minor discontentment - the boy is never explained to have become fully human/Alex's son, and the resolution (pleading with a child to ''believe'') seemed familiar, Doctor-Who-by-numbers - the episode was well produced and chilling. 'Night Terrors' is exactly the sort of episode the audience could hope for - fun, visually impressive and intelligent stuff.

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