Sunday, September 4, 2011

Ten Statements About....DOCTOR WHO SEASON SIX, EPISODE NINE: Night Terrors (2011)

When you try to make something ordinary into something
monstrous, sometimes you get the Weeping Angels, and
sometimes..sometimes you get The Paper Mache' Heads...
"I've come a long way to get here, Alex, a very long way. George sent a message, a distress call if you'd like. Whatever's inside that cupboard is so terrible, so powerful that it amplified the fears of an ordinary little boy across all the barriers of time and space...through crimson stars and silent stars and tumbling nebulas like oceans set on fire, through empires of glass and civilizations of pure thought and a whole terrible, wonderful universe of impossibilities You see these eyes? They're old eyes...and one thing I can tell you, Alex. Monsters are real."

1) I'm three minutes in and I've got this real nagging feeling that Mark Gatiss is about to tell me how much he liked the Poltergeist movies for forty minutes.

2) That being said...I like how Gatiss has effectively split up the crew, so that we get the Doctor doing Doctor stuff, and some well-needed Ponds one-on-one time. It's the first time in a while we've gotten some extended interaction between Amy and Rory alone where they're not running and screaming, and this provides some essential reminders of why they're a couple.

3) Once again I marvel at Matt Smith as an actor. The way he's trying, really trying to reign in his impulses around little George to provide an example for him is wonderful. And unlike David Tennant, his physicality is natural and seems to come from his thought processes, not all twitches and tics and twinges and shouty voices like Tennant.

4) Jamie Oran is not great shakes as a young actor--his George is a bit on the whiny side and pretty expressionless, innit?--but there is a definite chemistry between him and Smith, which enables the story flow pretty handily.

"For the last time, Doctor, my name is not Alex!"
5) I do rather like Daniel Mays as Alex, even if he is cut from the same cloth as Craig from last season's 'The Lodger'...and like Craig, he becomes a defacto companion for this one, strange adventure, grounding us in reality.

6) ...and that might be at the core of why this episode never gets higher than okay. It's one of those entries in the series that seems composed of elements cobbled together and repurposed from other episodes--a little SF craziness in a blue collar setting from 'The Lodger,' a little child being plagued by strangeness from 'The Eleventh Hour' and/or 'The Girl In The Fireplace,' the old house that's occupied by Something That Shouldn't Be There from 'Day Of The Moon,' the creatures that seem to convert others into mockeries of themselves like 'An Empty Child,' the child that unwittingly releases horror on those around them like 'Fear Her,' etc. It's a bit of moving the deck chairs in an attempt to give us a breather between acts--and also to give Smith, Gillen and Darvill some time to reclaim center stage after being observers in Moffat's River Song story of the last few episodes.

7) Okay, I stand corrected...this isn't Mark Gatiss telling us he loves the Poltergiest films; it's Mark Gatiss telling us how he loves the old Twlight Zone episode 'It's a Good Life,' with some Poltergeist love thrown in for flavoring.

8) I'm surprised, given how much stuff Rory and Amy have been through in their time with the Doctor, that they didn't notice that the thing they were using to block the door is a Big Honking Spool of Thread.

Prolly the funniest moment in the episode, ladies and
9) Once again...the joys of watching Gillen and Darvill interact is how they can say with three words and a little body language what other actors would take a whole scene to say. And the joy of Moffat as a producer is how he allows them to do that without hitting us over the head with extra exposition (I'm looking at you, Davies).

10) While I've marveled in the past at Moffat's talent for plotting everything out to the ultimate degree, I wonder if we really needed that little sing song stinger at the end to remind us that we've got only four more episodes to deal with the whole Lake Silencio thread started in 'The Impossible Astronaut.'

In short...I understand why this episode exists, to give us a breather before we pick up the overarc (especially given how it looks like next episode, 'The Girl Who Waited,' is going to be this season's Second Unit Episode)...but much like similar place setters like Season Two's 'Fear Her' and 'Love and Monsters,' it's sorta inconsequential. Being a big ol' jambalaya of elements from previous episodes didn't help much, either.

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