Tuesday, 6 September 2011

DOCTOR WHO: ‘NIGHT TERRORS’

The rest on those Vorticists coming soon!


Watching this episode brought an idle fancy to my mind. Had Mark Gatiss made some drunken bet with ‘show runner’ Steven Moffat, that he could write a whole storyline which used absolutely no new elements whatsoever? It could be a totem of the ‘made do and mend’ spirit of our austerity times, a wholly recycled TV episode. It could be the opposite of one of those Moffat episodes where more new stuff is chucked in than you can keep up with.

You soon gave up spotting bits from ’Empty Child’, ‘Girl in the Fireplace’, ‘Eleventh Hour’ and ’Beast Below’. It was probably more challenging to hunt down anything you hadn’t seen before. And it’s tour through the expected culminated in a completely unsurprising conclusion.

But it made of this something better than it had any real right to be. It was like a seasoned musician running through a standard. He was playing something you could play, but for some inexplicable reason still able to play it better.

Perhaps it was all in those little touches, like the light that had to be switched five times, a reminder of how obsessively ritualistic childhood could be. You guessed about the dolls’ house as soon as you saw it in the wardrobe. But it was still an effective enough metaphor for everyone being trapped inside a child’s mind, and the magnifying effects of fear. And it made for a nice visual counterpoint to the tower block. As well as being a kind of anti-Tardis, not bigger on the inside but diminishing its occupants. (Okay, I already said the House was an anti-Tardis.)

On an indulgent day I could almost see the peg dolls as Svankmayerish. Certainly, they were the right sort of scary. We see dolls as images of childhood. But children use them to work out concerns about the adult world.

However, to focus on a bum note, can Gatiss please give up on these ‘bad men’ figures? The cartoon landlord wasn’t quite as risible as the domineering father in ’Idiot’s Lantern’. But he come close, and seemed strangely grafted onto the story. Everyone and everything else the child doesn’t need to be frightened of. Someone with a pit bull threatening to evict you, just a childhood phobia?

Even if we overlook the ending’s recycling of ’Empty Child’, facing down your fears is scarcely an original theme. (A fair enough lesson for kids, perhaps.) However, the cuckoo-child thing was perhaps more interesting. It’s a cliché too, of course, but one that usually presents children as malevolently otherly, the ’Village of the Damned’ image. Here, I think, it meant that parents must come to a point where ‘their’ children are their own person, that you set them up not make them, that there’ll be things in their minds you never put there.

Some time ago, a poll was obviously conducted which I somehow missed. It decreed that every episode had to be through-line, guest writer or makeweight. This wore its makeweight status like a badge of pride.

(Still not sure whether the sound of the lift went into the doll’s house, in which case I don't follow why Amy and Rory went with it. Or whether the lift itself went, in which case I’m not sure why they didn’t wake up with it. It is of course possible that I worry too much about these things...)

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