Knock Knock by Mike Bartlett
The Capaldi era has so far given us some pretty promising new writers; Jamie Mathieson (who wrote the excellent Flatline and Mummy on the Orient Express), Peter Harness (The Zygon Two-Parter and Kill the Moon) and Sarah Dollard (Face the Raven). Newcomer Mike Bartlett might just be the latest addition to that list. Knock Knock isn’t flawless, but I thoroughly enjoyed the first 35 mins and the Vault tease at the end.
Knock Knock is creepy. Not necessarily scary (though I’m sure younger viewers might have thought so) but whether its the giant-lice infestation or David Suchet’s eerie Landlord, the episode provides it’s share of chills. The sound effects and Murray Gold’s score work wonderfully here – giving us the same haunted house vibe Hide did so well in Matt Smith’s last series. The guest actors are all good (and fortunately Bartlett can write students without making them clichés) but it’s predictably Suchet who steals the show. His performance is nicely understated, yet menacing, and gives Capaldi someone worthy to face off with for the first time this season.
Bill and the Doctor spend more time apart here than they have since the opener, but Pearl Mackie is still as good solo, which is encouraging. The dialogue is pretty good, and Bill Anderson seems more comfortable directing this time (though I’m still not rating him compared to the other Who directors – fortunately we have a different one next week). The episode’s only problem is its resolution – while the Landlord being the tree-lady’s aged son is a nice twist, the reveal failed to pack an emotional punch for me (whether that’s down to direction or the rather underused music i’m not sure) and left rather a few questions unanswered (how did the Landlord tame the creatures not to consume him or his mother? why did they transform her in the first place rather than feeding on her?). Overall though, I still like the episode despite its so-so ending (the one problem this series has tended to have – they are getting the build-up right every single episode but the resolutions tend to be either just okay (The Pilot, Thin Ice) or a bit underwhelming (Smile, Knock Knock). It’s not a big issue atm but it could use fixing soon).
Now, that Vault tease. The Doctor is friendly with whoever’s inside and brings them food, so we can rule out Cybermen or other alien enemies. Whoever’s inside clearly isn’t the nicest of people (they seemed amused by the idea of students getting eaten) which leans heavily towards Missy or Simm’s Master behind those doors. Moffat’s suggested we’ll know who in episode 6, which is the first part of a three-parter, so its clearly going to kick something massive off when those doors open… can’t wait!
Overall, Knock Knock is a creepy, entertaining episode slightly let down by an underwhelming 5 mins at the end. Series 10 is still simmering nicely but hasn’t caught fire yet…
Rating: 4 out of 5
Next Time: Nardole joins the Doctor and Bill aboard a space station infested by air-deprived Zombies…