Doctor Who 6.09 Night Terrors - Jamie Oram
George (Jamie Oram) faces his own nightmares, whatever they are © BBC 2011

A terrified child in his bedroom manages to send a cry for help across the universe, to the Doctor. But all is not as it seems…

Is all it seems? Well this is an episode penned by Mark Gatiss, one half of the creative team behind the recent excellent BBC Sherlock series, so there should be high expectations for this episode. On the other hand, though, Gatiss is also behind the direst-of-dire story last year, the one with the Daleks and Churchill.

Disappointingly, it’s his Doctor Who reputation that proves to be the more accurate indicator. Here we have the thinnest of plots that is basically meant to frighten us, in the “good old tradition” of the series. What seems to have escaped the current production team is that the tension, the drama, the scares, come from the story-telling, not from the fairground “ghost train”-style of tricks, which ram us into a moment that has all the trappings of being scary, but really isn’t. What is so frightening about a child who creates the shadows that seem to scare him? If we had any idea that there was “something” then we might have had some reason to feel scared. We sympathise with someone frightened when there is danger. There was none here.

Doctor Who 6.09 Night Terrors - Matt Smith and Daniel Mays
The Doctor (Matt Smith) and Alex (Daniel Mays) are trapped in a fantasy © BBC 2011

Except that the danger came when, for no obvious reason Amy and Rory find themselves in a doll’s house. Well, what is supposed to be a doll’s house, but is obviously a real house with a few “doll house-like” props, except they weren’t. A wooden pan is supposed to convince us all is not well, except that it looks real and just sounds wooden – the exact opposite of the ‘taditional’ wooden sets that were supposed to be real. If this is meant to be a place of the imagination then why did the outer door just not have any lock/handle, rather than something stuck over it? Why would a child imagine a covered lock? Hilariously, the designer proudly showed us the lock cover in “Doctor Who Smug”, sorry, “Doctor Who Confidential”.

What did work visually were the doll creatures. Except they had no character, no purpose, apart from “being scary”. Oh really, can the crew not come up with anything better than that? Hats off to whoever got Karen Gillan’s character Amy to turn to wood, reflecting her performance.

Thankfully Arthur Darvill’s Rory is getting more attention by the writers, but it is really only he and Matt Smith that make it worth watching the series. This week Amy and Rory’s worry about their baby seems to have been forgotten, for no good reason I could see. And if Rory and Amy are a couple in love then the universe really has gone strange.

What does work for this week’s episode is that it had a beginning, a middle and an end. And for that we should be thankful.



[Rating: 2]


Jan Vincent-Rudzki

UK editor of Film Review Online