Doctor Who – Night Terrors Review (or “A Story That Defies The Odds”)

It’s interesting how my views on the stories from Season 6 have changed on repeat viewing.

So far it appears as though the only one I have the same feelings about the second time around is The Rebel Flesh & The Almost People.

That will certainly change soon, but as I move to Night Terrors, I’m actually watching this out of sequence.

Yesterday, when faced with the choice of watching an episode with my evening meal, I chose The Girl Who Waited as – going by my memories of it – Night Terrors didn’t inspire me with confidence.

So I watched some of it bed and the rest with my breakfast this morning.

And I must admit I was pleasantly surprised.

Doctor Who – Night Terrors Review: What’s This One About?

A small boy – who is actually an alien – hides away everything he’s scared of in his bedroom cupboard.

But as it turns out, he does that in more than the metaphorical sense.

Thoughts – An Issue

To get my issues with it out of the way first…

Much like the guy who played Bill Kim in Prison Break, I'll never be able to see Daniel Mays as a sympathetic character again after Ashes to Ashes

Much like the guy who played Bill Kim in Prison Break, I’ll never be able to see Daniel Mays as a sympathetic character again after Ashes to Ashes

I felt like the stuff with the landlord existed purely to add another 10 minutes onto the plot.

It didn’t add anything to the story whatsoever, nor did it make all that much sense when he was sucked through his own floor.

You could argue that it’s because George was scared of the man, but that leads to two follow-up questions.

  1. Would he not also be afraid of the dog?
  2. On what grounds did the Old Lady get transported there as well?

So that was a bit poor, but beyond that I thoroughly enjoyed Night Terrors.

Atmospheric

For one thing, it’s dripping in atmosphere.

The low lighting in the flat, the fact it’s set at night (although it wouldn’t have worked otherwise, of course) and the darkness in the doll’s house all add to the appeal of the episode and heighten the drama.

And the set and costume design within the doll’s house, with everything made out of wood, and those dolls wandering the halls with their creepy childlike lullaby voices was just superb. They got it absolutely bang on,

But it wouldn’t work without drama to match, and I’d say the directing as a whole from Richard Clark is bang on.

The Story

Overall though, what helps it the most is that it’s a well written and acted story.

I give Mark Gatiss a lot of criticism on this blog, both as a writer and as an actor, and you can rest assured I will continue to do so when it’s merited (see The Crimson Horror), but here he deserves my praise.

Night Terrors is an interesting idea that is developed well throughout with fluid storytelling and some nice twists too.

The revelation that the boy is actually an alien is the sort of thing that might come across as ridiculous, but it’s explained well and makes sense in a Doctor Who type way.

There's an actress in Under The Dome who has a face to head ratio like this doll. Creepy

There’s an actress in Under The Dome who has a face to head ratio like this doll. Creepy

And it all built to a satisfying and happy conclusion.

So I was suitably impressed.

And I was also impressed with the performances of the actors.

Matt Smith worked well alongside Daniel Mays (last seen as the nefarious Keats in Ashes to Ashes) and Arthur Darvill managed to carry the scenes with Karen Gillan too. But most impressive of all was Jamie Orman, the boy who played George.

Usually child actors are crap, especially in the UK. They come across as obnoxious and/or totally incapable of performing the job asked of them.

But Orman manages to act being scared with a surprising amount of effectiveness, and – unsurprisingly this time – worked well alongside Smith.

Good stuff.

Random Observations

  • The guy who plays the Landlord was in an episode of Cracker I watched earlier this year. I knew when I watched it that I’d seen him in something before, and it turned out to be this.
  • The actor in question – Andrew Tiernan – has what can only be described as “Working Class Bone Structure”. I don’t think he could ever play anything other than gritty parts.
  • I would say this is a bit reminiscent of The Celestial Toymaker, but that wouldn’t be fair on it, seeing as The Celestial Toymaker is crap.
  • There’s some good humour throughout this. One of the very first lines “This is the sort of place we could have travelled to by bus” genuinely made me laugh out loud.
  • You’ll notice that – but for a tiny bit at the end – this is one story that has absolutely nothing to do with the crappy Story Arc, and it’s all the better for it. This is how Doctor Who should be done.
  • Did The Doctor drink out of the mug that Alex spat into? That’s disgusting.
  • The effect of people changing into the wooden dolls was excellent.
  • Surely that old woman was injured as a result of being dragged at speed into those bin liners?
  • DWM Mighty 200 Ranking: N/A

Doctor Who – Night Terrors Review: Final Thoughts

Taking into account the overall standard of this season so far, the previous output from the writer, and the fact that a large burden of acting responsibility rests on the shoulders of a young British child actor, I would say that Night Terrors is a resounding success,

Sure, compared against every other Doctor Who story ever made it’s probably no more than average, but compared to the likes of A Good Man Goes To War it’s deep, exciting and well told.

I’m impressed.

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2 Responses to Doctor Who – Night Terrors Review (or “A Story That Defies The Odds”)

  1. lukebbtt says:

    I seem to recall the old woman scaring the boy as well. She goes past the window sometimes, shuffling like a zombie. Another bit of ageism like last season. But that is why she is also put into the dolls house.

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