Doctor Who – Knock Knock Review (or “A Welcome Change of Style”)

This season of Doctor Who has been dubbed as a reboot for the show; a jumping on point for new viewers or old ones who may have been disillusioned in the recent past.

On the face of it, it certainly looks like it, as the order and style of episodes mirrors the formula from Russell T. Davies’ first season back in 2005.

First we had the new companion introduction episode, then a trip to the future followed by an adventure in Earth’s past.

For the fourth episode it’s a return to contemporary Earth for the latest episode. Knock Knock.

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

Bill and her mates move into a spooky old house that eats people.

Thoughts – Like A Russell T. Davies Story

There’s a lot to enjoy about Knock Knock.

It’s got a simple premise that’s mostly easy to follow, strong performances from the lead actors and the main guest star, plenty of witty, snappy dialogue and a great look and environment to set it in.

That old pro Suchet acted his arse off. You shouldn’t be surprised.

Throughout the story, I laughed but I was also engrossed, and that’s a great combination.

What’s more, this was like a welcome change of pace from what we’ve come to expect to be the norm for Steven Moffat. In many ways – just like other standout episodes of his stewardship like The Lodger – this felt like a throwback to the Russell T. Davies era. It was contemporary and relatable but had that Doctor Who twist so you knew what you were watching.

And yet at the same time, this also felt like it could only be a Peter Capaldi episode. Sometimes you get ones like that. Ghost Light stands out as the sort of story that could only fit Sylvester McCoy’s take on the Doctor, while the aforementioned Lodger wouldn’t work with Jon Pertwee making Craig an omelette and going down the park to play football with the lads.

This story largely works because of Peter Capaldi’s age compared to Bill and her friends. It’s the little things like Harry going past and saying “Oh wow, Doctor! Legend!” and the way Bill feels a bit embarrassed to be seen with him; it’s written with Capaldi in mind, and that’s great.

But it’s not the only reason it works. David Suchet – well-known and respected actor that he is – does a brilliant turn as The Caretaker. He takes what another actor might have made a bit ‘one-note’ and adds some layers to it. He does an excellent job.

Knock Knock looks good as well, both in terms of the setting but also the effects. I thought the wooden Eliza looked fantastic, while the lice in the wood didn’t look in any way ropey.

On the whole, I have to say I enjoyed this more than any other episode so far this season.

But it wasn’t without its faults.

The Problems

For as good as Knock Knock was, some parts of it didn’t really make much sense.

First of all there’s the character of the Landlord, despite how well he’s played.

The reveal that he was actually Eliza’s son rather than her father is something I had mixed feelings about. I was glad that they addressed it because it made sense of the fact he wasn’t made out of wood and

Apparently the impact of Eliza was dampened by people looking at publicity photos in advance of the episode. That’s their problem.

seemingly had been living for well over a hundred years, but that opened up other questions based on how he was presented earlier in the episode. While there was some flimsy line of dialogue that explained his lack of memory or knowledge of the outside world, they didn’t touch upon the way he was able to appear out of thin air and vanish at the drop of a hat.

I felt it let the character down.

The resolution was also a bit of a damp squib too. It’s not as bad as the reset switch from Smile, but the way Eliza decides that she doesn’t want to cause any more fuss came across as limp.

Most of all though, I think what stood out in a negative way was how Bill’s character changed compared to last week. In Thin Ice, Bill confronts death properly for the first time. It had an impact on her and left her a bit shaken.

This week, as far as she was concerned, her flatmates were all killed in the space of a few minutes; some right in front of her. And yet it doesn’t seem to make a blind bit of difference to her.

Now I know that it wouldn’t have worked too well if she was a blubbering, hyperventilating mess over it, but to be so aloof directly opposed what she was like last week. That’s worth criticising.

Random Observations

  • While I wouldn’t really consider it a problem, part of me – perhaps the psychotic part – was a tad disappointed the dead didn’t stay dead.
  • Seemingly Harry was supposed to be Harry Sullivan’s grandson but that was cut. I can’t say I’m disappointed as it certainly wouldn’t have added anything.
  • So far, Nardol’s been a bit pointless hasn’t he?
  • What’s in the vault? The obvious guess is Missy but I hope it’s not.
  • There are lots of references to the Doctor’s impending regeneration. This makes me sad.
  • Watching this, I found myself comparing Knock Knock to Hide because of the setting. What a load of shite Hide was, eh? It shows that an idea just isn’t enough, neither is a setting. This was night and day in comparison.
  • I read a review where someone said the impact of Eliza was dampened by the BBC releasing pictures of her before transmission. Well that’s why you don’t look for spoilers then isn’t it?
  • I didn’t want to go back and change my review of Thin Ice from last week, but it suddenly occurred to me on Thursday that I forgot to mention that the wrestling moves used in the scene towards the start were completely and utterly anachronistic. For shame.

More Doctor Who Reviews

Remember that you can read a select amount of my Doctor Who reviews on this blog and all of them in my two ebooks, available here from Amazon


4 Responses to Doctor Who – Knock Knock Review (or “A Welcome Change of Style”)

  1. Frivolous Monsters says:

    I hide from spoilers. I don’t look at those released pictures until afterwards. But the Radio Times splashed a big colour photo of her all of Saturday’s page. Ruined any surprise for me.

  2. John says:

    These have been enjoyable, solid episodes this season thus far. I did not care for last season’s plethora of two parters. I generally can do without the season long “epic” story arcs, so I’m suspicious of this vault thing. And the Mondasian cybermen. . . I appreciate Peter Capaldi’s fondness for them but on the surface seems too fanboyish but here’s to hoping it’s well done.

    I disagree about Bill’s reaction to the deaths, I don’t think she shrugged it off by any means. She was like most of us would be in the circumstances- probably very focused on her own survival and dealing with very a very scary situation. She shut down/deferred the pain in order to be acutely present. And I think she did seem pretty upset about the fate of the girl with her in Eliza’s room but her reaction was equally fearful for her own demise.

    I like the character of Bill and I think Pearl Mackie is performing excellently. In the lead up to this season it really disgusted me how many people complained about her based on probably less than a minute of sound bite trailer footage.

  3. A good episode I enjoyed, but a great start ground to a halt.
    David Suchet was awesome and I was really enjoying his performance as a man whose house ate people. But then it fell back to the Stephe Moffatt fall back of broken-cog plotting. He wasn’t a villain after all, just a boy whose mother had been turned to wood by space weevils (yeah whatever). Great promise come to nothing. Smile was about robots and their programming. Thin Ice was about an innocent creature, the ‘villain’ in that was just a throwaway. The villain in Pilot was a puddle. You can go backwards endlessly, when were there some good villains? Greg Davies was a comedy villain
    Now I happen to enjoy Missy / The Master style scenery chewing and enjoy it when they crop up, but the old series had Sharaz Jek, Harrison Chase, Magnus Greel, Morbius, Josiah, The Chief Clown, Fenric…
    So Knock Knock seemed like a step in the right direction, but a case of cold feet and return to the same old staples?

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