Saturday, September 3, 2011

Doctor Who: 6.09 Night Terrors Review

*Beware of Spoilers, Sweeties*

For those Who fans looking for a break from the River Song shenanigans, ‘Night Terrors’ provided a more traditional ‘creature of the week’ tale. The Doctor makes a house-call as he responds to an intergalactic distress signal from a little boy called George.
Like many young children, George lives in fear of a number of things once the lights go out even if his mother has locked them up away from his sight in his bedroom cupboard. So it’s up to the Doctor to figure out what’s been scaring George so thoroughly for the past few years while his companions Rory and Amy wind up in their own spot of trouble.

Again this series shows its strengths in playing toward universally recognized fears, this time being living dolls and the fact that sometimes when the lights go out the terror a little boy feels is for a very real reason. Not to mention the fear of a parent that they won't be able to make their child feel safe and protected. It was nice to see the trio on Earth in present-day dealing with no less fantastical of a problem. If you’re used to the ways this show typically operates then you were just waiting for the alien reveal to be the source of the problem. And though the species was new, the same old tricks of deception shields and psychic amplification were present and accounted for. 

As much as I love seeing the team together in their adventures, it’s always nice to see the Doctor interact with other people. In this case it was mainly George’s father, Alex (Daniel Mays) and George himself. Matt Smith from the very start has had a wonderful rapport with child actors what with his quirky charms and the sort of voice of understanding every child wishes to hear from an adult. However the true highlight would be the scenes of Smith and Mays as they wrestled with what to do to solve the problem. Smith never has a problem handling comedic moments and for such a creepy episode the levity went a long way. Mays played off of Smith’s spastic energy and verbal flights of fancy wonderfully, he also brought a real sense of empathy to the proceedings once he found out the exact truth of George’s existence.

Amy and Rory spent almost the entire episode away from the Doctor as they wound up, we would later find out, actually in the cupboard. Specifically a creepy dollhouse locked away inside of it—populated with zombie-esque living dolls that were thankfully only seen in smaller doses. I freaking hate dolls and this is the exact type of episode that would have haunted me if I watched it as a kid. Until the end of the episode this decision basically amounted to a great deal of Amy and Rory wandering around in the dark. The pacing in these scenes made for a nice reveal of their location, but the scenes themselves ultimately didn’t get a chance to add much to the story overall.

Every week this new Who astounds me with how gorgeously-shot it is. The palette of colors the cinematography department, visual effects, and set designers use are bringing so much to the tone of each episode. Everything was so over-saturated and yellow in the outside shots of the apartment complex just as florescent lighting makes things look at night. Not to mention the shots of space beforehand were stunning as well. So many different colors employed to make space look a little different every time we see it—because they’re floating the TARDIS about in a different part of space each time so it’s not going to look the same as it did last week.

By episode’s end, while our heroes stood back in the TARDIS and patted themselves on the back for another job well done, an eerie image appeared on-screen to remind us that they’re far from out of the woods. Coupled with the standard ‘everything is creepier whilst being sung by small children’ song that played in the dollhouse scenes, the image of the Doctor’s death in Utah on his computer screen hinted perhaps that this was far from a one and done story. 

Taken on its own the episode was a funny, just clever enough tale that brought the Doctor back down to (modern-day) Earth, a favorite adventure spot for both him and the viewer. Maybe next time he pops back on this planet, he’ll have made a wood setting for the sonic screwdriver as promised—really so much of the episode could have been solved if he’ll just upgrade his most useful tool. But as he said, he’s been around the super-block a time or two so he can’t possibly remember everything—as we head on toward the eventual finale of the sixth series the viewer would be wise to not follow his lead by keeping this episode in mind. Perhaps we’ll be seeing another Tenza, the creature that young George really was, show up or something related to ‘Night Terrors’ will help the finale come to its conclusion of this storyline of the Doctor’s eventual death. It’s not like Moffat hasn’t played this sort of game before with his stories so I wouldn’t be shocked if it happened.

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