Doctor Who: Night Terrors
“Night Terrors”, by Mark Gatiss, is a run-of-the-mill romp, right? Silly, positively rubbish villains…
Check! River Song-less, angst-free, and seemingly random plot concerning alien kids, Doccy as a Social Services man, and a companion detour?
Checkity-check! Guy being eaten by his carpet?
In every respect, it seems that Night Terrors is a silly, throwaway rompity-romp. Not terrible, but certainly not necessary. Right?
Of course not! Night Terrors has a lot of the qualities of a romp, and it’s certainly not the highlight of Series 6, but I think it’s absolutely necessary for the overall season. A few little things make it better than your average romp.
Firstly, its themes are relevant to S6. Whereas the pirate episode was about pirates, blessings in disguise, treasure, Doccy in a pirate hat, vague Doctor/TARDIS, and more pirates, this one’s about a father accepting his alien son and about that alien son facing his fears. (Weeeealll, it’s also about Amy and Rory romping about for about half the episode attempting to fight rubbish creepy dolls, and grandmas and slackers being sucked into dollhouses by inanimate objects…but still.) The father accepting his alien son bit acts as a sort of sweet footnote to A Good Man Goes To War and Let’s Kill Hitler – how Amy and Rory could possibly accept River as their daughter. The answer is, of course, with love, time, and the Doctor. It continues on the theme of parenthood in a very ood situation, but it treats the idea in a nicer way than AGMGTW or LKH.
Night Terrors also acts as one big ol’ metaphor for the arc of the whole season – Doccy’s death! You see, it’s about a little boy facing his fears for the greater good. Understandably, Doccy is scared of Lake Silencio, and (as we’ll see in The Wedding Of River Song) it is indeed for the greater good.
Secondly, this episode contains one of the finest examples of pure, condensed Doctor-ness in all of DW. If I wanted to show someone who Eleven was – the little boy, the Oncoming Storm, the strange, alien being – I’d probably show them this episode to begin with.
He enthusiastically knocked on people’s doors, but unenthusiastically refused to do community service.
He was a surprisingly good fake Social Services guy, sweet and dark at the same time.
He had proper fun with a fellow little boy…
And thanks to that little boy, became genuinely scared of a closet.
Doccy then had a few lovely comedic scenes concerning tea and closets and whatnot, which you really should just watch. He’s supremely entertaining in them.
(For some extra entertainment, I suggest clicking the “Transcribe Audio” button. It’s a hilarious fail on YouTube’s part.)
Of course, he’s got to have his speech. He is the Doctor, after all. Again, I suggest you just watch this one. It is the main thing that made this episode so very, er, Doccy-licious.
The little boy and his father played their parts very well. They were adorable and tragic at times, and properly pulled my heartstrings. Nothing amazing, but quite sweet.
Of course, the part of the episode that wasn’t the alien kid and his dad’s adorable journey was entirely unremarkable, hearkening back to Classic Who by being rather boring and seemingly violent.
I saw no reason why the guy with the dog or the old lady had to be eaten by various inanimate objects. Sure, they came back at the end, but that didn’t make it any less pointless.
Unfortunately, Amy and Rory’s little detour in the rubbish dollhouse was boring and rather odd. Having them do nothing but run around trying to fight off the rather rubbish dolls was disappointing, especially compared with Doccy’s fun and tragic home visit. I wish Gatiss could have found something more interesting to do with them.
Though “Night Terrors” may seem like a throwaway romp, it’s… uh, a throwaway romp with thematic significance, a heartwarming tale of parenthood, and concentrated Eleven-ness. It’s also respite before the next episodes, which are both rather bleak episodes compared to this one. Although it’s not the most remarkable episode of Series 6, it’s a nice episode, and certainly worth your time.