Title: “Doctor Who Season 10 Episode 4: Knock, Knock”
Genre: Science fiction, Drama
Platform: TV – BBC America
Director: Bill Anderson
Writer: Mike Bartlett
Release: May 6, 2017
Cast: Peter Capaldi, Pearl Mackie, Matt Lucas
Feature image: Source
Bill (Pearl Mackie) and a racially diverse group of students are looking for affordable student housing (good luck with that). The Estate Agent (Sam Benjamin) shows them several shitty places. An elderly man (David Suchet) asks them if they are looking for a place. He shows them a big, old house with a tower. The house has plenty of rooms and is cheap. Her mates are eager to sign the contract. Bill hesitates for a moment, but signs it anyway. One of the kids, Pavel (Bart Suavek), moves in and puts an album on his record player. Suddenly we hear his screams in the distance.
“My own place – are you proud of me?” Bill Potts —Doctor Who
The Doctor (Peter Capaldi) is using the TARDIS to help Bill move her boxes. The Doctor looks at her boxes and says, “I thought you’d have more stuff.” She jokes that he could use the TARDIS as a moving service. While they are talking about her new place, she asks the Doctor where he sleeps. “Sleep is for tortoises.” He mentions that he is a Time Lord and Bill thinks that’s rather fancy. She imagines what Time Lords wear. The Doctor tells her that TIme Lords wear big collars. The Doctor slips and mentions regeneration but changes the subject quickly before Bill can ask about it. When they arrive at the house, the Doctor is surprised at how big it is. He wonders how Bill can afford it. She tells him six of them are renting the place and that it is drafty. The Doctor puts his finger in the air to test the wind. Against Bill’s wishes, he decides to help her move her stuff into the house. She introduces the Doctor as her grandfather. The Doctor says he looks too young to be her grandfather, more like her father. The kids already know him since he is ‘The Doctor’, the famous lecturer at school. The Doctor is obviously suspicious of the house but doesn’t say anything to Bill yet. The tall roommate, Paul (Ben Presley), helps Bill take her stuff to her room. He seems to like her. Paul tells her there will be a big party at the park tomorrow night, and they should throw a housewarming party for their place. Bill agrees and sends him on his way. The floorboard is creaking. Bill nervously thinks about her past three adventures with the Doctor but assures herself nothing strange is happening here. She puts her mother’s picture on the wall and asks it, “My own place – are you proud of me?”
“I’ll see you later for more exciting TARDIS action, but basically, this is the bit of my life that you’re not in.” Bill Potts —Doctor Who
It is a stormy night and the floorboards are creaking. The kids are joking around and trying to freak out Felicity (Alice Hewkin)—mission accomplished. Then the kids suddenly hear a noise in the kitchen and freak out too. Bill’s friend from the group, Shireen (Mandeep Dhillon) commands Paul to check it out. He’s the most intimidating of the group (because he’s tall). He declines. Bill volunteers, the rest of the group follows behind her. The person making the noise is the Doctor. He explains that he is checking the house. It is an old house. There are no new appliances, and the outlets can’t handle their devices. He suggests they leave now, but they won’t because it’s cheap. Bill asks him to leave, but the Doctor tells her something is wrong with the house. “Did you hear the tree squeaking when you arrived outside?” Bill: “Yeah. It was the wind.” The Doctor: “There wasn’t any wind.” The Doctor asks about Pavel. They haven’t seen him all day but his record continues to play. The Doctor asks Bill to check in on him.
Paul mentions they should talk to the Landlord about the house, and out of nowhere, he appears. The kids give him their complaints; while they are talking he hits the wall with a tuning fork. The Doctor asks him who the Prime Minister is. He names some recent Prime Ministers including Harriet Jones. The Landlord is confused by the question. Harry (Colin Ryan) asks if they can go to the tower. The Landlord’s friendly tone turns hostile, and he tells them no one is permitted there. He promises to look into their requests. Shireen has one more request but before she can ask he mysteriously disappears. Bill again tries to get the Doctor to leave. “Honestly, Doctor, there’s nothing going on! Nothing weird, nothing alien! Just an old house and a dodgy landlord, which is pretty standard for students. I’ll see you later for more exciting TARDIS action, but basically, this is the bit of my life that you’re not in.” The Doctor decides to hang out with Harry and Felicity and ‘chill’.
Paul, Shireen, and Bill are upstairs. Bill knows Paul fancies her so she tells him she is into girls. He isn’t upset and is glad she told him. He goes into his room and starts screaming. Shireen and Bill think it’s a joke but then all the doors and shutters start to close, and the walls start to knock. The same is happening downstairs. The Doctor is calm but Harry and Felicity, especially Felicity, are freaking out. She is claustrophobic and gets out the window before the final shutter closes. She tries to call for help on her phone but a tree grabs her. Shireen and Bill go to Pavel’s room; the wall has partially absorbed him. The music in his room kept him from being totally absorbed. The Landlord appears and turns off the music so that Pavel can be completely absorbed. He hits the wall with his tuning fork again. The Landlord informs Bill and Shireen that they signed the contract so the house will eat them too. Bill suggests to Shireen they head to the tower. They discover a bookcase that hides the secret opening to the tower. The girls pull the right book to open the entrance to the tower.
In the kitchen, Harry and the Doctor find out that this is an infestation of dryads, possibly alien insects that are actually becoming wood, in and out of the house. As they explore, they find pictures and lease agreements going back to 1957. Every 20 years the Landlord gets six new student renters/victims. Bill and Shireen make it to the tower. In the room is a bed; they hear a girl ask for her father. The Landlord catches up with the Doctor and Harry. He explains he made a deal with these creatures to keep his daughter alive. Harry runs and gets his foot stuck in the stairwell. The Landlord uses the tuning fork to summon the dryads; they eat Harry alive.
“What’s the point of surviving if you can never see anyone, if you hide yourself away from the world?! When did you last open the shutters?” The Doctor —Doctor Who
The girl they heard, Eliza (Mariah Gale), is made of wood. Shireen steps on one of the dryads. It crawls into her clothes and soon the other dryads come and eat her. The Landlord allows the Doctor to accompany him to see Eliza. He thinks the Doctor is a medical doctor and can help Eliza. The Doctor and Bill start piecing together the clues. The Doctor thinks that Eliza was sick. Her father found the dryads in the garden and brought them to her. He saw that they could keep her alive, so he made a deal with them. Bill points out that if this began 70 years ago, why is the Landlord still alive and not looking older? The Doctor figures it out; Eliza is the Landlord’s mother. When he was a child he brought the dryads to her, and once he saw they could keep her alive he made the deal. The Landlord is ready for the dryads to eat them. The Doctor reminds Eliza she is the parent, the one in charge. She finds out she can control the dryads. The Doctor reminds her, “What’s the point of surviving if you can never see anyone, if you hide yourself away from the world?! When did you last open the shutters?” The Doctor opens the shutters for the first time in decades and they see a fireworks display. To save the Doctor and Bill, and end the nightmare they’ve been living, Eliza directs the dryads to eat her and the Landlord. When they disappear, Shireen appears. The Doctor and Bill pull her up and they discover all of the kids are alive again. They all run out of the house before it collapses. The Doctor: “All right, you lot. Back to the estate agents. Better luck next time.”
“You don’t have to go to outer space to find monsters. There’s plenty of things that want to kill you right here on Earth.” Nardole —Doctor Who
Nardole (Matt Lucas) is down at the vault again. Whoever is in there is restless. The prisoner is playing Beethoven’s “Fü Elise”. The Doctor has given them a piano. He comes down with Mexican food. Bill had told Nardole of their latest adventure. “You don’t have to go to outer space to find monsters. There’s plenty of things that want to kill you right here on Earth.” Nardole notes the piano and dinner and is afraid of what the Doctor is doing. The Doctor orders Nardole to take the night off. Nardole grumbles to himself that the Doctor never learns. The Doctor speaks to the prisoner; he’s brought dinner and has a new story to tell them about a haunted mansion with space lice. Silence. The Doctor adds that young people were eaten. The prisoner plays “Pop Goes the Weasel.” The Doctor enters the vault.
One of the big features of Doctor Who is horror. You always hear people talk about hiding behind the couch when watching Doctor Who as a kid. I didn’t start watching Doctor Who until I was an adult, so I never had the pleasure of hiding behind the couch. Since it was easy to scare me when I was a child, I would have had the pleasure of hiding behind the couch with everyone else. This week’s episode was a haunted house horror show. Instead of a ghost, we got alien insects. The episode followed every haunted house trope, the old house, the creaky floorboards, mysterious sounds in the house, a stormy night, and dumb young people to kill. Bill’s flat mates’ didn’t really stand out; I kept confusing them with each other. The characters weren’t given any depth. The good thing I can say about them was that no one was annoying. They were all pleasant to watch. I won’t be upset if a few of them show up in a later episode this series. The spooky atmosphere was well done, and the bugs were creepy. There was nothing that was really scary, but I’m sure the kids in the audience found a safe place behind the couch.
The MVP of the episode was David Suchet as the Landlord. He brought an unsettling menace to his character. Even when he was acting friendly, there was something off kilter with the character. His performance was very subtle, so when he went big and became more explicit with his murderous intent, it was very effective. His best acting was with his mother. (Mariah Gale, as Eliza, performed extraordinarily, despite the burden of the prosthetics she had to wear to look wooden.) Their scene gave the story a sweet tragic twist. The Landlord was basically a little boy doing anything he could to keep his mommy alive.
This episode was not quite as good as the previous three this series. It was still very good. I have become spoiled with having the Doctor and Bill share the screen so much. They were separated from each other most of this episode. When they were together, they were reliably great. The Doctor has a very paternal relationship with Bill. They both can use a family. I’m curious like everyone else about the identity of the person in the vault. I’m going to say it is Missy. Whoever is in the vault is sadistic, they were only interested in hearing the story once the Doctor said young people were eaten. I can see Missy playing “Pop Goes the Weasel” more than I can see the Master doing it. I’m not quite ready to contact any London bookies to place a bet on it though.