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Elizabeth Sandifer

Elizabeth Sandifer created Eruditorum Press. She’s not really sure why she did that, and she apologizes for the inconvenience. She currently writes Last War in Albion, a history of the magical war between Alan Moore and Grant Morrison. She used to write TARDIS Eruditorum, a history of Britain told through the lens of a ropey sci-fi series. She also wrote Neoreaction a Basilisk, writes comics these days, and has ADHD so will probably just randomly write some other shit sooner or later. Support Elizabeth on Patreon.


  1. Christopher Brown
    May 14, 2019 @ 2:52 pm

    Well done.


  2. prandeamus
    May 14, 2019 @ 4:36 pm

    Whenever I think of this episode, my mental image is a fusion of the Scooby-Doo gang led by a cartoon Bill. Complete with some of the original incidental music (in the 60s and early seventies when SD was good and not this rebooted stuff da kids got later, get off my lawn etc. etc.)
    The memory does in fact cheat, but for avoidance of doubt, this is a good thing in my book.


  3. Joseph
    May 14, 2019 @ 7:46 pm

    One thing to add – if you haven’t lived in Bristol, you may not be aware that right up until the murderous haunting, this is a pretty accurate depiction of student living. Many Bristol students end up packed into large Victorian and Edwardian houses in the suburbs, often very beautiful, but worn down. And honestly, the Land Lord is only a little bit weirder than some of the potential landlords I met (like the very old man who collected WWII memorabilia, so his umbrella stand was an artillery shell – quite cool – and his entrance hall had a cabinet of Nazi artifacts – not good at all. He seemed honestly quite nice, and of the age that some of it might have been personal war trophy, but still, not living there). In the end, though it may not be good, I’ll always love Knock Knock, because it feels like someone made an episode for me but forgot to tell me about it.


    • TheWrittenTevs
      May 15, 2019 @ 11:53 am

      As someone who had been living in student accommodation for three years when this was broadcast and has lived in cheap terraced housing all his life, the bugs were the part of the episode that really got me. This type of housing is usually built on the cheap, several decades old and heavily worn due to the way that families will have just come and gone from the place throughout its life. This means that they’re full of cracks and that means that they’re full of crawly things. You do sorta end up living within a bunch of insects.

      Given this, the fact that the house is filled with hostile bugs who came out of the walls and dragged you in with them was always the bit of the episode which, to me, most effectively took “What things do you have to go through when at the bottom of the housing ladder” and used it for horror. I imagine that a lot of kids watched that episode and then felt uneasy for days afterwards everything they entered a room and saw another spider. And honestly, isn’t stuff like what Doctor Who’s for?


  4. (Not That) Jack
    May 14, 2019 @ 9:06 pm

    I think it says everything about this episode for me that as I went to click on my bookmark for here, I was wondering “What’s El gonna say about Oxygen?” Because I had simply forgotten this episode even existed. I watched it-I have the BBC version on the very computer I am writing this on-but I did not remember it at all, even the silly twist about the mother.

    A lot of hate is directed at Lie of the Land for being bad-and it is-but at least I REMEMBER it!


  5. dm
    May 15, 2019 @ 12:05 am

    I had such a good time watching this. Stoned, alone in my room with a bag of jellybeans, equally terrified and delighted by it all. I’m going to avoid a rewatch because I’m sure it doesn’t stand up, but my memory of it is perfect and golden.


    • CJM123
      May 15, 2019 @ 4:54 pm

      I had a really good time with it too. The kid stuck in the wall terrified me. Such a direct, creepy image. Especially with David Suchet’s landlord removing the player. Honestly, all the kids struck me as right, I was there age at the time and they all reminded me of people I knew, and I think that David Suchet’s character was interesting and the reveal at the end was solid. It helped hint at the theme of moving on and growing up, which is something that comes back in a big way with the Master and Missy plot at the end of the season.

      I have a far softer spot for this episode than El it seems. I think we’d all have loved it if it came out in Series 11. It might have a similar structure to those episodes, but unlike those, it actually works on its own terms.


  6. Merwin
    May 15, 2019 @ 1:05 am

    I’m keener on this than many (most?) and not just for the simple pleasure of “oh, cool, David Suchet’s in it.” Bill hanging out with her friends, awkwardly coexisting with the Docter on the margins of her life, is lovely characterization we got very little of. Rose, Amy, Clara, all felt like whole people with lives that were bigger than their friendship with the Doctor. And though Bill got such a life, in the end, there were only glimpses beforehand, like here. It’s one of my favorite bits of “Bill-ness”.


  7. JDX
    May 15, 2019 @ 11:12 am

    As a person who is blind, Knock Knock felt like more of a gift to me than being represented by a blind Doctor in the next few episodes. I have no particular issue with the sound of the new series, but the classic series seemed to rely on sound more heavily, possibly because they knew they couldn’t rely on visuals as much. This episode, the binaural mix especially, felt like a return to the sonic innovation that made DW so captivating to me as a child.

    Even so, I recognise the story’s weaknesses, and I wonder if some of them could have been repaired if it had been set after Oxygen. This would have added further significance to the use of sound, and made it a story where the Doctor saved the day just as easily without his sight. This might have been more didactic if done poorly, but given that 50 per cent of people in the UK don’t believe a person who is blind can work, I feel like it would have been more purposeful.


  8. taiey
    May 15, 2019 @ 1:53 pm

    I like Bill’s stress over sharing a house with people she doesn’t know, the way she muffles that for her friend’s sake, that there’s nothing wrong with them but she’s not “proven wrong” or anything. I like her showing her mother’s picture her new room. I like her liking Little Mix; it’s a very well-chosen detail.


  9. David Ainsworth
    May 15, 2019 @ 2:00 pm

    For me, this story fails in two potential directions. It wants to say something about the Landlord’s refusal to let his mother go and Bill’s relationship with her mother, but can’t because if Bill lets her mother go now it ruins a later story (if one presumes that story has anything left to ruin). And on some level, it wants to draw a connection between the Landlord and the Doctor as people who allow much younger folk to move in with them and who have an odd relationship with time. But in the end, it has nothing interesting to say about that, and Capaldi’s turn away from angry granddad in this season of the show undercuts anything it might.


  10. FezofRassilon
    May 15, 2019 @ 3:37 pm

    The aliens turning oil back into dinosaurs bit – is that a reference to Invasion of the Dinosaurs or something else?


    • HelenaHermione
      May 16, 2019 @ 4:57 am

      I think it’s a reference to Terror of the Zygons. Oil drilling in the North Sea leads to the return of the Loch Ness monster!


    • TheWrittenTevs
      May 16, 2019 @ 8:50 am

      I’m assuming it’s a reference to her entry of “Under the Lake/Before the Flood” where she has an aside arguing that “one of the greatest possible untapped Doctor Who stories is probably some alien presence that’s turning fossil fuels back into dinosaurs”.

      (Although, as Helena has said, that plot does have surprising links to Terror of the Zygons.)


  11. AG
    May 15, 2019 @ 3:56 pm

    It seems that there’s a bit of a bimodal distribution in why most people tune into TV: for spectacle (chasing that water cooler talk from people who don’t actually follow TV all that much) or for the characters. Fandom, particularly the portion that produces and consumes transformative works, falls mostly in the latter category. Hence why GoT chasing spectacle has enraged those who had fallen in love with the characters, no matter whatever themes the show was supposedly about.

    So one of the reasons that I’ve mostly bounced off of Doctor Who has been that I’m someone who’s in it for the characters/relationships, and DW commonly kind of cared about its plots as vehicles for other things, like a Twilight Zone but with protagonist continuity. Neither plot nor character serviced one another, they just kind of existed in awkward independence.

    This episode is in that mold. The characters and relationships exist independently of the plot. (This is also one of the vibes I got from Eaters of Light, but this episode at least had more Bill-Doctor interactions.) Thin Ice explores ideas, sure, but keenly focuses them through the plot, characters, AND the relationships, so I care.

    This is why I prefer shows that are even less about ideas, and tend to have less-than-impressive episodic plots, because they use those plots as mere staging for their characters and relationships (also, comedy). Shows like “The Librarians” or “Legends of Tomorrow” are actually rarely about anything, but they also rarely do concept for concept’s sake only. Shows like Lucifer notoriously have less-than-impressive procedural plots so that they make the desired character interactions happen and don’t get in the way of them. These shows tend to suffer when they have to do some concept-for-concept’s-sake plots to pad out the network TV episode count without disturbing the character arcs too much.
    Meanwhile, a good chunk of DW fans find concept-for-concept’s-sake episodes not just expected, but as the norm. Again, DW as more of a Twilight Zone-ish anthology series that just happens to have continuous protagonists.

    (So in the sense of “a show about ideas in a setting where they can do anything, but keeps things grounded in the main cast,” I’d consider The Magicians as a current heavyweight, if not champion.)


  12. Molly
    May 18, 2019 @ 6:56 am

    My main qualm with this episode has always been that the housemates coming back from the dead at the end really really jars. In a haunted house story like this, gruesome deaths would usually stick. The deaths aren’t really serving to make us feel upset; they’re there for spectacle and to raise the stakes of the scares.
    But this episode can’t have the deaths stick because these are ostensibly Bill’s friends, so if they were gone for good, the show would have to at least in part deal with the trauma of that for Bill, and that is so clearly not on the cards.
    What do you do though? If you move it to a random student house separate from Bill, then the audience is wondering why you’ve not used the obvious link.


    • Przemek
      May 28, 2019 @ 1:15 pm

      What’s more, the “coming back from the dead” thing is inconsistent: only the most recent victims of the house get resurrected. They didn’t even give us a handwave along the lines of “the previous victims are completely absorbed now, these new people were still being digested”…


  13. Przemek
    May 28, 2019 @ 1:37 pm

    Great analysis of “Knock Knock” as an illustration of RTD’s “emotional storytelling” done as a series of tired tropes without any substance. This episode was so boring. And its most interesting part – the mother/son reveal – wasn’t even connected to anything else.

    Another thing “Knock Knock” fails at is making me believe in Bill’s everyday life. One of the interesting differences between RTD and Moffat eras is the way in which they sketch the companion’s life outside of the TARDIS. Rose’s world felt real and important. Same with Donna’s world. Martha was a bit of a miss for me, the family never got explored past “annoying mother and some other people”. But when it comes to the Moffat era, the companions mostly feel untethered to me. Amy switched careers between episodes, her missing parents appeared once and then were gone again, Rory’s dad apppeared out of nowhere after 2 seasons and in “The Power of Three” the everyday life of the Ponds had to be pretty much built from scratch. Clara’s home life in S7 felt barely existent and her family only appeared in the present day in “The Time of the Doctor”.

    Bill feels similarly untethered to me. After “The Pilot” I found it hard to believe in her “real life” (with the possible exception of her date in “Extremis”/”Pyramid”) because it was barely sketched. It was never explored enough, never important. Her school friends disappeared after “Knock Knock”. Perhaps I was the only one that minded, but I feel like fleshing out Bill’s world would’ve benefitted her character.


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  15. Daru
    July 10, 2019 @ 12:02 am

    In the end I felt pretty disappointed with this one. I did really enjoy the setup and the setting – and could see interesting links with lived experience (such as with the Bristolian above), as I’ve also lived in some odd houses myself. But in the end it felt like the story didn’t follow through or cohere for me. Some really good imagery though.


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