Playing with Dolls

UPDATE, 25/09/12:  If you read this post, please read on through the comments too.  Some astute readers used the comments section to set me straight on some issues both of fact and interpretation.  As a result, my attitude towards ‘Night Terrors’ is now considerably more negative than my initial reaction (which you can read in the main review below).  In fairness to myself, I do spend most of the piece saying what I don’t like about ‘Night Terrors’, including identifying some of what I call the “latent hostility” towards working-class people… but I failed to notice the wider context of the episode and so also the scale of the problem.  I don’t mind admitting when I’m wrong (of course, I do really) but I hate that I blogged before giving myself sufficient time to think.  

Okay, my foolhardy project of catching up with all the Doctor Who I’ve not seen in order to re-synch with the new stuff (and hopefully provide myself with blogging material) continues.

Last night I finally watched ‘Night Terrors’. Much to my astonishment, I didn’t absolutely hate it. I mean, it wasn’t particularly good… but it wasn’t actively offensive most of the time either. Which is fairly good going for Moffat-era Who written by Gatiss.

I was horrified by the idea that the Doctor now hears and answers prayers like God, with the pleas of a little boy travelling up to him through the heavens, but that was somewhat neutralised later by some technobabble explanation that made it sound very much like a special case.  In the end, I liked that the Doctor actually seemed comparatively less full of himself, and more like a guy making it up and thinking it out as he went along.  Matt Smith should be encouraged to slow down a bit more often.  He had some nice, quiet moments (inbetween all the usual frenetic gibbering) that were very likeable.  He does ‘kindly’ rather well.

There were cliches galore, of course.  An old lady complains about her knees.  A yobbo guy with a pitbull.  Hoodies, etc.

Where would any mainstream BBC drama be nowadays if it had to try and depict a housing estate without the employment of hostile cliches?  I think the latter stages of RTD’s depiction of Rose’s estate are the last example of such places being sketched without such latent hostility.

But… there was an interesting visual stress on the uniformity and blandness of the housing estate, bathed in that sickly yellow night-time street-light aura.

And this made the opulent but fake interior of the ‘mansion house’ into a fairly interesting visual counterpoint.

Of course, it was entirely predictable that the mansion would turn out to be a dolls house.  But even that was kind of covered when the Doctor immediately realises it when he ends up there, treating the conclusion as though it’s self-evident.  It looks like evidence of two tracks of thought at work in the story.  We’re more on the Doctor’s wavelength than the other characters… which is not self-evidently the wrong way to do it. …

Continue Reading