Man, Doctor Who sure is giving me an abundance of what I like this season. The Russel T. Davies vibe of Who continues in this week’s episode and I’ve continued down my path of being smitten with what we have been given so far.
This week features Bill being Bill outside of her life with the Doctor, which we haven’t seen before. She continues to be charming as hell while searching for a place to live along with a few other flat mates. Just when they have all but given up at finding a spot they can afford; an old creepy landlord offers them super cheap rent at an old mansion.
Having the Doctor around has several perks. Sure, there is the whole interdimensional travel thing, but he also makes the best moving service in the world, helping Bill move her stuff into the new place using the T.A.R.D.I.S. But, when the Doctor arrives at the old run down house, he suspects something isn’t right, leading toana unnerving night of jump scares, bumps in the night and woodlice from outer space.
This episode did some cool stuff by building itself on a classic gothic horror vibe that was pretty in line with The Legend of Hell House. Having the Doctor around usually acts as a safety blanket but for most of the beginning of the episode you don’t have him about. His partial absence allows the episode to be classically spooky and lets its atmosphere and sound design give you that creeping sensation.
The Who laymen would probably expect a ghost to be behind all the spookiness going on, but the episode doesn’t let you down on its strange playfulness. Instead it reveals that the entity bumping off these kiddos is in fact creepy bugs from outer space. Of course, the Doctor comes up with a cool name for them, refusing to just call them “space lice.” Instead he refers to them as “Dryads,” a super neat call back to wood nymphs from Greek mythology. Although, instead of being cute elven like creatures these particular Dryads are more akin to cockroaches.
“Knock Knock” has a great twist ending, that features a terrifying looking villain and some pretty heavy emotional gut punches. Doctor Who is really great at taking something overly complicated and cutting all of it down into simple concise five to ten-minute explanations. What should feel forced manages to still have emotional resonance and doesn’t take you out of the story. It’s a magic formula that I don’t see too often outside of this series.
In one scene the Doctor briefly mentions regeneration. Again, we are reminded that sooner than later Capaldi will take his exit from the series. Bill asks what he meant by regeneration but he quickly side steps the question and moves on. I can already feel the tears building behind my eyes here, you guys. Capaldi has only recently become great. Partly because of his chemistry with his new companion but also because of his more at ease composure with the role. It’s a super bummer to see him leave now of all times. I think he would have been great for another season, or at the very least another season and half, but I guess these kinda bummers come with the territory of being a Doc Who fan.
Once again, this episode ends with the ever-teasing, mysterious vault. Poor Nardole, who has been absent from the Doctor and Bill’s adventures so far this season, is still watching over the vault. When The Doc relieves Nardole of watch duty, the mystery thickens as he opens the vault to share stories and Mexican takeout with whoever/whatever is behind those doors. Again, this seems to be hinting at the shadowy identity being the Master. If it is the Master, I really love how both Time Lords are sharing time and stories together, despite being each other’s nemesis. But, with the Doctor opening the doors to do those things, it almost seems like he wants the Master to escape. Could the Doctor be bored? Why would he risk it?