Doctor Who: Series 10, Episode 4: Knock Knock

A sombre parable about the importance of going out in Fresher’s week, “Knock Knock” represents Doctor Who’s latest, mostly successful, attempt at the classic ghost story.

Bill and her five diverse modern friends (Pavel, Shireen, Paul, Whatsername and Harry ❤)are looking for a house-share, but are having trouble finding one with enough space. So much so that they are perfectly happy to sign a contract with a clearly evil man called the Landlord for a dilapidated deathtrap. So far, very accurate to contemporary house-hunting.

Pavel decides to move in immediately, and immediately disappears. This is not noticed until about halfway through the episode because apparently it was perfectly within character for him to lock himself in his room for 24 hours listening to the same five second loop of violin music. The plot must be thankful for this character trait.

The Doctor helps Bill move with the Tardis, but then he refuses to leave when he notices the trees are swaying in the wind when there isn’t a wind. Scottish people are very sensitive to this, as we have only had three days in recorded history when it wasn’t windy.

Bill doesn’t like the Doctor hanging around. I like this aspect of their relationship. Bill sees the Doctor as a tutor, not necessarily a friend. Her actual friends are puzzled as to why a lecturer is crashing a student flat. Unlike some former companions Bill is keen to maintain her life away from the Doctor. “Knock Knock” portrays her as curious, brave and intelligent, but she is her own woman. This is most refreshing after five seasons of Amy and Clara hanging on the Doctor’s apron strings.

Paul goes to bed and screams horrifically in his room, which is then mysteriously locked. What a joker he is, thinks Bill and Shireen. The house starts sealing itself off — Whatsername escapes but is eaten by a… tree? I’m a bit unclear here. In any case: this leaves Bill and Shireen exploring the upper floors while the Doctor and Harry ❤ go to the basement.

Both groups encounter the Landlord, and the Doctor convinces him to allow the Doctor to attempt to help his daughter, who is somehow the reason for all of this. Harry has a freakout and is eaten by the Alien Woodlice that are infecting the walls </3. Bill and Shireen separately discover the daughter’s hidden room and find that she is played by an incredibly wooden actor.

So far “Knock Knock” has succeeded in aping the tropes of the haunted house story, but in the conclusion the plot starts to struggle. In the final 10–15 minutes we have to go through several plot points in quick succession, with none of them being allowed to breathe. I hesitate to write up a final recap for these scenes because even the Doctor admits it’s just an infodump. I feel this episode would have worked far better as a two parter, with part one focusing on horror while the second part handles the sci-fi threat. Smooshing the two together means the the emotional payoff is lost in characters speedily explaining everything to each other to meet the runtime.

At the end, all the students are saved, apart from the ones who died a long time ago, but nobody cares about them. The Doctor brings Chinese food to the prisoner inside the vault, and tells them a happy story about young people being eaten by woodlice.

Additional observations:

  • My hypothesis is that it is the John Simm Master in that vault. After breaking every law of spacetime even more than usual in series nine, I would guess the Time Lords foisted the Master onto the Doctor as a punishment. He was last seen going back to Gallifrey shortly before the Doctor destroyed/saved it.
  • It’s a shame the police didn’t bother to investigate the groups of six students disappearing every twenty years.
  • Number of episodes this series where the villains could have been Vasta Nerada: 2.
  • Harry ❤❤❤❤❤