Sunday, 7 May 2017

Knock, Knock - Review

The first three installments of the series have been rather slow to get going, but Knock, Knock hits the ground running. Bill has moved into a creepy - creaky - old house, and one of her new flatmates falls foul of whatever lurks within before the opening credits roll. Once the others arrive, things start going wrong for them pretty quickly too. Quite what the threat is is held back until quite late on. In the meantime, we get the flat-sharers plagued by mysterious knocks and banging, with doors closing by themselves - sealing them in.
And all the time, the Landlord keeps turning up. He seems benign, if a little creepy himself, but there is clearly a darker undercurrent. Note how he turns when Harry asks about the tower.
I'm sure a lot of reviews will single David Suchet out for praise, and I won't buck that trend. He gave a marvelous performance. It takes a very good actor to elicit sympathy and horror at the same time.
We learn that he has been feeding young people to the house in order to keep his daughter alive. She's his secret, held in the tower. What's making the noises and absorbing people into the floors and walls is a species of alien woodlouse, which the Doctor names as Dryads. Every twenty years a houseful of people are absorbed, their lifeforce going to feed Eliza.

Some wonderfully horrific imagery on show - such as Pavel half absorbed into a wall, still clearly alive, or the likable Harry being consumed by a swarm of the Dryads. Best of all is Eliza herself, played by Mariah Gale. It's a pity we hadn't glimpsed her around the house earlier in the episode.
This wooden woman instantly reminded me of the animated wooden figurehead that appears in The Golden Voyage of Sinbad, which always unnerved me. Things which are human-looking, but not human, always unsettle. As it is, she is no monster. She is the daughter that the Landlord is protecting. Except Bill works out that can't be right. The old man can't have been protecting her for 70 years if he is her dad. Dads don't bring insects in to show their children - but little boys might, to show their parents. Yes, Eliza is really the Landlords mother, not his daughter. These scenes show Suchet at his best, as you can see the rather warped little boy struggling to break out in his performance.

The ending did seem a little rushed. Eliza quickly accepts that her time has passed, and she takes her son with her. The recently absorbed flatmates are all returned safe and sound. If it wasn't for Suchet I might have felt a little cheated by these scenes, after all the creepiness that went before. Eliza and the Landlord have gone, and the house is falling down, but it isn't at all clear what all this means for the Dryads. Sure, Eliza can control them, but does this mean that they all die?
A pity they couldn't have stated that Harry is the grandson of Harry Sullivan, once of UNIT and a travelling companion of the Fourth Doctor. It was deemed too obscure a reference, but if handled the right way it wouldn't have got in the way of the narrative and would have been a nice treat for fans.
On to the Vault. Now, if you've read the latest issue of DWM you'll know that the reveal of who or what is in the Vault will be revealed half way through the season - not as part of the finale. The occupant started playing the piano in this episode, and the Doctor can access at will and have dinner with the occupant. It is clearly of Gallifreyan design, judging by the panels on the doors. Three possibilities spring to my mind, so I'll set them down here. Going back to that picture of Susan on his desk, it might be her. He may have hidden her away to protect her from the Time War. Biggest problem with this is why she should still be in the Vault long after Gallifrey has been saved. Theory two is the John Simm Master. The pianist did seem to take delight at the prospect of a story featuring alien woodlice that ate people. Could this be how there are two versions of the Master around at the same time? Problem here is that as far as we know Simm only features in the finale. Third theory is a bit off the wall. Did you notice how the Doctor clammed up when Bill started to question what "regeneration" was? We've twice seen Time Lord avatars of their future incarnations - Cho-Je and the Watcher. What if the person in the Vault is the next Doctor, somehow incarnate too early?
Answers on a postcard...
Next week we have what looks like another haunted house story - but set on a space-station. The crew are coming back from the dead. Certainly looks good. Just to say that I will be away for a few days, so my review won't be coming to you until mid-week

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