“If you could save the one who brought you into this world, wouldn’t you?”
Doctor Who this week brought us back to earth with Bill moving into a student share house with a group of friends. After trying numerous places and none of them working for them, they leave the real-estate agent in a very dejected mood. This is until an old man says to them, “Excuse me, but are you looking for somewhere to live?”. Much to my horror they choose that place, as really, even desperate students would question the creepy old guy who came out of nowhere. The Doctor of course is asked to help her move house, and with a time traveling space ship at your disposal, who wouldn’t? I know I definitely would! The Doctor instantly, and quite literally smells something off about the place and insists on helping Bill bring her stuff into the house not just to the door. Much to Bill’s embarrassment, leaving her to introduce the Doctor as her grandfather. The house in question isn’t really a house, but more of a castle. With a mysterious tower, draughty corridors, and creaking floors and walls, I agree with the Doctor when he says to Bill quite seriously “You’re going to live here?”. The place has creepy written all over it, not to mention the quiet but ever present Landlord (David Suchet) who seems to know more than he was letting on.
It is safe to say that this old castle-like house is definitely no normal house. Before the credits have even rolled one of the house mates who was early to move in disappears with muffled screams behind a closed door. This episode promises a classic Doctor Who thriller, with a solid mystery to boot. As the episode progresses, in true ‘share house student’ style the other students don’t question the fact that this guy doesn’t leave his room, and so the character is soon forgotten, he does turn up later in the episode though. It’s not long before the housemates, including Bill, and now the Doctor, begin to question just how ‘normal’ both the house and Landlord are. Strange sounds come seemingly out of nowhere, bringing out something different in each of the housemates. The flippant guy who completely dismisses the noises as some sort of animal. The two girls who seem to feed off each other’s fear while still managing to doubt the reality of the situation. The guy who takes the strangeness in his stride and ends up following the Doctor around for most of the episode. Then one poor girl who must have had some previous trauma begins to panic as the house closes them in, she gets out but only manages to get as far as the driveway before she is swallowed up too. Then there’s Bill who, though she is versed in the peculiar after her first few trips in the TARDIS, still naturally begins to get freaked out by the antics of her new house. Like the Doctor though, her logic stays strong and she ends up figuring I out..
It is here though that the episode met it’s peak. Though at a concept level the episode had the potential to be something very scary, and very cleverly plotted out, it seemed to fall short. After the house has closed all the characters in and has picked off all the characters one by one until just Bill, the Doctor, and the creepy Landlord are left. Well, along with who we think is the Landlord’s daughter, but is actually his well preserved mother. Yes, mother. It is here the episode starts to loose momentum. Here we see Bill embodying my thoughts as my mind clicks over and I understand why all those people had to die. This is the moment where the creepy becomes sentimental, and the scary just becomes emotional. The house was eating people to keep the Landlord’s mother alive, which after such a strong and rather nerve wracking start dissipates the tension – though the sentimentality of the episode brought up connections with both Bill and the Doctor who have both lost their mothers to death in some form. As a lover of the thriller genre, it’s easy to criticise the plotting issues of this episode, but we do need to keep in mind that Doctor Who is classified a ‘family show’. That being said, with episodes like Series Three’s ‘Blink’ we come to anticipate a higher standard and critique them as such.
Plotting problems aside, in terms of character development, and the development of the relationship between the Doctor and Bill this episode shone. Honestly, it was the comic moments between the Doctor and Bill which in my mind, made the episode. I will never tire of the friendly banter between these two, especially Bill’s questions, which the Doctor answers begrudgingly but truthfully. Thanks to this, I was able to forgive the somewhat disappointing plot. Another thing this episode featured a lot more was the Vault. We see the Doctor and Nardole speaking to whomever is in the Vault, the mysterious inhabitant was also playing the piano. This leads me to believe that the inhabitant is somewhat human, or maybe even a Timelord (the Doctor’s race) as the Doctor seems quite familiar with them, even friendly. After all, who brings a prisoner Chinese takeaway food? Really?
All up, this wasn’t one of my favourite episodes but I am interested to see how it fits into the larger arc of this series.
Plot: 2/4 – Character: 2.5/3 – Monster (‘Misunderstood Alien’) of the Week: 2/3