This past week, the Doctor and Bill faced off against the horrific powers of…THE LANDLORD.
Not really the most threatening villain name I’ve ever heard, to be honest. But he was awesome all the same, and so was this episode. Read on for my thoughts.
The Quick & Spoiler-Free Verdict
Doctor Who is going from strength to strength this season, and “Knock Knock” is no exception. It’s a cleverly written, genuinely frightening piece, with the same high-quality acting and special effects we’ve come to expect this year. Having David Suchet as a guest star definitely doesn’t hurt either (and he’s amazing, by the way).
Going into this episode, what I wanted most was for it to be better than “Hide.” I really, really don’t like “Hide.” Not because it was awful from beginning to end—on the contrary, because it was great right up until the last five minutes. The “twist” at the end totally ruined it for me, retconning all the earlier scares into mere misunderstandings. Another thing that made me dubious about “Knock Knock” was the multiple supporting characters. Doctor Who does not have the greatest track record when it comes to minor characters. You’ve got stories which handled this issue amazingly, like “Under the Lake/Before the Flood,” and then you’ve got stinkers like “Nightmare in Silver.”
Fortunately, on both counts, “Knock Knock” excelled. The menace behind all the scary happenings in the episode is a true menace, albeit with a tragic backstory. And there’s a brilliant twist in this element of the story that simultaneously subverts a threadbare trope, showcases David Suchet’s formidable acting skills, and gives Bill a chance to shine. As for the supporting characters, though not all of them get more than a few minutes of screen time, at least they all feel like real people with distinctive personalities instead of mere cannon fodder. The viewer is led to care about them individually instead of just waiting for them all to die.
Like “Thin Ice,” there’s really not much “bad” in this one. I’ve read comments from other reviewers criticizing the fact that (SPOILERS START HERE) certain deaths were reversed at the end. However, this didn’t put “Knock Knock” in “Hide” territory for me. There were still plenty of irreversible deaths: the many people killed long before the Doctor and Bill’s arrival, and the Landlord and Eliza. There’s enough tragedy to prevent this episode leaving you with an unwanted warm fuzzy feeling. On the other hand, I think permanently killing off all of Bill’s friends would have been going too far. It would have made the story seem needlessly cruel, and left far too much emotional fallout to be sorted through at the end. I’m not ready for Bill to start becoming jaded or to turn against the Doctor, both of which Clara did once the death toll got too high. These themes were touched on skillfully in Thin Ice, but I’d rather they not become a significant issue in Series 10. Let’s have some more fun first. From future episode synopses, I’d say it’s only a matter of time before the tragedies of life with the Doctor begin to hit home for Bill.
The Final Word
Every new episode since this season started has become my new favorite episode of the year. That’s a good sign, I think. “Knock Knock” raises the bar even higher for Series 10’s stand-alone tales…while adding a few more intriguing details to the series arc as well. Also, props to Steven Moffat for making an episode with David Suchet happen. He delivered a fantastic performance and made an already-excellent piece of Doctor Who even better.
By the way, we’ve only got one more episode before we finally discover who or what is in that Vault, and meet an old enemy again…