After an adventure to a human colony on another planet and Georgian London Doctor Who returns to modern day England for a claustrophobic horror episode.
Bill (Pearl Mackie) sets out to find a six bedroom student house with her friends in Bristol: unfortunately everything they’re shown is inappropriate. This is where the mysterious Landlord (David Suchet) steps in, offering a large property at a reasonable rate. However, the offer seems too good to be true and The Doctor (Peter Capaldi) suspects something strange is afoot in the house and set out to investigate what is wrong with the house.
The modern version of Doctor Who has produced some strong horror style episodes like “The Empty Child”/“The Doctor Dances”, “Blink” and “The Water of Mars” and whilst “Knock Knock” does not match those heights it is a solid haunted house story. It’s an episode that uses its tight spaces and the creaking sounds of the house to great effect and there was some horrific imaginary when showing what the house can do with its victims.
‘Knock Knock’ also gives a glimpse into Bill’s life as a student and as she states to The Doctor she wants to keep her personal life separate from her time travelling adventures and this seems like the start to a similar subplot to what Rose had – seeing what her absence impacts the people she loves. There was a cute moment when she puts all her belonging in a space in her old room and the TARDIS forms around it.
In ‘Knock Knock’, Bill once again shows a picture of her deceased mother – similar to Rose having lost her dad when she was a baby and Bill longs to make her mum proud. Bill also restates her sexuality after one of her new housemates, Paul (Ben Presley), takes a fancy to the woman. This adds a bit of character development for Bill.
Bill also has a conversation with The Doctor as he helps his companion move – revealing the name of his species (something he could have done sooner) and talks about regeneration before changing the subject. Fans of the show know that Peter Capaldi is leaving and The Doctor’s reaction hints that he knows his time in this body is coming to an end and that there may be a dark story to come.
David Suchet is synonymous with Agatha Christie’s Poirot, playing the role for 24 years on ITV. His performance was the most memorable part of the episode – being a sinister and creepy presence as the villain. The Landlord moves around silently and whilst able to speak with calm demeanour he was able to snap when conflicted. However, The Landlord is also a tragic figure when the usual Doctor Who ‘twist’ is revealed.
The episode has a cop out of an ending where all of Bill’s housemates are resurrected after what seemed to be horrific death: undermining what happened prior. If they remained dead it might have raised questions about the suddenly high death rate amongst students in Bristol. The house ends up destroying itself and this was clearly meant to be a reference to the 1982 horror film Poltergeist but came across like The Simpsons Halloween segment “Bad Dream House”.
The episode also continues the storyline with the vault – this time seeing The Doctor enter it for the first time and having some affinity with whatever’s inside. It is early to speculate what the creature in the vault is: it could be John Simms’ version of the Master, a future version of the Doctor or a character from the classic era like The Valeyard or The Rani. Fans will have to wait and see.
‘Knock Knock’ is another solid if an unremarkable episode of Doctor Who and the term ‘solid if unremarkable’ is the best way to describe the tenth season. It’s a horror story that is safe viewing for most age groups and was elevated by Suchet’s performance.