I’ve put it off a few days to mull, but finally I’m putting my thoughts on Knock Knock into a review. I got to the end of the episode and felt a large touch of was that it? It may be just my pessimistic approach to reviewing by deconstruction, or I may be turning into a critic [let’s hope not!], but I felt this didn’t work, and was pitched more as a YA programme than Doctor Who (if that makes sense).
Knock Knock: The story
Bill has moved from working in the kitchen to hanging round with a group of students and looking for accommodation (they don’t call it digs I’m reliably informed). They sign a contract for rooms in a creaky old house (think Scooby Doo creepy mansion). No sooner is that done, than Bill’s housemates start disappearing and David Suchet’s excellently realised Landlord is on hand to make matters worse.
As the Doctor investigates, more students vanish and as some try to enter the forbidden tower, the Doctor and Bill survive to confront the Landlord and the mostly mysterious Eliza, there’s a quick reveal and an appeal to Eliza’s residual humanity to do the right thing. Cue all the bad stuff vanishing and the previously believed dead students all magically back with memory loss.
Knock Knock: The Storytelling
OK, the way I’ve described it is somewhat skeletal, and ignores some excellent central performances. The students, though, were almost entirely undeveloped in this story and quickly consumed by the strange alien lice in an effect very close to the micro-bots in Smile. We had a dark and stormy night, self-closing shutters, mysterious knocking and many other Scooby Doo tropes.
More exposition with the find of a cellar full of crates, a red herring about every twenty years the house needs new students, never explained.
The idea of Eliza was underplayed and we didn’t know her long enough to care. Couldn’t she have been met even if not visually earlier in the story? The switch from child to mother didn’t carry any emotional weight as I hadn’t vested anything in the identity of the two characters. A shame as the make-up for Eliza and Mariah Gale’s acting was very strong.
As to the ending, with a reset for the students, who despite having been eating away seem to be reconstructed by magic, in fact the whole treatment was more fairy tale than anything else.
On a minor and irrelevant point, I assume this was from a second recording block as the Doctor and Bill seemed different (and I don’t just mean Bill’s hair). Some even more comfortable performances where they explore some of the nature of the Doctor and Bill’s need for some measure of independence.
As to the big arc. Pianos and dinner? It reminds me very much of the Sherlock Holmes finale with the unexpected sister being trapped behind a glass wall (non-existent) and smacks of repetition to me (I am in the camp of those who assume it is John Simm behind the wall).
Am I unreasonable? Too picky? Let me know!