Being of a certain age, my mother has made two things clear: she doesn’t want a party marking her fiftieth wedding anniversary in 2019; and, when her time comes, she doesn’t want to be kept alive by artificial means.
If nothing else, Mike Bartlett has given us an episode of Doctor Who that has a measurable scare factor, though not quite on the same level as “Blink,” and an opportunity for our elders to sit us all down and give us their final instructions.
“Knock Knock” will do for inexplicable sounds within walls what “The Pilot” did for puddles and the sound of water running through pipes. The Doctor and Bill are in fine form once again, with Bill striking out on her own to rent a place with five other students and extricating herself from the prospect of living with her foster-mother any longer than she has to. The Doctor and the TARDIS provide an assist with moving her meager belongings into one of six bedrooms in a house owned by The Landlord, played by veteran British character actor and Poirot extraordinaire David Suchet.
It’s not long before the Doctor tests the air with his finger and twigs that something ain’t quite right. The trees are whispering, but there is no wind to carry their sound. The house has a tower which is off-limits to everyone, except The Landlord. The first of the roommates to move in – Pavel – disappears after setting the needle on a vinyl recording of Johann Sebastian Bach’s “Sonata No. 1 in G minor for solo violin.” The Landlord himself seems to have mastered the art of apparation, ostensibly concerned about the comfort of his new tenants, but in all likelihood making sure the remaining five don’t pull a midnight move on their very first night.
It is of course well and good that The Doctor ignores Bill’s pleas to leave the house, and in the end it is Bill and The Doctor who collectively suss out the true nature of the relationship between the resident of the tower, Eliza, and The Landlord; and trigger the events that lead to the regeneration of Pavel and the other two roommates who were each consumed by the intrusion of alien roaches living in the walls of the house and controlled by The Landlord and Eliza.
Suchet’s portrayal of a son who went above and way past beyond for his mother is creepy and heartbreaking at the same time. You have no soul if you are unmoved by The Landlord’s sorrowful plea, “If you could save the one who brought you into this world, wouldn’t you?”
(Yes, I’d want to; and no, I shouldn’t. Also, nowhere in the parent/child “contract” should it be stipulated or presumed that bringing alien roaches into one’s ancestral home in the effort of preserving the life of the parent is either sane, or viable. Be a Doctor, and let go.)
Which makes the final moments of the episode, in which The Doctor brings food and the promise of a story in which there are deaths to the musically inclined resident of the vault, all the more interesting: “I know you miss it all but I’m stuck here too, you know. We’re both prisoners.” Aaaaaagh! I want to know what he promised, and to whom? And why?
Next week: Jamie Mathieson (“Mummy On The Orient Express” and “Flatline,” Series 8) demonstrates the perils of oxygen as pricey commodity.
Rating: 8/10 big Time Lord collars.
(And oi! Call your mother, if only to arrange that heart to heart.)