Doctor Who: Knock Knock
(1 episode, s10e04, 2017)
Bill, her friend Shireen, and their four new housemates Felicity, Harry, Pavel, and Paul go househunting. Due to their small budget, the available accommodations are sparse, but they find a man named John who has the perfect place for them. The rent is cheap and the tower is off-limits, so Bill overcomes her skepticism and signs the contract.
Pavel moves in first since he lost his student hall space. As he starts up his record player with Bach: Sonata #1 by Itzhak Perlman – specifically, G Minor for Solo Violin, BWV 1001 – 1. Adagio – he finds something horrifying.
The next day, Bill moves in by using the TARDIS as a moving van. The TARDIS materializes over her stacked possessions and the Doctor is surprised at how few things she owns. She learns about the Time Lords, their flamboyant collars, and (a hint of) regeneration as the TARDIS moves to the new house. The Doctor is questioning of the house and its draftiness, offering to help her move her stuff inside to get a better look. After meeting the rest of her housemates, Bill passes him off as her grandfather, then shows him out.
As Bill moves up to her room, Pavel’s continuing music is passed off as a personality quirk; he’s known to hole up in his room with his music for days. That night, the housemates (except Pavel, obviously) gather around take-out meals to discuss oddities about their new residence. Felicity doesn’t like the lack of a mobile phone signal and Harry talks about footsteps and tapping. A strange noise summons them to the kitchen where Bill finds the Doctor investigating with his sonic screwdriver. The Doctor notes that nothing has been updated since the 1930s, including the lack of washing and drying machines. The Doctor tells Bill that the trees are screaming but there is no wind to make them creak. The housemates return to the living area and are surprised to find the landlord.
The landlord fields their complaints but seems untroubled by them. He also reacts with a sinister nature to questions about the tower. The Doctor questions the landlord about the Prime Minister and when the landlord cannot answer, the Doctor’s suspicions are raised. The landlord departs and vanishes without a trace.
Bill suggests that the Doctor should leave, but he decides to stay up with Felicity and Harry. As Bill, Shireen, and Paul head to bed, the Doctor recommends checking on Pavel. Paul asks Bill about a date, but Bill lets him down easily by revealing that she’s gay. Paul closes his door and begins to scream. Bill and Shireen laugh this off as another joke, but they soon realize that something more sinister is at work.
The Doctor, Felicity, and Harry discuss music before realizing that the house has trapped them inside by closing the doors and shutters. Felicity panics and grabs the shutters before squeezing out through a window. Once outside, she is attacked by a tree.
Bill and Shireen check on Pavel only to find that he’s been absorbed into the wood paneling. He’s able to warn them against turning off the music, but the landlord appears and stops the record, claiming that “hope is its own form of cruelty.” The wood absorbs Pavel completely, supposedly at peace with the house, and the women run after being told that it’s time for them to pay.
Bill and Shireen find access to the tower while the Doctor and Harry investigate the wood downstairs. The Doctor finds a woodlouse-like creature with glowing antennae, but the single insect leads to a raging infestation. The Doctor and Harry find refuge in a dumbwaiter that takes them to the basement. Meanwhile, Bill and Shireen find a music box and a woman asking about her father. The woman is made of wood and introduces herself as Eliza.
The Doctor and Harry find evidence that past groups have gone missing from the house. In fact, it seems to be once every twenty years. It is evident that the landlord finds groups of young people to feed the insects. When the landlord appears, the Doctor confronts him and learns that the elderly man made a deal with the insects to save his daughter’s life. When Harry tries to run, he is consumed by the insects. The Doctor suggests that he might be able to help Eliza.
In the tower, Bill and Shireen try to leave peacefully, but when Shireen is consumed when she stomps on one of the bugs. The landlord and the Doctor arrive soon after. The Doctor examines Eliza, learning that the landlord had brought the insects to amuse his bedridden daughter. They learn that high-pitched sounds attract the insects, and Eliza’s music box accidentally revived the initial wave that transformed the girl.
But, in a twist, the landlord is revealed as Eliza’s son. The insects were a gift from a curious son and they preserved Eliza’s age as she was transformed. The landlord asks for forgiveness, aware that his attempts to keep the insects (and his mother) alive were wrong, and Eliza decides to release him. She realizes that she can control the insects, and after thanking the Doctor for his help, she allows the insects to devour herself and her son.
With Eliza gone, the house begins to crumble. As Bill and the Doctor run, they find the rest of the housemates alive and well as the house releases them. The Doctor tells the group to return to the estate agents as they gape at the site of the destroyed house.
The Doctor returns to the university with takeout food for Nardole. He takes up guard duty at the vault as the mysterious occupant plays Für Elise on piano. Nardole departs and the Doctor begins to relay the night’s adventures to the prisoner. Upon explaining that people were consumed by a house, the occupant plays Pop Goes the Weasel, and an amused Doctor opens the door to give his prisoner some dinner.
I enjoyed the combination of the haunted house and monster-of-the-week motifs alongside some decent character development for Bill. While we don’t see any time travel in this story, we do get some good suspense and drama coupled with a nice twist in the villain.
Everything in this story points to the landlord being the baddie, and the woman made of wood in the tower isn’t a huge surprise. What I appreciate, though, is the twist that reveals the “creature” as the landlord’s mother. Of course, the landlord’s actions are still bad, but it complicates matters since they are also driven by good intentions.
The road to hell and all that, right?
I’m also a big fan of the minimal body count. It would have been so easy to kill off every one of Bill’s friends, but the story goes the extra step to save Bill from that darkness.
There’s not much more to this story aside from the subtle hints about who is in the vault. We’ll get there soon enough.
Rating: 4/5 – “Would you care for a jelly baby?”
UP NEXT – Doctor Who: Oxygen
The Timestamps Project is an adventure through the televised universe of Doctor Who, story by story, from the beginning of the franchise. For more reviews like this one, please visit the project’s page at Creative Criticality.