10.4 Knock Knock
My favourite of the run so far, this one. I’ll get that said right at the start.
Four weeks into series 10 of Doctor Who, the show’s confident enough that we know Pearl Mackie’s Bill quite well, and that it can get on with telling the kind of story that can sit in the middle of a series, without the need for too much explaining. Don’t take that as a slight, thought. Mike Bartlett’s first Doctor Who story, Knock Knock, is a strong lesson in zeroing on a small number of ideas, and really making them count. It assumes that we know the basics by now, and doesn’t need to layer in long-running threads. It’s got a story to tell instead, and boy, it tells it well.
The set-up this time is Bill moving into a student house with her friends, with them basically finding themselves unable to afford the bunch of cupboards-masquerading-as-flats that they’re shown. As with each episode this run, it takes its time setting things up (again, no dashing out of the gate here), and we get a flavour of the guest characters. But still no sign of anywhere for them all to live. Enter a mysterious man who looks like an older version of that Poirot fella off the telly, who offers them an enormous house, with just one or two conditions in the contract. As you might expect, small print should be read.
And as it turns out, David Suchet’s terrific, understated performance is just one of the highlights of this episode, one that sees Bill and the Doctor more apart than together.
Good chunks of this, expertly directed by Bill Anderson, play out like a horror movie. Not one of those loud, over the top ones either. One that, instead, explores corners of the house, works with shadows, plays with sound, and uses a mix of tricks – without cheating – to ramp up the tension.
In fact, there’s something gleefully old fashioned and patient about it, an episode that could easily be set in the past as much as in the present day. The sonic screwdriver is put away again, and it’s down to a bit of brainpower to work out just what’s going on. Without spoiling it, I really think this one delivered in the last third, too. One or two of the episodes this run have done the build up very well, and had to rush to wrap things up. Not here.
To talk more would inevitably start to give things away, and I’m absolutely not going to do that. Instead, I’ll leave it for now by saying that Knock Knock slowly creeps up on you, takes very relatable fears and really turns the screw on them. If the current run of Doctor Who has a spookier, even scarier episode in it, then spare undergarments may be required.
Finally, one small tip: try to avoid some of the promo material doing the rounds this week. Nothing heavily spoilery in it, just that the episode unfolds nicely when there are more surprises…