Seeing Amy Pond turn into a wooden dolly is the stuff of nightmares. It was disturbing even for a seasoned adult who finds The Omen to be a comedy. I’ll get to that in a minute.
Mark Gatiss has been a bit of a hit-and-miss writer for Doctor Who – with works varying from the good “The Unquiet Dead” to last season’s stinker “Victory of the Daleks”. “Night Terrors” will definitely be considered one of his successes.
The Doctor, Amy and Rory are summoned through the psychic paper to help an eight-year-old kid who seems to be scared of everything (and suffering from OCD to boot). Shortly after their arrival, while looking for said kid’s residence, Amy and Rory have a frightening lift ride and end up in a creepy house. The Doctor finds the kid and discovers a truly scary cupboard…
After some initial comedy with the search for the house, this episode gets very creepy very fast. The fact that nearly all of the episode takes place in darkness massively helps with the atmosphere. The plain face dolls also qualify as horrific in a way that a Sontaran doesn’t quite do – the lack of expression makes them scarier. There are some very interesting horror/sci-fi concepts here, but that’s not what people will remember. This episode enters Moffat levels of scary; many kids were probably scurrying behind the sofa at much of this. The tension is racked up throughout and there aren’t even any spring-loaded cats to provide a temporary respite. The horror is genuine, not comical gore, especially the people turning into dolls.
I’ve gone on record as saying I prefer two companions to one as it allows for separation of one them while keeping the other two to have chemistry with each other. This is further demonstrated here with Amy and Rory, who get on well together (of course, they are married to each other) and have some great dynamic in the house.
While everyone does well, special pride of place in the acting department must go to Daniel Mays as Alex, a “muggle” who just thinks that his child is strange and, as we discover, has a bigger effect with that thought than he realises. It’s a far cry from his great turn on Ashes to Ashes.
Only flaw in this? The climax was a little overlong and predictable. It’s not too bad, but you have to be pretty near perfect to get a ten from me.
In summary, this is an excellent episode, which is well written, well-acted and well-paced, with a great hook, line and sinker. It’s one of the best episodes of Season 32.
Next week looks very interesting too.