In that regard, this past weekend’s “Knock Knock” efficiently dabbled with the tricks of horror (i.e. the elderly landlord, the haunted castle, etc.) good enough to make the adventure believable but only so much if viewers accept the ‘Scooby Doo’ outcome as I was left wondering all too often exactly how and why this particular “universe” worked the way it did.
How the Doctor fits into all of this ends up being a nice comic turn to the established Capaldi/Mackie combo as she tells her friends that he’s her grandfather (a narrative throwback all the way to the beginning of Doctor Who when William Hartnell’s man from Gallifrey actually did have a granddaughter for a companion); it’s an inspired ‘zing’ for an episode that otherwise feels a bit disheveled for so early in a new season of Who. Even ghost-inspired tales usually earn an upturned nose from the Doctor, and this one never quite comes together the way a good yarn should but instead clumsily hits its predictable notes and reveals all too simply.
You’ve got victims? Check.
You’ve got an old house? Check.
You’re got a crotchety landlord? Check.
From there, screenwriter Mike Bartlett (his first foray into the realm of Who) proceeds to tie the dryads (wood nymphs) of Greek mythology into this growing universe. It may’ve worked had the whole idea of exactly ‘how’ and ‘why’ these alien cockroaches prolong the life of the landlord’s mother been aptly communicated, but otherwise it all comes off feeling a bit more magical or fantastical than what typically suffices for Who’s audiences.
Complaints aside, I’ll give credit where credit is due as “Knock Knock” does have some clever moments wherein the story deals in character.
This all happens thankfully so, I might add, since Bill’s friends are really such dullards: flat, dimensionless wannabes who typically fill out roles in traditional horror films, the kind always opening that closed door when audiences are screaming to leave it shut. It’s a shame what suffices for a casual acquaintance these days, and Bartlett’s script deserved another once over so far as this longtime Who viewer is concerned to weed out some of its less-inspired stereotypes.
Also, dare I suggest that an actor the gravitas of Suchet ends up seeming wasted in such fluff? He might not have the resume of Anthony Hopkins, mind you, but he’s definitely filled out roles of greater substance than what Bartlett provided here. Who knows? His gravitas may’ve actually been a Godsend to an otherwise forgettable script as any lesser known commodity might have been even more easily blended in with the woodwork (pun intended).
For all its occasionally posturing, “Knock Knock” largely felt like filler – an episode meant to fill the whole until something else happens next week. Its characters aren’t particularly memorably – mainly, these side diversions are fodder for this week’s alien villain to “eat” – and its setting more likely won’t be revisited again any time soon as I suspect gears are decidedly shifting back toward The Vault and Capaldi’s upcoming ‘departure’ for greener pastures.