Mark Gatiss, who has written previous episodes such as “Victory of the Daleks” and “The Unquiet Dead” for the new series of Doctor Who, returns with “Night Terrors”, in which a young boy named George is terrified of something in his room, and whose cries for help are heard all the way in the TARDIS. This is the point where the Doctor, Amy, and Rory get involved, and things get a little weird from there.
Gatiss’ script taps into children’s fundamental fears, turning every shadow or night sound into potential nightmare fuel. The choice of having dolls as the antagonists provide a rich and identifiable source of terror for the story. Jamie Oram, who plays George, turns in a very convincing performance of a child who is afraid of, well, everything. Daniel Mays is also good as George’s father Alex, in turns distressed and cowed by his various predicaments in the episode.
But when all is said and done, this episode fell flat for me. I had a few issues with the episode. First, the Doctor is split up from his companions, which is a well-worn trope in the Who universe. However, Amy and Rory don’t have much interesting to do for too long a stretch. They are exploring a creepy house where things just aren’t quite right, telegraphing a revelation too far in advance (my kids had guessed where Amy and Rory really were early on). Even the Doctor tries to lampshade this when he is pulled into the same house, but it is not as clever as Gatiss would like for us to believe.
The dolls of the story- and what they can do- are creepy. But that doesn’t save the story. What was the point of pulling the old lady into the doll house? She served no purpose there at all. What results is an old-fashioned run around, and it just drags. When the Doctor finally deduces just what is really going on, it comes out in an info-dump, which is sketchy at best, and within a couple of minutes everything is back to normal. Case closed, off the TARDIS crew goes.
“Night Terrors” has good moments, but is just weak overall. Which is a shame, because it had the potential to be a smartly-written horror piece. Instead, it was just a watered-down take on horror for Doctor Who. Bummer.
Rating (out of 10): 6