Yes, I know I’m quite a few weeks behind with the Doctor Who reviews, I’ll get them written and posted as soon as I can.
Bill and five of her student friends are looking for a house to rent. After some comical scenes where an estate agent shows them a tiny house that looks suspiciously like a converted shed and a property that is right next door to a power plant, a sinister landlord (David Suchet) approaches them and says he has a house they could rent.
It is very big, and the landlord charges very cheap rent. He does however say the tower in the house is out of bounds as it isn’t safe. The students sign the contract, but Bill reckons there must be a catch. Yes there is, and a very deadly one.
One of the students, Pavel (Bart Suavek), has to move in on that night rather than the next morning. He notices the floorboards creak, but seems to quite like that. He puts on a record (‘Sonata No. 1 In G Minor’ by Itzhak Perlman). Then we overhear Pavel being attacked and screaming, but we don’t see anything.
Bill gets the Doctor to come in his TARDIS to her bedroom and go from there with her belongings to her new home. Well, it must be much easier than using a removal van! When they get to the house though, the Doctor senses something isn’t quite right, and he decides to go in with Bill. The other students know the Doctor already from lectures, Bill also adds a cover story that he is her grandad. For a while in the episode the Doctor and Bill’s relationship is a bit like when a parent is embarrassing a teenager in front of their friends.
Later that night the students hear a lot of noises, mainly creaking wood and the sound of something scurrying. They also hear a clattering noise, and they go to investigate, and that particular noise turns out to be the Doctor, who is in the pantry. The Doctor notes the technology in the house is very old. There’s no central heating, just an oil burning heater. There’s no washing machine, the power sockets are out of date, there’s no mobile phone reception or even a landline. He also tells Bill that on the day she moved in the trees moved as if by the wind, but there WAS no wind then.
The students say they should tell some of these problems to their landlord, and it turns out he is right there! He disappears almost as quickly as he arrives, but while he’s there he bangs the walls with a tuning fork and mentions that he has a daughter.
Some of the students go to their rooms. Paul (Ben Presley) fancies Bill, and tries to chat her up, but she tells him she goes for girls. It seems that Shireen (Mandeep Dhillion) fancies Paul, but hasn’t told him. Paul starts joking around jumping on the floorboards and making ghost noises and pretending to be in danger… before he’s in danger for real! Then all the doors start knocking by themselves.
Bill and Shireen go into Pavel’s room, and see to their horror that he has been partially absorbed into the wall! His record is playing on repeat. The landlord comes in, says the music was probably giving Pavel some form of hope to cling onto, so takes the needle off, and Pavel is then fully absorbed into the wall. Bill and Shireen run away, and find a bookcase which leads to a secret passage.
Meanwhile, the Doctor is with goofy Harry (Colin Ryan) and anxious Felicity (Alice Hewkin). The Doctor hears a scratching sound, and notices that the keys to the doors don’t work any more. Then the shutters close all by themselves. Felicity panics and escapes through a window, but she is attacked by a tree outside.
The Doctor keeps knocking the wood, which causes some sort of alien woodlouse to come out, followed by a whole swarm of them. The Doctor and Harry go into the pantry, which turns out to be a lift, and that goes to another secret passage. They find a room with boxes and photographs. They belong to six students who rented this house in 1997. There’s another set from 1977, and another from 1957. They run into the landlord, who says yes he is responsible for essentially feeding them to the woodlice, but he did it as his daughter was dying and the woodlice saved her. The Doctor says he is a doctor so he might be able to help the landlord’s daughter. Harry tries to run away, but the woodlice devour him like plague of locusts.
Bill and Shireen’s secret passage leads them to the tower, where they find Eliza (Mariah Gale), a woman who appears to be made of wood. Shireen is devoured by the woodlice, and that seems to give Eliza a power-up.
The Doctor arrives with the landlord, and we get the backstory behind these events.
Eliza was ill, the doctors couldn’t do anything for her. The landlord is her father. He brought a box of insects to her. Eliza’s music box woke them up. The insects turned Eliza into wood, and it’s been 70 years since then.
Bill points out that the landlord hasn’t aged, and he isn’t made of wood, he’s still human. He should have died by now if he was Eliza’s father. In fact, he isn’t her father. She is his mother! The landlord uses his tuning fork to drive the woodlice into the open. The Doctor tells Eliza she can put a stop to all this, she’s the parent. Eliza, it turns out, can control the insects directly, and tells her son that it is their time now. The insects devour Eliza and her son, and then Eliza restores Bill’s friends. It seems the students from 1997, 1977 and 1957 are all out of luck though. Anyway the insects eat the whole house.
The Doctor is back at the vault to take over from Nardole. Whatever or whoever is inside the vault, they have a piano and are playing Fur Elise by Beethoven, and the Doctor has brought them Mexican takeaway! (Yes, I know at this stage most people will know who’s in the vault, but I’m choosing not to spoiler episodes that come after this one).
Fur Elise is quite appropriate a song choice for this episode really, as it translates into English as “For Elise”, quite close to Eliza.
Something we find out in this episode – Bill has a Little Mix Spotify playlist!
‘Knock Knock’ has a lot of clichés. It has a haunted house-style building with thunder and lightning, the creaky floorboards come into the plot. The episode even acknowledges some of its clichés. Shireen calls the house “freaky Scooby Doo house”. Paul says he bets they’ll find a bookcase with a secret passage long before they do, the Doctor mentions giving an infodump just before we get a massive one. It’s all very well lampshading all of that, but when they go ahead and play all that so straight, I don’t know, there’s something slightly irksome about that.
The “bunch of young people in a spooky house getting picked off one by one” set-up does make it look a bit like thousands of ropey horror movies. It also has similarities to Scream and Scary Movie with the characters being aware of all the codes and conventions of horror movies, but Scream and Scary Movie were both parodies to some extent, while again ‘Knock Knock’ plays them all completely straight.
‘Knock Knock’ also reminded me of ‘Hide’ in series 7, which also had a spooky old house plot, though I’d say that episode was a lot better on the whole. It had a much stronger atmosphere, and the characters were more developed.
There wasn’t really enough time to get to know the students properly, and to be honest they mostly came off as bland and slightly annoying. Shireen’s “I’m A Celebrity … Get Me Out Of Here!” comment was probably the worst moment, it was such a clunky pop culture reference.
The whole reveal raises more questions than it answers. Why did it always have to be six students? Why every 20 years? How come that in itself didn’t raise suspicion about the landlord and the house before now? How come the woodlice eating energizes Eliza anyway? Why did they turn her into wood in the first place? So she could control them and didn’t even know? How does she have the power to revive some of the victims after she herself has been eaten? So she doesn’t remember that she was his mother and now thinks
he’s her father because the woodlice can restore her but can’t restore her memories.. oh, whatever, it’s just easier to say this story doesn’t make any sense.
David Suchet was suitably creepy as the landlord, but he was underused.
There were some scenes that were unsettling, but worked well, such as Harry and Shireen getting devoured, and Pavel’s half-absorbed state in the wall.
The thing I really, really liked in this episode was Eliza’s costume and make-up. It really made her look as if she was made of wood, even down to her hair looking like wood shavings.
I quite liked one of the students, Pavel, and it is for the entirely superficial reason that I fancied him a bit. Either that or he was given so little screentime he didn’t do or say anything that annoyed me unlike the other 4.
Paul seems to be the one a lot of viewers found most attractive, and he is conventionally good-looking and the most obvious choice, but personally I definitely prefer Pavel. I like that he’s very into music, and the actor playing him, Bart Suavek, has a cute face and a nice smile.
I knew I recognised Mandeep Dhillon from another TV show, but I couldn’t remember which. It came back into my head about 15 minutes after the episode had ended. It was BBC Three fast food restaurant sitcom Fried.
‘Knock Knock’ was an OK episode, but it did seem a little bit thrown together, and I’d say there’s a chance it might end up being the most forgettable episode of series 10.