Discussing Doctor Who: Knock Knock

Doctor Who Knock Knock

On the bright side, Kevin and I agree about an episode (our first this year). On the down side, it was on an episode about which we both had mixed feelings. But we still love to talk about it.

Kevin Harvey is the author of All You Want to Know About The Bible in Pop Culture and a fellow Whovian who enjoys watching and breaking down the latest adventures of the Doctor. You can follow him on Twitter at @PopCultureKevin.

This week we are breaking down “Knock Knock.” Previously, we stepped out on “Thin Ice,” emoted about “Smile” and navigated “The Pilot” If you need a refresher on last season, here is our recap of season 9.

“Knock Knock” was a semi-regular foray into horror for Doctor Who. What did you think about this week’s episode?

Kevin: I’ve always been a sucker for the haunted house/creepy caretaker genre, which probably stems from my love of Scooby Doo while growing up. So for the first half of “Knock Knock” I was all-in. Having the Doctor roam around a rickety old house with a bunch of college students who looked like they were taken straight out of a British version of Friday the 13th was fun to watch.

The haunted house theme had been touched on before in a couple of Matt Smith episodes, “Hide” and “The Lodger,” both solid episodes in my opinion. But for me “Knock Knock” came up severely short in its final act with the reveal of all that was really going on. I can’t really put my finger on it, but even watching it a second time, I just was so disappointed in the whole “a son feeds college students to his house every 20 years so that his mom can survive, albeit as a wooden lady.”

Listen, Calpadi was great, as he has been in all episodes this season. Last year, he really stepped up into the conversation of best Doctor portrayals with his incredible range. But so far this final season of his has been a letdown as a proper sendoff. Fingers crossed for a turnaround next week …

Aaron: I’m mixed on this episode as well. Again, I love the concept of the Doctor in a haunted house. I love the Scooby Doo set up of the whole thing. Doctor Who is at its best when it’s campy fun with a serious edge.

But I needed some more explanation (which I recognize is hard to do in an hour long show). Why did the bugs need to suck in humans to survive? Why did they have to do so every 20 years? Why does no one ever listen to the Doctor when he tells the something is creepy?

Of course, we get more vault teasing this week. It seems so obvious that it’s Missy or the Master that it makes me think it’s a swerve. They want you asking, who else would the Doctor have such a relationship with—they love mayhem and knocking, but the Doctor wants to eat takeout with them? Who else would he be “trapped” with?

I have to think the leading candidates beside Missy/Master would be Jenny, the Doctor’s daughter (I’ll explain later) or even River Song (somehow?). But for now, I’m still leaning toward a total surprise.

So people-eating wood lice or dryads … how was the monster this week?

Aaron: Creepy would be a good way to describe the dryads and the entire house, complete with the horror movie landlord. The perpetual budget constraints of Doctor Who allows the show to make good use of the Hitchcock approach to horror—making you scared by what you don’t see.

But (and I’m sure you’ll know where I’m going with this), we still haven’t gotten a truly evil villain. The dryads didn’t seem to be much higher-level intelligence than bugs, so we can’t really treat them as the villain.

And the landlord turns out to be a hurting little boy who was afraid of losing his mother. We’d better get some angry, murderous evil alien that actually puts the Doctor and Bill in danger. (That wish sounds a little evil itself when I put it writing!)

Kevin: Yes, that goes right to my previous point about liking the first half much better than the second. Hearing the screams but not knowing why was much scarier than actually seeing the dryads.

In a similar way, a creepy landlord who basically appeared and disappeared out of nowhere was equally nice, but when we learn his real story…ugh, nothing scary when you have the Doctor on the case.

In the final scene at the vault, there’s a line from Nardole that goes “You don’t have to go to outer space to find monsters. There’s plenty of things here on earth that want to kill you.”

So far that seems to be the theme with the so-called villains. At this point in the season, I have to wonder if this is intentional and if it is foreshadowing how Capaldi’s run as the Doctor will end.

Although they weren’t together for much of the show, we did see a different side to Bill and the Doctor’s relationship. Things got a little tense, much like with Nardole last week, what do you make of that?

Kevin: It’s hard for me to decide what needs to be looked into and picked apart and what may just be explained by inconsistent writing. As we saw in “The Pilot” and again in “Knock Knock,” the Doctor is clearly a popular professor who Bill sought after.

She also asked him to help her move, which I thought was actually pretty funny. Why haven’t more of his companions taken advantage of the TARDIS like that? But then as soon as her roommates saw him, she just wanted him gone. Why?

Is there some lingering anger or other emotions that Bill didn’t really deal with last week when she was clearly angry about the Doctor’s decision not to save the little boy?

I suppose we could learn in a couple of episodes that she’s truly not dealing well with the kind of decisions the Doctor has to make from time to time, and that is why she is trying to distance herself from him at times.

But my gut just tells me the whole tension thing was thrown in just so we could have some good humor with the grandfather v. father lines and the Doctor staying around no matter what Bill said.

Aaron: I appreciate this type of relationship between a Doctor and a companion. We haven’t had this yet. Bill’s life situation (age, class, missing a parent, etc.) is most like Rose, but Rose and her Doctor had a romantic relationship.

Having an older Doctor allows them to explore more what would happen with an independent young woman wants to be with the Doctor for all the excitement, but not necessarily keen on him sticking around for other aspects of her life.

You’re right that it did allow them to make grandfather lines and maybe it was just for comedic value, but it seems to be building on a theme of family.

In this episode, the Landlord spoke about doing whatever it would take to save his mother, Bill, obviously, seemed moved by that sentiment and, not quite so obviously, so did the Doctor.

Could we see some of the Doctor’s family? Maybe even his daughter that has never been brought up since introducing Jenny in “The Doctor’s Daughter.”

Could Bill ask the Doctor to go back in time to see (or save) her mom like Rose tried to do with her father in one of my favorite episodes “Father’s Day”?

There is also the bit of Bill referring to the Doctor as her grandfather. Think back to “Pilot.” Whose pictures were on the Doctor’s desk? The only companions who were actually his family: his wife River and his granddaughter (and first companion) Susan.

What is this episode and this season of Doctor Who trying to say about life and how we value it?

Aaron: This week, much like last week, focused on the tendency to treat the lives of those you consider important (be it yourself or your mom) as more important than the lives of others (be it poor Frost Fair-goers or poor college students looking for a cheap place to live).

Sure, the Landlord may love his mother more than any random college student, but that doesn’t mean his mother’s life has more value. I appreciate Doctor Who constantly challenging viewers to value life, especially those lives we may not consider on a regular basis.

Kevin: While certainly there are episodes where the value of life theme is stronger than others, I think the theme has been sprinkled throughout the entire series. This has always been one of the more appealing aspects of Doctor Who for me.

The Doctor never leaves someone in need. He never runs away. He seems to be always looking for who in his reach needs his help.

As far as this particular season, though, I can’t help but wonder if this theme will play into Capaldi’s end. I am going to touch on this again below, but for now I just wonder if he will be showing Bill how perhaps even the life of a human villain is just as valuable as his own and that is why he is sacrificing his life for him. I guess only time will tell on how that plays out.

Favorite quotes or one-liners?

Kevin: The episode was a little lacking in the memorable lines or witty dialogue, but Capaldi can always be counted on for at least a couple of good ones.

Harry: I’m scared.
Doctor: Don’t be.
Harry: Why not?
Doctor: It doesn’t help.

“Can you not interrupt? I’m doing my thing here.”—the Doctor as he is going through his big reveal like Fred from Scooby Doo.

Aaron: You’re right that this week seemed short on classic lines, but there were a few.

Nardole to the Doctor: Plenty of things that wanna kill you right here on Earth.

Doctor’s don’t sleep “unless we’ve regenerated or had a big lunch.” The Doctor has been eating an awful lot lately …

What some spiritual takeaways from this episode?

Aaron: The desire for immortality is always there. Even though it is a given that our lives will end, we still recognize there is something about death that is foreign to our existence. It shouldn’t be here.

The Landlord thought the way to find it for his mother was to sacrifice others on her behalf, but that couldn’t bring lasting (or healthy) life. Others died to keep her alive, but her real self died long ago. Those deaths were not enough to truly grant her life.

As Christians, we know the only way for death to be conquered for all was for someone to go through it and come out victorious on the other end. Jesus willingly laid down His life to grant us life eternally with Him.

We don’t have to hatch elaborate plans to lure unsuspecting college kids into a haunted house. We simply have to respond to Christ’s offer of salvation. That’s much better.

Kevin: A conversation the Doctor had with Bill early on in the TARDIS got me thinking about a spiritual takeaway on the season as a whole. He almost hinted to her that he was planning on regenerating soon.

Of course, we know that is happening at the Christmas episode, but does the Doctor? Does he know that he is coming to the end of his time in this form and he is going to start dropping hints like that to Bill?

Of course, that is what Jesus did with his disciples, hinting sometimes in code and other times quite clearly that he would be leaving them soon, which they never really understood.

They were so caught up in the excitement of living every day with the Messiah that they never really considered how it was going to end for Jesus on earth.

That very well may be what we see this season with the Doctor and Bill, that she can’t really comprehend his hints about him leaving her in this form and then she ends up just as surprised at his regeneration as the disciples were at Jesus’ arrest.

Next week: Maybe, just maybe, we’ll get our first proper monster this season from “Oxygen.”

4 Comments

  1. Capaldi’s first season focused on “what is a good man?”, the second season seemed to be “soldiers – good or bad?” Now his third season the question seems to be “what is a monster?” At the end of this episode my thought was – Oh, no Bill lost all her stuff, including pictures of her mother! – unless the dryads brought all that back too. As to the vault, I really do not know, but “Pop goes the weasel” is a reference to the Third Doctor’s Regeneration.

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Aaron Earls

Christian. Husband. Daddy. Writer. Online editor for Facts & Trends Magazine. Fan of quick wits, magical wardrobes, brave hobbits, time traveling police boxes & Blue Devils.