Spoilers ahead for "Knock Knock" because hey ... it's a TV Recap.
The Short Version: Bill and her five housemates-to-be set out to find a house to share, only to end up finding one that is perfect ... perfectly creepy, that is. When the Doctor pops by to help Bill move, he quickly realizes something is amiss. What could it be? A creaky old house that looks like something out of a Gothic horror story, the sinister Landlord, the off-limits tower, or maybe even the strange noises coming from the walls?
The Good: Doctor Grandpa, it was a dark and stormy night, and that freaky lady in the tower
This week's Doctor Who has all the trappings of a good old-fashioned haunted house story, without the ghosts, that is. It was nice to see that Bill has a friend beyond the Doctor, although, of course, that means in her non-Doctor life she's suddenly a trouble magnet now. First a "living puddle" and now a house that seems to eat people.
When Bill and her mates can't find a suitable house to share, a nice ... or let's say a nicely sinister fellow called the Landlord shows up to offer them his house. Once the new housemates see the big rooms, they completely forget that it's a creepy old house without cell or internet service. What could possibly go wrong?
When the Doctor helps Bill move via the TARDIS (and yes, that would totally be an awesome way to move your stuff), his Spidey senses begin tingling. Bill tells her housemates that he's her grandpa, which the Doctor totally takes exception to. Surely he only looks old enough to be her father. Funny, considering he's 2,000 years old. It's another nice moment between Bill and the Doctor.
But then Bill's ready for the Doctor to leave her new house. "Basically this is the bit of my life you're not in." As if. It starts to storm outside, people start disappearing, the doors and shutters seal separating the housemates and, if possible, the Landlord gets even more sinister. It's spooky good fun.
Things get really creepy as Bill and her friend Shireen discover one of the guys embedded in the walls of a room. Meanwhile, the Doctor and another of the housemates learn the actual secret of the house. There are bugs in the walls and they're devouring people and have been every 20 years for decades. Apparently the bugs are keeping the Landlord's daughter, Eliza, alive and have been since she suffered a terrible illness only they were able to correct, but at the cost of chowing down on some college kids every 20 years of so. Yum.
As the bugs eat a couple more of Bill's mates, the Doctor figures out that the bugs are actually really big space lice. The duo meet the Landlord's daughter, who somehow has been turned to living wood by the bugs. However, she's not his daughter. In a nice twist, we learn that she's his mother and the Landlord is her son. He's grown old while she's been preserved over the decades.
The Doctor manages to convince Eliza to stop the madness and she embraces her son as the bugs devour them, but not before she restores all the housemates so they are alive again. They all scramble out of the house as it disintegrates.
Old houses that look haunted are creepy. Bugs are creepy. Space lice sounds creepy. A creepy wood lady in a tower is really very creepy. It all adds up to a freaky good time written by new-to-Doctor-Who Mike Bartlett.
The Bad: Every 20 years, students without cell service, and Nardole the nag
An old house, bugs, space lice, a wood lady ... yep, it makes just about as much sense as it sounds like it would. Why would students rent a place without checking to see if they have cell or internet service? Why do the bugs, which the Doctor calls Dryads, only need to eat every 20 years? Why did they eat some people and absorb others into the walls? How did they know which parts of the house to seal to separate the group? They didn't appear to be any more intelligent than your average space lice bug. Why did they turn the lady into wood, and why did they even save her in the first place? Why didn't they just eat her? How did Eliza bring he housemates back to life? What happened to the bugs after they ate the house? Did the housemates risk getting another house together?
Like a lot of Doctor Who's plots, this one requires assumptions that just don't make a lot of sense, especially when multiple assumptions have to be laid one upon another upon another to make the story work. And even though I didn't like killing off all the housemates, I like it even less bringing them all back to life. It seems like a cheat.
One other thing is beginning to trouble me. I like Nardole and think he has the potential to be an asset to the show. But the last few episodes his role has been to come on screen and chastise the Doctor and give us a teensy bit more info regarding the vault. It looks like he'll have a bigger role next week in "Oxygen." We'll see. His role as the nag is getting old.
There's really only one lingering question that's important right now. Who's in the vault? Yes, we want to know what the Doctor did to get banished to Earth to watch over the vault prisoner, what the prisoner did to get imprisoned, and how the Doctor got that piano in the vault?
It does seem likely it's the Master playing piano and wanting to hear about a house that eats people, but doesn't that seem too obvious?
On other note. It will be interesting to see when the Doctor tells Bill about regeneration. Notice how he side-stepped that subject? He's been free-flowing with his information, but why hold back when it came to delving into regeneration? Bill already knows he's 2,000-years-old. Would him getting a new face every now and then be such a stretch?
Lines of the Night:
"Stop it. There's no living puddles or weird robots, big fish ... Not scary at all." - Bill to herself after hearing noises in her new room
"Honestly Doctor, there's nothing going on. Nothing weird. Nothing alien. Just an old house and a dodgy landlord, which is pretty standard for students." - Bill
"He's released. Mercy at last. Beautiful, isn't it? Nature contained. He's preserved in the walls in the very fabric of the building forever." - The Landlord after one of Bill's mates is absorbed into the walls
"The bugs are keeping your daughter alive. How does that work? Come on. Call these off. Maybe I could help. I'm a doctor." - The Doctor
Best Line of the Night:
"You don't have to go to outer space to find monsters. There's plenty of things that want to kill you right here on Earth." - Nardole
Here's the trailer for next week's episode, "Oxygen," which takes the Doctor, Bill and Nardole back into space:
What did you think about "Knock Knock"?