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‘Doctor Who’ Regeneration Review: ‘Knock Knock’ Reminds Us Haunted Houses Are Bad

BBC America

The Doctor Who Regeneration Review is a weekly column cataloging all the times Peter Capaldi’s 12th Doctor nearly regenerates, or dies, in the latest episode of BBC America’s popular science fiction show. Since this is the Scottish “cross” character’s final season — a fact the showrunners have enjoyed teasing in the promos — we decided to tease back. Most items are serious, some silly, and all measured with the Doctor’s 233livenews.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/1f495-1.png” alt=”?” class=”wp-smiley” style=”height: 1em; max-height: 1em;”>.

Doctor Who‘s many years on television are rife full of monsters. Seeing as how the program concerns a time-traveling alien whose T.A.R.D.I.S. can take him from one end of the universe to the other, he’s bound to run into classic villains like the Daleks and the Cybermen, or the more recent creations like the Weeping Angels and the Vashta Nerada. Outgoing showrunner Steven Moffat‘s tenure has been especially fruitful when it comes to producing new horrors, and the episode “Knock Knock” is no different.

Written by first-time Doctor Who writer Mike Bartlett, the fourth episode of the new season sees Bill Potts (Pearl Mackie) attempting to rejoin life on earth after her first trips off-world and into the past. This means fully integrating herself into the college student lifestyle and shacking up with a bunch of new roommates in the most affordable flat possible. Unfortunately for them, their best option is a rather cold and creepy-looking house run by an unnamed landlord (David Suchet). One by one Bill’s friends are literally consumed by the house while the Doctor races to figure out what’s happening, and why.

“Knock Knock” and its new monster ultimately feel like similarly horror-centric Doctor Who episodes of old. Not that this is a problem, per se, though the story surprisingly offers Mackie little to do. It does, however, present an Agatha Christie’s Poirot reunion of sorts for Capaldi and Suchet. (They appeared together in the “Wasps’ Nest” episode from the popular British series about the mystery writer’s most famous character, Belgian detective Hercule Poirot.) Suchet’s landlord figure, and his story, also offers viewers one of the more intriguing entries of the season.

BBC America

“He’s just helping with the move” (233livenews.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/1f495-1.png” alt=”?” class=”wp-smiley” style=”height: 1em; max-height: 1em;”>)

The house takes its first victim before the title sequence, thereby establishing the danger awaiting in “Knock Knock.” Of course, aside from the horrifying screams of Bill’s roommate, the music played by his record player, and what sounds like creaking wood, viewers are offered no real details about the new monster. All they know for certain is that Bill and the other four flatmates are in danger whenever they step foot in the house. So when the Doctor drops by to help his new companion move into the place, notices something peculiar about it, and walks right in despite Bill’s protests, he opens himself to the remote possibility of death.

“Didn’t hear you come in” (233livenews.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/1f495-1.png” alt=”?” class=”wp-smiley” style=”height: 1em; max-height: 1em;”>233livenews.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/1f495-1.png” alt=”?” class=”wp-smiley” style=”height: 1em; max-height: 1em;”>)

The Doctor’s chance of an early regeneration increase when he meets Bill’s landlord for the first time. He’s an older man, and therefore doesn’t seem to pose a threat, but there’s just something about the way he keeps striking a tuning fork and pressing it into the wall. That, and the sneaky manner in which he gets around the house. “For a man such as myself,” he explains, “discretion is second nature.” Throw in his stern response when his renters ask how they can get into the home’s tower (“You don’t!”), and his insistence on the Doctor’s leaving, and you’ve got the making of a rather threatening individual.

“It’s completely sealed” (233livenews.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/1f495-1.png” alt=”?” class=”wp-smiley” style=”height: 1em; max-height: 1em;”>???)

As weird as the landlord may be, however, it’s only when another roommate’s screams are heard that the real danger sets in. After becoming separated, Bill and Shireen (Mandeep Dhillon) go looking for the tower while the Doctor tries to keep his charges alive. One escapes the house briefly before meeting her end, while the Doctor and another find themselves trapped in the kitchen. Understandably freaked out, Harry (Colin Ryan) peppers the Time Lord with questions — especially when a strange insect creature comes out of a wooden cabinet door. “This must be alien,” he exclaims. “Gotta be alien!” Excitement notwithstanding, a subsequent “infestation” of the bugs chases him and Harry out of the room.

BBC America

“We’d do anything to protect them” (?????)

With Shireen and Harry gone, Bill and the Doctor are the only two potential victims who remain. They’ve discovered the landlord’s secret — his daughter Eliza (Mariah Gale) in the tower, whose wooden form is a result of the bugs’ power — and try vehemently to escape being consumed. When the Doctor’s attempt to discover the true nature of Eliza’s relationship to the landlord via “info dump” doesn’t immediately result in their escape, he and his companion find themselves in the cross-hairs of a carnivorous swarm of space insects. He is, quite literally, on the verge of being eaten and absorbed by the house.

“I’m coming in” (???)

Seeing as how “Knock Knock” is only the fourth episode, there’s no way Doctor Who would let its current star die just yet. Yet Bartlett and Moffat’s decision to conclude with the current series arc — the mysterious vault kept locked away on the university grounds — ups the ante just a tad. Mainly because, as “Thin Ice” previously revealed, the Doctor is hiding a living thing in there. A living, breathing being that, per the final moments of “Knock Knock,” can pay the piano and enjoys Mexican food. The Gallifreyan even unlocks the vault, opens the door and steps inside to interact with whoever — or whatever — is being held prisoner. Seeing as how John Simm’s version of The Master is making a comeback this season, maybe its him?

New episodes of Doctor Who air Saturdays at 9 p.m. ET/PT on BBC America.

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