Doctor Who companion Bill (Pearl Mackie) and her college roommates meet the Landlord from hell (David Suchet) in “Knock Knock.” They sign a contract with the devilish man to rent a suspiciously priced Victorian home. The old building has usual creeks but it’s not the house settling teased show-runner Steven Moffat.
The Doctor makes a house call
The Doctor (Peter Capaldi) poses as Bill’s grandfather to look up on her but in typical horror movie logic they split up.
Writer Mike Bartlett told Doctor Who Magazine, “The Doctor Who that I suppose is ingrained with me, really, from when I was, like, seven or eight is Sylvester McCoy and Sophie Aldred [who played Ace, 1987-89], and there’s one scene [in Knock Knock] where the Doctor sends Bill upstairs, knowing that something is wrong with the house, but he lets her go anyway. That reminded me – and I wasn’t expecting this, actually – of what the Seventh Doctor used to do with Ace. ‘I know there’s danger, but for whatever mysterious, dark reasons I have, I’m going to let you walk into it.’ So I quite like that.”
Despite being one of the creepiest Doctor Who episodes, “Knock Knock” was written by a self-professed scaredy-cat.
“Maybe I’m quite jumpy as a person but I’ve never been a huge fan of, like, proper horror movies – nasty horror movies, with real gore – but I love Doctor Who being scary, and I suppose instinctively I knew where to pitch that,” Bartlett explained. “There’s nothing I wrote that anyone went, ‘Too far.’ I feel that I know where the line is, because that’s my line. Then again, once we got into brainstorming, Steven said, ‘This has to be the ultimate haunted house. We have to go as far as we can in that direction.’”
The lofty goal was achieved by revisiting the Wester Drumlins, the spooky house featured in “Blink.” The Weeping Angels made of stone have been replaced with a Wooden Woman. The house itself has had a similar makeover.
‘There’s wood everywhere – walls, floor, ceilings. Old furniture. But everything is slightly at an angle – a little out of place,’ reads the description in the script.
Wood just so happens to be the one weakness of the Doctor’s sonic screwdriver.
Don’t expect horror movie tropes like teens getting killed while drinking, drugging and doing it.
“To some extent, they’re like what, if you were 14 and at school, you would imagine university students to be like,” Bartlett concedes. “These are not students who are taking coke and sleeping around. You know, if you were writing a different show, then maybe, but these guys are all about the enjoyment of having your own house, and being free, and living your own life. I didn’t want them to be debauched students, the dropouts, ‘don’t care about the world’. They’re great, exciting young people on the brink of the rest of their lives – and that’s important for the story. You find out about other people who might not have had that chance.”
The implication is that those “other people” are victims of the house. Unlike the Weeping Angels the Wooden Woman doesn’t appear to be menacing. She may be one of those other people transformed by the house or rather what’s in it. The Landlord uses a tuning fork on the walls like a dinner bell and summons alien bugs.
Doctor Who airs Saturday 9PM on BBC America.