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[personal profile] falling_voices
Night Terrors, folks.

No separate bulletpoint lists this time, mostly because they'd be drastically overbalanced; there was just so much I adored about this episode, and so much that scared me shitless, and so much that I found resonated perfectly with DW's general theme of fairytales and childhood, that I have barely a couple derogatory things to say about it at all. Most of Gatiss' other Who episodes were a bit meh on my hand, but if Sherlock's TGG hadn't already convinced me of his talents as a scriptwriter, then this probably would have.

This is a filler that actually works. (I'm looking at you, Curse of the Black Spot.) It was gorgeously filmed, hilarious, horrifying, and very, very touching. The clean break from the season's arc is a relief as well — I may like River Song for her antics and her snark, but having the entire show revolve around her entirely gets rather tiresome after a while. (Yes, I'm still bitter over Let's Kill Hitler coming right back to her. Again.) Amy and Rory were Amy&Rory as I love them best, and the Doctor quite charming in his antics with Alex and George.

SO MUCH GORGEOUS. The locations! The doll's house! freaky as fuck, that one was. I'm still wondering how they've made a apartment complex that ugly that pretty — the clean yellow light and stark cast shadows, and that lovely moment when the Doctor is seen from afar, spinning on his heel in the corridors (must be hell when it rains, though; and it looked a bit like Rose and Jackie's apartment, which was distracting). The dolls were particularly scary, too — not so much in design but in the way they moved, the way their hands extended and their eyes turned glassy and cold. That mechanical aspect of them, when Amy and Rory are wandering around the empty house and shadows are moving behind them, that was terrifying. (Then again, I'm the kind of person who gets scared watching Sleepy Hollow.)

The music was frankly surreal, and fit very well with the theme of the episode — my favourite bit was probably that slow, lingering moment when the Doctor and Alex realize that George may not be a normal little boy. Between the slow, lilting rhyme and the soft clean notes, it was very fairytale-ish.

Also, I really liked that this wasn't just a scary episode, it was an episode about fear — about what makes us tick, all of us, children like parents. Doctor Who has always liked doing that, and it's a regular theme of Moffat's that innocuous objects should become horrifying, but even Blink hadn't put this much actual thought into the state of being frightened, I think. This episode wasn't just about oh look, a kid is frightened, let's make him realize there's nothing to be scared about, which would be an entirely different kind of morale, it's about oh look, a kid is frightened, now let's realize that we all really are. The Doctor's quiet delivery of Monsters are real rings strangely true, because it doesn't try to disguise reality; that, and George's parents don't believe the objects of his fears are real, but the Doctor does, which is one thing Doctor Who does particularly well: it never dismisses children, never tells them they're wrong, never addresses them as intellectually less advanced than an adult. Possibly because the primal part of us that gets scared inside of us is still the child's fear. I have the same nightmares now as when I was a little girl; the same things terrify me still. (And in the end, it isn't just the dad who saves his son; it goes both ways. Alex saves his little boy, and George saves his dad. I liked that, that the child wasn't passive, was allowed to save everybody as much as he saved himself.)

And everybody is a monster at some point in the episode. There's the obvious case of the dolls and their house, and the dig at the landlord who comes scare his tenants late at night; George makes the old lady and Amy&Rory disappear into the doll's house because he thinks of them as dangerous creatures (but really, Rory, did you have to say you're going to let the kid get eaten by his own fears right when you walk past his window? dick move, mate). George is a monster too, of course — an alien boy who has implanted himself in a human family, how freaky is that? and it is at the moment that his father realizes this that he becomes scary to his son in turn, hence his being thrown backwards into the cupboard. The greatest paradox of all is the Doctor himself, obviously. That light-and-shadow moment when he leans in the doorway to George's room and goes Tell me about the monsters — the way Matt Smith delivers that line is fantastic, by the way — we viewers realize that he is the greatest monster of all. And he asks George, and Alex (and us) to trust him despite it. Ahh, it's lovely. It loops and loops and then catches on one of the show's greatest themes — the ambiguity between monster and good wizard that is personified by the Doctor himself. I love how Gatiss spun that round and round.

And the cupboard! man, I loved that cupboard. I mean, it's a pretty common symbol for a child's fears in literature and movies — it was played upon in The Girl in the Fireplace, and pretty explicitly in Pixar's Monsters&Co and C.S. Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia, but this puts a new spin on it, I think. A cupboard is an entire universe in a child's eyes (again, fairytale. I never get tired of fairytale in DW...), but in this, it's not just the cupboard that's scary, it's that everything that scares a child gets put in the it, and then becomes real. That's fantastic, I think. That makes the symbol concrete, doesn't just use it as a catalyst. My favourite moment was probably the cupboard blasting open at the end, filled with light, with that gorgeous music rising high and clean behind.

And yeah, okay, I have two little quibbles: the Doctor's quip at the very end, when he's leaving George to his parents — he'll be whatever you want him to be — that's... rather strange, because that's not how it should work, a child's education. He should be whatever he wants to be, not a projection of his parents. Plus, considering George's nature, the fact that he made himself into what Alex and Claire had wanted for so long, it sounds like free will and choice have no place there. That, and the slow motion when Alex pushes the dolls apart to reach his son — no, seriously, could that scene be any more cliché? I understand the feeling behind it (you're an alien, and I don't care, and you're my son), but I wish Gatiss could have found better words (and less slow-motion) to say it with.

Doesn't mean I wasn't close to tears when Alex was repeating in that broken voice My little boy. My little boy. It's the oldest story in the world, love saving us from monsters. And it still works. So what the hell.
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