Doctor Who: Knock Knock + Oxygen (S10E04+05)

Doctor Who Series 10 is shaping up to be a true mystery series — rather than the only challenge being to outsmart an obvious villain, a lot of work is being done by Bill and the Doctor to figure out what they’re even fighting and/or running away from. In these two episodes from early May, that set of challenges comes in the shape of a haunted house and murderous capitalist spacesuits, respectively.

Knock Knock

by Mike Bartlett

Bill and five of her mates from uni are looking to rent a six-bedroom flat. Good luck with that, even in Scotland. House hunting is not going well, until suddenly they run into Hercule Poirot the Landlord, a jolly elderly man at first glance, but with an uncanny knack for appearing at just the right moment.

No, I’m serious, how he actually teleports himself I still haven’t figured out, because by all accounts he is simply an elderly human man in his late 80s. Whether the prolonged interaction with the alien insects not only transformed his mother into a wood creature but also gave him some sort of powers, is unclear. In any case, he and his creepy tuning fork can get right out, if you ask me.

True to horror movie logic, the group of straggly youngsters must determine who’s most expendable — but contrary to horror movie logic, for once that’s not one of the girls of colour, it’s the mouthy white boy. And when Billie volunteers to go check out the weird noises, they all go. Smart kids, there’s strength in numbers!

Speaking of Paul: his reaction to Bill coming out to him and letting him know that he’s been barking up the wrong tree could not have been more bro. Instead of actually, you know, apologising if he made her uncomfortable, or even just saying, ‘oh whoops, my bad, I’ll stop,’ he goes, “oh so I never even stood a chance,” because it’s so much easier for his ego to handle that a girl isn’t interested because she doesn’t fancy boys at all, rather than him just not being the kind of boy she fancies. Sighs all around. On top of that, directly after that, the episode fails the Bechdel test. About Paul. Come on!

One after the other, the kids get eaten by the house, until Bill and Shireen (finally find a way into the tower — and discover Eliza, who they think is the Landlord’s daughter, but is actually his mum. That whole sequence, with the Doctor figuring out who’s who and the viewer getting misdirected by false flashbacks was a bit too drawn out for my taste; I think they could have skipped the first one and jumped right to the realisation that he can’t be her father, but that’s just my two cents on writing resolution. The whole wailing and fighting business got a bit long as well — it gets frustrating to watch when everyone. is. yelling.

What I really liked about the episode was that Bill and the Doctor were separated for the duration of the chase through the house. One, because the two most competent can’t be together and leave everyone else to fend for themselves, and two, because it gave them different supporting characters to act as foil, which is smart. It also was a nice touch that everyone (at least from this group of tenants) was restored; also something we don’t usually see in horror movies 😉

Oxygen

by Jamie Mathieson

Space. The final frontier. Final because it wants to kill you.

Along with, ‘distress calls are my theme tune,’ that’s mighty grim.

It’s somewhat simplistic to imply that, in the future, humans aren’t racist among themselves anymore, only towards other species; but then that scene reminds me of the time Kirk scolds a member of the bridge crew for being prejudiced towards Vulcans in TOS, so fair dos, Jamie. Still, I wondered whether Jamie wasn’t overdoing it a bit once Nardole came out with “some of my best friends are blueish,” on the other hand that is precisely the kind of ignorantly awkward things white/straight people have said and continue to say in 2017, so… accurate? That concentrated into one scene, it seems a bit farcical, but perhaps that’s what’s needed to show kids that, yep, that’s what prejudice sounds like. But also, it puts Bill in the same shoes as a 2017 white person desperately trying to cover up their most recent blunder with ‘I’m really not racist!’ instead of just apologising for saying something stupid, which… I don’t know, the optics of that are not ideal. I mean, if you’re making that point, perhaps there’s a way of doing it that’s less ‘make a joke out of it and muddle up who’s the butt of it.’

As much as I enjoy seeing capitalism blamed for all the murder in the world — which is undeniably true — the constant malfunctions on Bill’s suit are really, really annoying. It’s a bit like Rory dying every Saturday, just get it over with. Not least because it serves to shoehorn in the Doctor walking in a vacuum for twelve minutes (lol, twelve) in order to have him go blind.

In the end, though, having the last line of defense (literally) be that killing them would be too expensive is a dark, dark comment on today’s society. I like that science fiction does that, and I like that Doctor Who is back to doing it.

But there comes the real kicker: the Doctor’s still blind. I’m very curious as to how they handled having a protagonist with a visual impairment in yesterday’s episode (I know, I know, I’m so behind schedule), because the Doctor gets around well enough in spaces he knows well, but there’s a fine line between assisting him and being patronising. I also wonder how long it will last — actually having a Doctor with an impairment/a disability will be really good for kids to see if they handle it well (and for a lot of adults, for that matter). I’d actually be disappointed if the Doctor circumvented it by having his Sonic specs provide him with psychic imaging.

Re: regeneration coming up, and some of the images for Extremis I’ve seen — we all know the Sonic Screwdriver going kaput in the middle of a series is never a good sign.

The Vault

Nardole says that the door to the Vault must never open — but the Doctor opened it in the previous episode? I’m confused?

The markings on the door are definitely Gallifreyan, there is somene in there who enjoys hearing stories about kids getting eaten, and the vault they’re in cannot be unguarded.

“We are both prisoners” — captured by whom? Or is it a metaphor? Seeing as Extremis might provide us some answers, I’ll stop speculating here, but I’m oscillating between being sure it’s either Missy or John Simm!Master, and thinking that surely that’s too easy.

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