So what happened?
After turning down umpteen different student houses that are unsuitable for various reasons, including one of them being situated next to a power station, Bill and five of her friends from University, (Shireen, Pavel, Harry, Felicity and Paul), accept an offer of a place to stay after bumping into an elderly man, who offers them the keys to his huge mansion. For an extremely low rent they can have the run of the place, as long as they don’t try to get into the tower. Happy to be finally moving out of her foster home, Bill asks The Doctor to use the TARDIS to help her take her things over there, but he’s immediately suspicious about something his companion dismisses as the wind blowing through the trees outside, and makes excuses to stay, even hiding in what seems to be the kitchen pantry after Bill thinks he’s gone.
In the meantime, Pavel has claimed a room for himself and after playing a record on his turntable, he’s half absorbed into the wooden walls of the mansion. With knocking noises all around the house getting worse as night falls, the remaining students find The Doctor and then their landlord mysteriously appears, promising to deal with all of their concerns, before apparently disappearing into thin air as all the doors and window shutters seal shut. Felicity manages to get out of the window, but when she stands too close to one of the trees outside, she’s abruptly merged with it. Paul meets a similar fate when he closes the door on his room, shortly after embarrassing himself by hitting on Bill, and The Doctor soon comes to realise that the entire house is infested with tiny insect-like aliens he calls Dryads, which pull humans into the woodwork and consume them. Furthermore, he and Harry take a trip into the basement and discover boxes of things belonging to previous groups of tenants that go back in increments of twenty years at a time, before Bill’s friend is eaten by the creatures as well.
With The Doctor earlier having raised questions about Pavel’s whereabouts, as he hasn’t been seen since he moved in, Bill and Shireen head upstairs to his room and find him half absorbed into the wall. Once again their landlord appears out of nowhere, and after turning off the music that was still playing, taps his tuning fork against the wall and Pavel disappears. Running away as fast they can, the two young women find the secret entrance to the tower and climb to the top, finding a mysterious woman there called Eliza, who appears to be entirely made of wood. When the landlord eventually catches up with them he reveals she’s his daughter, and that the Dryads have been helping her stay alive, but that they must be fed to continue doing so. With that in mind, he directs them towards Shireen and then sets his sights on Bill too.
In the nick of time, The Doctor arrives in the room at the top of the tower, and knowing how long all of this has been going on, determines that Eliza is actually the landlord’s Mum. Remembering that is actually the case, Suchet’s character recounts how his mother was terminally ill, and one day as a boy he’d discovered dormant versions of the Dryads in the garden and took them up to her room. After he’d left them with her, the high-pitched music of her music box had awoken them, and they in turn had stemmed her illness by turning her into wood. After that he controlled them to keep her alive, and fed them with groups of student tenants at twenty year intervals. Upset that her son wants to end more lives for her sake, especially when she hasn’t even set foot outside for decades, with The Doctor’s encouragement after he opens to the window shutters to let her see the fireworks at a local park, she takes control of the Dryads herself and has them consume her and her now elderly son as they embrace. Straight afterwards, Bill’s friends begin to re-materialise, and they all make a run for it as the mansion begins to collapse in on itself, leaving the group to find alternative accommodation.
Returning to the university basement, Twelve relieves Nardole of his watch over the Vault and offers to tell the piano-playing prisoner the story of what just happened over dinner, only gaining a favourable musical response when he mentions people being eaten.
Monster of the Week
Marieke: The Dryads preyed on the Landlord’s feelings for her. The subtle change from father to son, from creepy landlord to desperate little boy in a grown man’s body was portrayed beautifully by David Suchet. The tears in his eyes showed he was not the monster, he was just willing to do anything to keep his mother alive. The alien insects were the monster in this case, literally and figuratively. They kept the Landlord and his mother hostage in a sense, and ate people along the way. Plus they looked super gross. I do wonder if creatures creating a living environment (Smile, anyone?) is a coincidence, or a running theme this series.
Danielle: I don’t actually believe there was a ‘monster’ in the conventional sense this week. Yes, the Dryads preyed on a small boy’s fears initially, but it’s important that he was the one who went on to summon them. I’m not even convinced they had to help save Eliza if they were intrinsically evil. In the same way The Landlord clung onto his Mother for all that time out of an innate instinct to do so, the cockroach-like creatures consumed the humans they were instructed to because that’s what they’re programmed to do, just as The Vardy did in ‘Smile’.
Marieke: Insects, bugs, creepy crawlers who devour people. Yeah, not creepy at all! Or uncomfortable. For a minute I even thought about The X-Files episode with the cockroaches. And all this after thinking about the house itself eating people, which was already creepy enough. Then there was the Landlord’s sudden, quiet appearances accompanied by the creaking everywhere. This has been the scariest atmosphere during an episode so far this series. Truly gave me the shivers. Still does thinking about it. Brrr.
Danielle: I’ll be completely honest. The idea of being sealed up in a creaky mansion with swarms of insect-like aliens is my own, personal Hell, so I’d agree with Marieke’s assessment that this was the creepiest episode so far. In many ways the house was the star of the show here.
Marieke: The little mystery of the house was solved by The Doctor and Bill, done and dusted, bringing us back again to that vault. There’s music. Classical and children’s, coming from a piano played by the mystery guest. Can we assume it is one person now because of how the Doctor is talking to them? More than ever I had the sense that it has to be Missy in the vault, but that would be too obvious, wouldn’t it? That leaves it open again for the Simm!Master spoiler. I cannot help, but hope in a weird way the next regeneration of the Doctor will be in it, although that would also feel like a cop-out. Starting to think the vault’s mystery reveal might not be worth the wait… Also there was still the picture of the Doctor’s granddaughter on his desk and now Bill introducing him as her grandfather to her housemates… Is there more to that?
Danielle: I think the longer this Curious Case of the Vault in the Basement thing goes on, the more convinced I am that it’s not going to be the big reveal of the series. What I mean is, it probably is either Missy, or her previous incarnation in there, but that won’t be the only ‘surprise’ we get during Capaldi’s last stretch on the show. Moffat does love to pull the rug from under us after lulling his audience into a false sense of certainty. I’m highly suspicious of Bill calling Twelve ‘Granddad’ as well. I might be reading too much into it, but it smelled like a red herring to me.
How great was it to have national treasure,
Hercule Poirot David Suchet, on the show?!
Twelve and his companion(s)
Marieke: Twelve as the socially inept grandfather, who is actually completely right, and Bill’s reaction to it, was classic. As was Twelve’s reaction to the ‘grand’ part of the word. It was a good idea to keep the Doctor and Bill apart for some time to see how they act around other people. I liked the interaction between Bill and the other students, she was just one of her peers for a while, although she was the only one liking Little Mix. Maybe a little more of this could happen in the future..? Bill and Twelve solving the mystery of father/son and mother together went smoothly, and did not feel forced at all. Bill has her wits and her smarts, without being smug about them. It becomes repetitive praising the new TARDIS duo week after week, but deservedly so because they’ve given the show a new lease of life. Nardole’s role was limited again, but the preview showed he is going to be part of the team in ‘Oxygen’. I cannot wait to see how this will play out. We’ll finally get the team we were promised in the series promo.
Danielle: I find myself in total agreement with my Fezzy friend about it being nice to know Pearl Mackie can bounce off people other than Capaldi’s character. She did it with aplomb too. That should be really interesting if she does come face to face with Missy and/or The Master. I hope so!
Marieke: This series just keeps getting stronger. This was another amusing episode, which was light-hearted, but delivered a good emotional punch at the end. The interaction with other students was great and also necessary, creating a new dimension between Bill and the Doctor, who were ‘pretending’ they are related. Scary houses are not new, but the whole alien insects eating humans thing added a new twist to it. Suchet was superb with the little screen time he had. At first I wasn’t sure about the tree effect on Eliza, but after a while I got over that. All in all, an episode to remember, because who can forget insects like those? I liked that other people were added to the mix as well. They were part of the mystery instead of the Doctor and Bill barging in on a situation where they take over, and set things straight. The jeopardy came about simply because Bill needed a place to live. As Nardole said, you don’t need to go far to find monsters! So space zombies next. We will be going far to find them then. Can’t wait!
Danielle: I was about ten minutes into ‘Knock Knock’, and I genuinely thought I wasn’t going to like it, and then somehow, as the intrigue grew and we found out that Eliza was in fact The Landlord’s mother, I ended up really enjoying it. In less capable hands, The Landlord might have come across as ridiculous, or even absurdly laughable, but David Suchet’s tone was, well, pitch perfect. The predicament he’d found himself in with his Mother was unbearably sad for both of them, and I can’t help but wonder if deliberate parallels with The Doctor’s future demise were laid out for us. I said earlier that I thought the ‘Granddad’ references Bill made might be a red herring. What if Twelve finds himself in a similar situation to Eliza? Having lived so long he can’t remember who or what it is that links him to Bill, and counter to the giant hint we got here about their familial connection (because that’s what I’m still fairly sure it is), she actually resides on a different branch of his family tree. Perhaps when he corrected her ‘Granddad’ to ‘Dad’, Twelve wasn’t too far off the mark. I’m not sure how that would work seen as we appear to know River isn’t her Mother, but I’m open to suggestions. In any case, ‘Knock Knock’ seemed to pose more questions than it actually answered, which is far from a being a bad thing this early in Series 10. Here’s to a few more being thrown our way in the next episode!
- When it seems too good to be true, it IS too good to be true, students! (M)
- I thought Eliza’s acting was a little wooden. I’ll grab my coat. (M)
- Was ‘Für Elise’ being played by whoever’s in the Vault a sly nod to Eliza? If so does that add credence to the idea that it is a future version of The Doctor in there? (D)
- It’s not everybody who can get away with dungarees, but Bill killed it! (D)
Our Fezzy Score:
So what did you think to the episode? Let us know in the comments…