The Doctor, Amy and Rory travel to modern-day England to after the Doctor’s psychic paper receives a message from a boy named George asking for someone to save him from the monsters in his cupboard. Posing as social workers, the three scan the apartment complex with The Doctor eventually finding George and his frantic father.
George apparently suffers from acute pantophobia -the fear of everything. Dismissing his talk of monsters as paranoia, his parents are at a loss as to what to do with him. Of course The Doctor knows better than to ignore a frighten child who sees what others don’t but even he is at a loss as to just what is living in George’s cupboard along with all the toys and other items that made him scared…
Meanwhile, as The Doctor makes his house call, Amy and Rory find themselves falling down an elevator into a most unusual home, where nothing is real and the other residents of George’s apartment building seem to be winding up… and being turned into living dolls!
THE GOOD PARTS
* This episode could stand alongside Blink or The Girl In The Fireplace as single-episode stories you could use to try and explain the concept and theme of Doctor Who to that one person in your circle of friends or family. You know the one I mean - the person who has never understood it, probably never tried, thinks the whole thing is a bit silly and then one day they say, “Well, all right…FINE. Give me ONE episode to watch and show me how awesome it is”.
* I’ve mentioned before how, in his most basic and ideal state, The Doctor is every child’s ultimate imaginary friend – an adult who acts like a kid, who knows everything but is still willing to listen. Matt Smith (who has been finding all the right notes for The Doctor lately in his performances) epitomizes this concept in a truly magical moment where he uses the Sonic Screwdriver to power on several of George’s toys from a distance and then just sits back in delight as he shares in that brief second of relief.
* The whole episode is suspenseful and appropriately spooky and atmospheric, with the mystery of the cupboard being played out masterfully. Three cheers for the set-designers and props people on a job well done!
* Doing research for this article, I found that it was originally meant to be the fourth episode of Series 6 but that it was pushed back, with very little being rewritten. While the script is a good one, I dare say one thing should have been rewritten – most of Rory’s dialogue. Rory in this episode sounds like old Series 5 Rory – the one who was rather reluctant to get on the TARDIS in the first place, who snarked non-stop about how much better The Doctor was than him and why didn’t Amy go marry him?
* On that note, you’d expect Rory – The Last Centurion – to at least try beating the monsters that are turning his wife into a giant blank-faced doll with the mop stick he is holding, rather than standing there in slack-jawed horror as she is grappled.
* While this episode is a wonderful introduction to the basic themes of Doctor Who for new viewers, I fear that experienced Who-ligans may find themselves viewing this episode with a heavy sense of déjà vu. A child who fears something strange in their bedroom? Bit like the young Amelia Pond in The Eleventh Hour, isn’t it? Faceless monsters that make you like them with a touch… just like the gas-mask boy in The Empty Child, right? A child who turns out to be something quite alien? Fear Her. Of course these stock concepts have been used in science fiction throughout time and space, so I can’t accuse writer Mark Gatiss of being unoriginal. It’s just a shame that such a strong script should be so dependent on concepts that have been done recently, done before and debatably done better.
THE FINAL VERDICT
This is a wonderful episode, despite being made-up of a hodgepodge of stock science-fiction concepts and themes that Doctor Who has done before. It is saved by two things; some wonderful performances by the cast (Matt Smith in particular stands out) and some masterful direction which milks some true suspense out of what could have easily been another Monster-Of-The-Week story. It may not be the greatest episode ever but it is one of the most quintessential Doctor Who stories ever.