|Image from here.|
Fortunately the preview for "Night Terrors" outlined an episode that looked like it was going to be old school Doctor Who, a monster, scary stuff and fun lines. Unfortunately it was written by Mark Gatiss, writer of "The Unquiet Dead" (genuinely good), "The Idiot's Lantern" (pretty poor) and "Victory of the Daleks" (awful with a few moments of brilliance). So the quality of writing was not ensured - Datura summed it up well when she commented at the start of the episode "Mark Gatiss, his writing is always a mess."
I sound like I'm going to open up another round of episode bashing don't I? Well I'm not, because "Night Terrors" was actually quite a decent standalone story that ticked most of the boxes a Doctor Who needs to. At it's core it was a retelling of "Fear Her", but this time the story was told in a stronger fashion. In fact, looking back on the episode it hangs together exceptionally well - creating a piece that's about adoption, childhood fears and the love of a parent. Daniel Mays, as Alex the father of George was given the bulk of the story to carry on his shoulders, this episode was about Alex and George, with The Doctor supporting them while Amy and Rory provided a little classic 'companion peril'. Daniel delivers; he's very, very good in the role and more than capable of carrying the acting burden, this is always a risk in an episode that is focused around a one off character, how can you manage to round out their personality without ham-handed exposition and what happens if the actor miss-sells the character in some fashion? We're in good hands here as Daniel takes the character of Alex and fills out the dialog and plot with some superb character acting. I'm buying him as the concerned father, I'm buying him in bulk.
If I had any criticisms (which I inevitably do), I would say that the story wobbles only on a few points, first of all it moves away from being scary and into being funny a little too quickly (oversized lantern & wooden pan), the CGI is weak at all times in the episode (carpet and doll landlord in particular) and the 'monsters' (as such they were) look awful, not scary, not creepy, just awful.
But these are minor complaints in an episode that was a breath of fresh air to a stale cupboard. I'm happy with "Night Terrors", it was classic Doctor Who with fun dialog, peril, a plot that hangs together and touching scenes between a father and his son and that's exactly what the show needed at this point in time.
A second successful Doctor Who story for Mark Gatiss me thinks.