It took four tries but we finally got an episode from season 10 that feels like it has some staying power in the Doctor Who universe. In other words, “Knock Knock” might be worth a re-watch in the future, and I cannot definitively say that about the first three episodes we’ve gotten so far. Bill and Twelve have failed to disappoint and this week’s episode is just more proof of that, but this time we’ve got a fascinating story with some eternal resonance. Some plot holes and conveniences, sure, but I digress.
Doctor Who likes to pick at our underlying fears. The show has made shadows deadly, statues frightening, and even something as ordinary as water absolutely horrifying. The newest fear to haunt you is those unexplained house creaks. It was definitely a fun concept to take a crack at, but I wasn’t left as creeped out as I could have been. Instead, the mystery is more of a smoke screen for the real story. It is one of a young boy and the lengths he will go to in order to save his mother. Which ends up defining his life and hers for decades. And you know, ending some other lives along the way. Probably not a good thing.
I’m left with a lingering question that I didn’t expect to have, mainly because it wasn’t really addressed in the episode; Who is Bill and where does she come from? Other than knowing her mother passed away when she was a baby, we know very little about her family, her background, aspirations, or much else. This feels like an intentional mystery, though I’m not sure they’ve totally committed to exploring it. Still, Bill is much like our Landlord here. And it remains to be seen if we’ll have a moment similar to Rose’s, where she will encounter her lost parent through time travel. What would she do then?
The question is whether she is a grumbler, or only a grumble. If there is a real woman – even the least trace of one – still there inside the grumbling, it can be brought to life again. – CS Lewis, The Great Divorce
C.S. Lewis would definitely have a thing or two to say about “Knock Knock.” Lewis spent a great deal of time pointing out our inability in this life to see past the glass dimly. He referred to mankind as “half-hearted creatures” and determined that “we are far too easily pleased.” This idea culminated in his book The Great Divorce with a woman whose grumbling became more important to her than anything else in life, to the point where her identity simply became that of a grumble. Sounds like our Landlord. He worked so hard to keep his mother alive that it eventually overcame his identity and forced him to become a murderer. I’d like to know how that story went in his adolescence.
Again, it doesn’t seem like it will have a lasting effect on Bill, but it certainly fits her arc. We aren’t left with much of an aftermath in the wake of the episode’s events, but we can now say that Bill has experienced some pretty traumatic things in her short time with the Doctor. She’s seen a lot of death, the Doctor’s darker side, and now this. These are the things that get a companion to start thinking about the cost of sticking around a 2,000 year old time lord.
Life can be hard, unfair, and sometimes traumatic. I often see the journey of a companion as a microcosm of life’s journey. There are beautiful times and sad times, and moments that shape our future. The question is, what defines us? A big question, to be sure. Watching Bill’s journey I remember former companions. Some get out before it does too much damage, like Martha. Some let it consume them like Clara (sort of). Whatever lies ahead for her and Twelve, I don’t see how tragedy or trauma isn’t avoided. And, of course, some fun along the way. It’s been entertaining so far. I have little to grumble about.
Side note – When the Landlord mentions to the Doctor that “your advanced age means you have less energy, less matter,” is that a reference to Twelve’s inevitable end? Hmm… perhaps.
Side side note – Is it now inevitable that the Master is in the vault? That tag seemed too easy, right? The answers lie ahead.
Next time on Who·ology:
Ah yes, another classic space horror episode that Who does so well. Will the story waste its breath and end up another ho-hum one off? Or will we get some real scares like The Impossible Planet or The Waters of Mars? Here’s hoping for the latter.