While I enjoy much of what the new series of Doctor Who has to offer, it’s still nice every once in a while to have a story like “Night Terrors” that feels like it could easily slip into just about any season of the classic run without too much difficulty.
Mark Gattis’ script is a fairly straight-forward one, dealing with a child who is terrified of being alone in the dark of his bedroom. His parents, trying to help him deal with his fears, have “locked” the fears all up in his bedroom cupboard. But the plan hasn’t soothed Gordon who is ably to psychically summon the Doctor to help him confront the monsters that lurk there.
Surreal stories have had their place in Doctor Who since the early 60’s (“The Celestial Toymaker,” “The Mind Robber” “The Greatest Show in the Galaxy”) and it’s nice to see the new series embrace that a bit here.
Watching the story, I predicted where Amy and Rory were long before they put it all together, but that still didn’t make the story any less entertaining or interesting. I was happy that the story made Gordon’s fear something as “simple” as a child wanting to be sure his parents loved him and wouldn’t send him away instead of something a bit more sinister.
Visually, the story was a treat with lots of dark corners, shadows and the image of people being turned into living dolls probably scaring or frightening more than one younger viewer. (It certainly unsettled this much older viewer). It’s easy to imagine that if this story were made during the Gothic-heyday of the Tom Baker/Phillip Hincliffe/Robert Holmes era that a certain leading critic would be up in arms about the unsettling nature of things on the screen. That puts “Night Terrors” in some solid company among stories that are the best in the entire run of Doctor Who.
While not quite as much of a treat as “The Doctor’s Wife,” “Night Terrors” is still among the better stories from the current series. It reminds of just how creepy Doctor Who can be when it wants to be.