Behind The Door
♦Our man in Los Angeles, Robert Cave, takes a look at the fourth episode of Doctor Who Series 10, on last Saturday on BBC1 in the UK…
Director: Bill Anderson
Writer: Mike Bartlett
Stars: Peter Capaldi, Pearl Mackie, Matt Lucas
And we begin with a soul-chilling piece of horror – no, not this week’s monster, I’m talking about the Bill and her friends looking for an affordable flat share.
There is a lot that’s skipped over in the set-up here, presumably for the sake of moving the plot forwards as quickly as possible. But it isn’t just Bill’s questions about Time Lords and regeneration that are brushed aside. There is the whole issue of her friend Shireen.
All the other housemates are Shireen’s friends, but how does Bill know her? When did they meet? You might argue that it isn’t important, but it really leapt out at me because when we first meet Bill she’s working in the canteen at the University the Doctor is hiding in. Now she is presented as a student, among other students. Which begs the question, what has the Doctor changed to make Bill a student? Has he messed with some paperwork at the university or done something a little more radical?
If Shireen and Bill are old friends, then she would presumably know about Bill’s old job in the kitchens and the change to her being a student. That would seem to be significant, but it is glossed over here. Maybe it’s something that will be addressed at some point later. I hope so, because otherwise it would seem to detract from the work Bill is doing on her educational journey with the Doctor.
Which brings us to something else from this episode – Bill and her friends find a too-good-to-be-true house to share. Bill gets the Doctor to help her move in, but introduces him as her Granddad/grandfather.
This seems really awkward. I get that there is a call back here to the show’s very first episode back in 1963, and to the Doctor’s own granddaughter Susan, but why not introduce the Doctor as her tutor?
Is it weirder to have your tutor help you move in to a shared flat, or to lie about having a fictional grandfather? Has Bill even told her new housemate about being raised by a foster mother, or is she lying about that too? And why does she seem to be embarrassed about the Doctor being there? Ok, yes he does embarrass her later by revealing her musical tastes to her new friends, but this is after she’s tried to brush him off repeatedly. It left me ever so slightly disappointed in Bill.
Then David Suchet arrives, brilliantly creepy as the landlord as are the space lice as is his wooden daughter/mother Eliza (Mariah Gale). There are shades of “Psycho” here, but somehow even more disturbing – a grown man who tells his mother she is his daughter, and then gets her to eat six young people using space lice every 20 years? Yeah, it’s definitely disturbing.
With some smooth talking the Doctor gets the mother to do the right thing and to give way to the new generation. Bill’s friends, who were all consumed by the lice, suddenly get unconsumed, although there is no such reprieve for the previous victims. That too would have been a bit awkward.
Then there is the sudden plot twist of terror. The house collapses, consumed by the lice. While it’s uncertain what is suppose to happen to the lice next, we do know that Bill and her buddies face a fate worse than death: they have to go back to the estate agents to find alternative accommodation!
The episode’s coda is a return to the mystery of the vault the Doctor is guarding. It contains not something, but someone – someone capable of playing the piano and who take delight in tales of students getting eaten. All this heavily suggests that its occupant is The Master in some form. The Doctor did offer to spend the rest of eternity with him (back when he was a he) in the season 3 finale “Last of the Time Lords,” maybe that’s what he’s doing now?
Or it could all be a deliberate piece of misdirection. I guess we will find out in the fullness of time.