When the story lineup for Series Ten was revealed, this was one of the two episodes I was looking forward to the most, mostly because David “Poirot” Suchet was going to be in it. So when Knock Knock came along I was really looking forward to seeing what he would do with The Landlord, a character that I was mildly disappointed to discover wasn’t on a par with The Curator…
I’ve always admired Mr S as an actor for his approach to the craft, which is, in his own words from his book Poirot And Me :
“…I didn’t want to pretend to be someone else; I wanted to inhabit them, to bring them to life…. my purpose as an actor was to become the writer’s voice.”
Despite what Muhsyoor Sooshay says, Whoflix would assert that acting really is pretending, the difference between a good actor and a great one being that only actors of his calibre use their little grey cells to engage in that form of heightened pretending that becomes the inhabiting of the character that he talks about. And sometimes, an actor and a role merge so well together that the performance looks effortless and natural, which I can assure you from personal experience, it most certainly isn’t.
If the role of the actor is to be the voice of the author then the problem for the person saying his words is what to do when he makes you say the wrong thing. Okay, I can get that the son pretends to be the father in order to protect his beloved mama, but it’s stretching things a bit for his mother to forget that he’s her son and start thinking he’s her father. Didn’t buy that for a second, even if the inference is that one of the side effects of being turned into Mrs Pinocchio is that it’s messed with her memory.
As always, the Doctor and Bill were the best things about the episode, with David S getting a well deserved silver medal in the performance stakes. Even though this is only her fourth episode, Pearl Mackie has already established Bill as the best New Who companion [for me at any rate] since Donna Noble and it’s a shame she’s only in the show for one season. Eliza gets the bronze medal but Bill’s flatmates were all lacking in personality or presence, and as a result you don’t really care as they inevitably get bumped off one by one, in fact, you’re rather glad to see the back of them, or I was anyway…
Knock Knock should really have been called Infestation of the Dryads or maybe The Dryad Infestation but whatever you call it, this is a haunted house story without any ghosts. Instead we get mysterious bugs who turn people into wood, firing those fanboy neurons into making a non-existant connection to the wooden king & queen from The Doctor, The Widow & The Wardrobe. The make-up job they did on Eliza was brilliant, but why was poor old Pavel still stuck in the wall a day after he had been Dryad-ed? The real world answer is that he was only there so that the ep could have a shock-horror moment as we see him being absorbed but it doesn’t make much sense within the fiction of the story. Why not have Bill & Shireen burst into Paul’s room instead, just in time to see him being absorbed into the wall?
And speaking of kids getting killed off, why the hell were they resurrected at the end? How does that even work? WTF? Nah, when Bill’s annoying drama school graduate flatmates get deaded, they should stay deaded.
Another problem was Bill trying to pass the Doctor off as her grandfather. Apart from being another instance of Moffat baiting the fanboys he knows are paying attention to this sort of thing, why do none of Bill’s flatmates remark on the fact that Bill is a student at the same University one of her relations is teaching at? A suggestion of nepotism on the part of one of the others, perhaps Paul after Bill rejects him, would have given you some more character-led drama and been a lot more believable. It’s a script-writing oversight that nobody even mentions it.
So how to fanfix the problems in the story? Well, the first thing to do was to cut all the tediously unfunny flat hunting at the start. The edit now opens with the shot of the Landlord pushing open the gates leading to the Scooby Doo House from Blink. Apart from their meeting with the Landlord being contrived, does he really hang around outside estate agents every twenty years on the offchance that he will bump into six students looking for a gaff? Why not have the estate agent tell the kids that there is a house but the Landlord will only let it out to six tenants? And if there were only five of them when he tells them this, you could then have had a scene where they rope in poor Pavel to make up the numbers. You then get more drama from the fact that his death is partly their fault. But no.
We also don’t need the closing scene with the Vault, as it’s part of the ongoing series arc and not actually part of the adventure. The only other cut I made was to use a reverse of the shot of the Dryads coming up out of the floor so that the episode now ends with an OMG ending of wooden mother and oedipal son dissolving into the floor instead of the WTF ending of the dead kids coming back that we got on telly.
This was another one of those edits where there were more cuts that you wanted to make than you were able to, but the source material wouldn’t let you.