[The Following Review Contains SPOILERS!]
Moving out of your parents’ home is a rite of passage and Bill is quick to seize the opportunity when a friend asks her if she’d like to flat-share with her and a group of other young people trying to find a place of their own. Perhaps it was Bill’s recent travels with The Doctor that inspired a need to move on? And perhaps it was that need that made Bill blind to all the things that were wrong about the funny old man who came up to them on the street, offering them a place to live?
Nobody questioned why the wonderful old, spacious house (with the one tower that is off-limits – don’t ask why) was going for so cheap. Nobody asked why the old man was so anxious for them to sign the rental contract right away or why he smiled so strangely when they did so. Strange landlords and strange noises are part and parcel of student housing, after all.
Still, The Doctor – not being a student – is suspicious when he first encounters the house, just after the first of Bill’s flatmates disappears…
Knock Knock is the first misfire of Series Ten. This is largely due to first-time Doctor Who writer Mike Bartlett’s misunderstanding the character of Bill. There seems little relation between the intelligent young lady we’ve seen Pearl Mackie play in previous episodes compared to the Bill we see in this episode, who seems mean-spirited as she insists that The Doctor is her grandfather despite his protests of not looking that old. Bill also seems to have lost at least 20 IQ points in order to be shoe-horned into the stock role of the horror heroine who insists that everything is fine when it’s clear to anyone with the common sense God gave a toast rack that something is wrong.
The script tries to play up the humor of this early on, with The Doctor as the surrogate for that one guy in the theater who keeps shouting out, “No! Don’t go in there!” and complaining loudly about how stupid the people in haunted house movies are. Unfortunately, Doctor Who is at its best when it works around such trite genre conventions and hanging a lampshade on them doesn’t take the curse off of it. Indeed, it makes Bill seem all the more unreasonable or stupid for not trusting The Doctor’s judgement that something weird is going on and complaining of him trying to take over her life. At least, that is how Bill is written right up until the story requires her to not be stupid and point out The Doctor’s misunderstanding something about human nature because the script now requires him to lack any insight whatsoever.
There are pacing problems as well, with the episode being half over before things begin moving. The characters apart from The Doctor and Bill are even flatter than cardboard cut-outs. The monster of the week – while a decent idea on paper – needed more fleshing out and the CGI used to bring it to life is decidedly sub-par. Not even Bill Anderson’s direction – which was excellent last week and inspires some effective shots this week – can salvage this one.