After last week’s sci-fi weepathon, we get a flavour of Doctor Who unseen for a while: the unsettling horror episode. In fact, the last occurrences might have been The Waters Of Mars or Midnight, back in the time of Tennant.
But just as there’s no such thing as nearly funny, being scary is an unforgiving business. How do they do?
The 80s Hotel Complex
The writer is Toby Whitehouse, creator of Being Human and last year’s Vampires Of Venice episode, so the fear factor is no surprise. However, no vampires, zombies or other horror classics; we’re facing down the unholy terror of… an 80s hotel.
It’s properly frightening as well, and I don’t just mean the decor. By establishing clear, creepy rules for the villain and being utterly ruthless when wrangling his incidental characters, Whitehouse successfully cultivates the prime horror directive: making us believe bad things could happen to anyone.
So yeah, I shouldn’t expect any less from the author of School Reunion (still one of the best episodes since Doctor Who came back, by the way), but this was intense, carefully directed and, much like last week’s The Girl Who Waited, successfully tapped into the key relationships of the show for one last big kick.
The Blue-Suited Approximation Complex
I was expecting this to be a stand-alone exercise in terror, but in the last few minutes, it hits some story arc buttons, and without feeling tacked-on. It’s even possible that the harrowing events of The Girl Who Waited might be playing on the Doctor’s mind.
It’s also implied that Amy is coping with the loss of her baby because that they did somewhat bring her up, as (half-)explained in Let’s Kill Hitler. Doesn’t ring true to me, but I had similar scepticism when Rose Tyler decided she could live without her beloved Doctor as long as she had a blue-suited approximation.
The Episode Sequencing Complex
The haunted-house ethos felt reminiscent of the recent Night Terrors; they could have ordered the episodes more flatteringly, I thought, and at times the slow start got me a little impatient.
But I liked the build to the climax, and after a run of four good to great episodes, I’m genuinely excited about this show again. Even looking forward to James Corden again next week – much like David Walliams in this one, I seem to only enjoy his work on Doctor Who.
The episode is up now on iPlayer for your repeat viewing pleasure, let us know how you’re finding this series as we reach the last couple of weeks.