Night Terrors

NTSC Region 1
DVD box set

PAL Region 2
DVD box set

6-episode volume
See below for Blu-Ray options
(Doctor Who Story No. 225, starring Matt Smith)
  • written by Mark Gatiss
  • directed by Richard Clark
  • produced by Sanne Wohlenberg
  • music by Murray Gold
  • 1 episode @ 42 minutes
Story: From across the vast reaches of space comes a message: "Save me from the monsters...", bringing the Doctor to the bedroom of a scared little boy named George. What really lies in the youngster's cupboard? And how was George's prayer boosted so well to be able to reach the TARDIS?

DVD Extras (box sets only) include:

  • Doctor Who Confidential featurette: About a Boy (13 min.) with Matt Smith (The Doctor), Karen Gillan (Amy), Arthur Darvill (Rory),
    Jamie Oram (George), writer Mark Gatiss, director Richard Clark, location manager Nicky James,
    green goo swimming supervisor Danny Hargreaves, and executive producer Steven Moffat.

In-Depth Analysis Review

by Martin Izsak

WARNING: This review contains "SPOILERS", and is intended for those who have
already seen the program. To avoid the spoilers, read the Buyers' Guide to the season instead.

And now we're back to the rut that so many vocal fans would live in if they had a chance - the backyard alien of the week scaring the kids in their bedroom, and with a ton of the candy-horror imagery that tried to dominate the Sylvester McCoy era. One look at this Earth bound premise, and I desperately wanted to fast forward to the next episode.

Mark Gatiss is an obviously talented writer, and he tries so hard to do Doctor Who well, which he clearly loves passionately. But, his episode here is full of all the old Doctor Who formulas and clichés that I wish were put to rest, while the staple story elements that I prefer are all made scarce. I'm not liking this one. Granted, it's better than many McCoy stories that tackled similar ideas. It's got everything it needs to be easily understandable. It's smart enough to delve into mental powers and dimensions to make the otherwise inexplicably creepy elements somewhat credible. But... been there and done that already, and 95% of this adventure's content is just polar opposite to my personal tastes.

I will highlight the one idea that I like. This boy has created his own reality. He is the center of the whole trouble. I love that idea. It's too bad however that he had to be an alien of the week to achieve that, because it might have been more profound had he done all that as an "everyman" human instead. Or, put him on his own planet where every little boy has to learn to control his fears, and this guy just happens to be a particularly troubled one that our regulars meet and have to deal with. The ending is a bit cool in that the boy has to learn to master his own fear and his power to create out of his emotions. I'm just not inspired by the father/son dynamics that we see to make it work.

Plus, those of us in the audience who are familiar with this most basic of metaphysical principles are apt to find it slightly less than a big surprising twist. Our response is more likely to be, "What took you so long to figure it out?" And, "Is there nothing more to the ideas in the episode?"

Perhaps this points to a bigger issue, in that both writer and director don't quite seem to know what best to spend time on and what to gloss over. Having our three regulars inquire all over the apartment block like door to door salespeople is really... boring. Skip it. So many scenes seem to be here as a matter of formula, and don't have any real life to them. Add to this the bizarre commentary that the Doctor adds upon discovering the story's setting - echoing my usual complaints and failing to counter them, as if the story is acknowledging its own faults before wallowing in them. Very dangerous.

The young actor playing George is entertaining and a bit of a scene stealer, while the regulars do their usual good thing. I quite liked seeing Amy and Rory spending time together tackling their own challenges; this is actually a good story for Rory. The other characters, what few there are, don't really grab attention and hold it though. Something's missing. It feels to me like many of the scenes, particularly involving the dad, had much more humorous potential as written, but the director wasn't interested in pursuing that angle and dropped the ball there, preferring to focus on the creepy portions. Despite the creativity of the opening shots of the story, I'm going to regard this as the worst directed story of the season. Richard Clark did much, much better with the one about the Doctor's TARDIS and "Gridlock" (story no. 185).

By adding bland supporting characters to general formulaic predictability, the result is that the stakes are diluted into near non-existence. We know George and the regulars will come out of this one unscathed, while the episode fails to make us really care about any of the rest of the guest cast who might actually not survive the adventure. Fear of what the dolls may do, as creepily as they may be realized, is minimal, and isn't holding us on the edge of our seats wondering what will happen next.

I wonder if Mark Gatiss would do better on a story that was allowed to be an out and out comedy, as with "The Romans" (story no. 12)? That I'd actually like to see.

Well, sorry, this one really didn't do it for me, and will likely get presented with the Wooden Turkey Award for being my least favourite adventure of the 32nd season. Luckily, there are still some worthy tales ahead....

International Titles:

Deutsch: "Nacht der Angst"

Magyar: "Rémálmok"

Français: "Terreurs nocturnes"

Русский: "Ночные кошмары"

Italiano: "Terrori notturni"

This story has become available on DVD and Blu-ray.
Click on the Amazon symbol for the location nearest you for pricing and availability:

DVD NTSC Region 1
14-episode box set
for the North American market:
in the U.S.
in Canada
DVD PAL Region 2
14-episode box set
for the U.K.:

(Limited Edition)
DVD 6-episode volume

Blu-Ray NTSC Region 1
14-episode box set
for the North American market:
in the U.S.
in Canada

Blu-Ray PAL Region 2
14-episode box set
for the U.K.:

(Limited Edition)

Note: The full season sets contain commentaries, behind-the-scenes featurettes, and other extras. The smaller volumes feature little more than the plain episodes.

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Read the In-depth Analysis Review for the next story: "The Girl Who Waited"

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