Since its return Doctor Who has gone to great pains to show us the money. Huge, sweeping alien vistas, strange new races and intergalactic space stations, but every so often we're reminded about the ordinary scariness of the everyday.
With Night Terrors Mark Gatiss takes the story of a seemingly ordinary little boy who is afraid of the monsters in his wardrobe and brings his characteristic flair for the macabre to the proceedings. The episode is wonderfully atmospheric, with lingering shots of cracks in doors and long, empty hallways ramping up the tension to almost unbearable levels. The decision to set the episode in what Amy wonderfully calls "Planet Eastenders" was a brilliant one, an air of urban menace pervades the show, the people on the estate live in their own little boxes, deep down as terrified of their own surroundings and the "monsters" as little George is.
As well as the atmospherics of the show, the other stand out must be the guest performance from Daniel Mays, most recently the best thing in the otherwise forgettable "Outcasts" he turns in another excellent showing as a Dad at the end of his tether with his son. He provides an excellent counterpoint to a typically mile-a-minute Doctor who was also on great form. In another nod to Who tradition Amy and Rory are largely separated from the main action, with an nice little acknowledgement to the audience as Rory wonders if hes dead yet again!
This is a very simple tale, I feel a more than a few will find it too simple for them, the story itself is very reminiscent of Who episodes like Blink and Fear Her with the dolls immediately bringing to my mind the Clockwork Droids of The Girl In The Fireplace. The old standard explanation of "the perception filter" is wheeled out for another airing, the formally clever idea is now getting slightly worn out with over use. While it was nice to get away from the River Song story line for an episode, I found it a little irritating that they felt the need to shoe horn in a shot of the Doctor's death date, as if it would have slipped the viewers mind in the intervening week. That being said I feel that conversely some fans will find the lack of River Song action just as irritating.
Overall I personally found the change of pace refreshing, the direction of the episode really allowed the ideas to breathe and allowed the viewer to reflect on what was happening on screen. After the frenetic pace of Lets Kill Hitler a return to a good old slow burn horror story shows off the versatility and range of Doctor Who. At the end of the day The Doctor came to town, saved a family and was magnificent in doing so and rather brilliantly I think theres going to be more than a few kids refusing to go to bed on Saturday night.
As it should be.