After last week’s River Song/Melody Pond reveal, the Powers That Be have allowed us all a breath. Thank Heavens! The roller coaster ride of the “Let’s Kill Hitler” episode nearly did me in! I’m glad to say that this week’s episode is much less all encompassing. Although if you were afraid of puppets before, you won’t be attending any Punch and Judy fairs in the near future!
In a dark, but nevertheless, rather ordinary, row of council apartments, a bunch of very ordinary tenants prepare for the evening. In one apartment, however, a young boy named George balks at going to sleep. He’s frightened, but cannot voice his fear. His mum says, “What do we do with scary things? We put them in the cupboard”, which is a small, Ikea sort of two door wardrobe. She then tries to turn the light off, but George insists that the lights must be turned off and on five times in order that he might be safe. Ah, so George is exhibiting signs of Aspergers Syndrome, right? Let’s see.
Mum has to go to work, and that leaves little George muttering in an almost prayer, “please save me from the monsters.” over and over to himself. Could a prayer that sincere, that heartfelt, sent from such a sweet young boy, go unanswered? Of course not. Somewhere in space, the Doctor hears his plea.
George’s parents, unable to understand why young George is so terrified all of the time, wonder how they can help. Will he need a doctor? One is on his way! Although he’s not done it in a while, the Doctor is about to make a house call!
The Tardis lands in a nasty, grimy street. Amy, Rory and the Doctor are looking for the scariest place in the Universe … a child’s bedroom.
In that bedroom, George has his flashlight going as he scopes out the terrors in his room, which mainly consist of toys. But he has the misfortune of having a window that looks out onto the walkway upon which the other tenants pass on their daily rounds. And shadows look so evil when we know not where they come from. He can hear an elderly woman walk by with her bag of groceries, her slightly asthmatic breathing a frightening thing, and hear the elevator as it goes up and down. To him, the elevator sounds like it’s breathing.
Our intrepid trio split up to try and find the boy. It’s a rather large building, so they’ll have to figure out where the child is located.
George’s dad looks at photos of his young son, as George continues to scan his room for ‘monsters.’ George is clearly terrified, his breathing labored and stressed.
Amy knocks on the door of an apartment, and discovers a pair of identical twins, of about 10 years of age, and a mother who will brook no interference in their lives. The Doctor encounters an elderly woman, Mrs. Rossiter, whom George has heard on the stairs, who is only interested in who is in charge of the rubbish collection. And Rory happens to knock upon the door of the Landlord of this wretched complex, who, with his bulldog, runs a tight ship. Even without monsters, this is not a very welcoming apartment building!
Spotting Amy and Rory moving towards the elevator, the Doctor also notices a small boy poking his nose through the curtains. Aha! There’s our friend. Rory and Amy head to an elevator, which immediately transports them to another world, while the Doctor hones in on our child in need. Bad luck, Amy and Rory!
The Doctor flashes his special ‘business card for all events and occasions’, and is welcomed into the home of little George, and his dad, Alex. Mum Clare’s at work, but Alex is happy to have any help he can get for George’s night terrors. While the Doctor and Alex discuss George, Mrs. Rossiter drags a bag of trash down to the communal garbage heap. Hearing a noise, she bravely investigates, only to be sucked down into the same other world that has taken Amy and Rory.
And it’s an odd world indeed. Strangely out of proportion, and with things such as a large copper saucepan inexplicably made of wood rather than metal, Rory wonders if they’re dead … again. But no, they’ve just landed in a large, beautiful home … without doorknobs. Amy does find a lamp of sorts, so they have some lighting in their explorations. While sussing out the surroundings, Amy opens a drawer, and finds a large glass eyeball. Where are they, anyway? Grabbing the lamp and the saucepan, Amy and Rory leave to find a way out.
Alex shares the family photo album with the Doctor, wondering why George has not grown out of his fears by the age of eight. Alex mentions that the terrors have gotten worse recently, and he and Clare have discussed getting help, maybe even having the boy sent away for treatment. “Pantophobia” says the Doctor. The fear of everything. Which would include a fear of pants, one supposes. They just don’t know what to do. Hearing a noise from George’s room, Alex and the Doctor hasten to George’s room. George thinks the Doctor has come to take him away. But the Doctor just wants a word …about the monsters.
The Doctor bonds with the boy, and asks George about the cupboard. They are interrupted when landlord Mr Purcell … and his very scary bulldog Bernard … pop by to bully Alex about the lateness of this month’s rent. The Doctor entertains George by animating the toys in George’s room, before saying that they must confront the monsters in the cupboard. Unfortunately, the monsters in the cupboard are real.
While the Doctor organizes a soothing cup of tea, he is admonished by Alex, who says that the Doctor’s words are just making things worse, and that he’d like the Doctor to leave. Unabashed, the Doctor explains that monsters are real, and carries on making tea, and asking Alex if he has any jammy dodgers. The Doctor, sipping his tea, continues to peruse the family photos, asking himself what is wrong with these pictures. Despite their misgivings, the Doctor and Alex decide they must open the cupboard.
Meanwhile, Rory and Amy are poking down dark corridors, following a childish laughter that they hear coming from afar. At the same time, Mrs. Rossiter is fearfully looking down corridors as well. Rory and Amy arrive at a large central room, where they find a door … with a handle. Opening the door, they find a large headed, misshapen puppet. Ha ha, they say, and shut the door. Inside the door, the puppet begins to move ….
In Mr. Purcell’s apartment, he and bulldog Bernard are channel surfing. When Purcell gets up to find a video, his feet sink into the carpet, and he is sucked into the alternate dimension. Bernard is not impressed.
The Doctor, George and Alex contemplate the cupboard. When finally opened, all that is in the cupboard are abandoned toys, and a large dollhouse. “How old is George, Alex?” says the Doctor, pointing to a picture in the family album. Eight, says Alex. But here’s a picture of Alex and Clare, just two weeks before George’s birth, and there’s no baby bump in sight. And Alex cannot remember anything about George’s birth. It seems that Alex completely forgot that Clare can’t have kids, no matter how they tried, via in vitro fertilization or any other means. But then … where did George come from? “Who are you, George?” opines the Doctor. At that, the cupboard opens and a bright light begins to pull both the Doctor and Alex inside. George sits on his bed, aghast, but apparently unable to stop the suction.
Rory and Amy, still looking for a way out, encounter Mr. Purcell, who is running in terror from the large puppets. “Please keep them away from me!” he screams, just before being enfolded into the arms of two puppets. Before their eyes, he is turned into a puppet himself. The puppets turn towards Rory and Amy, determined to change these two as well into playmates! Barricading themselves inside a library, Rory and Amy plot an escape, as the puppets smash repeatedly into the door. Amy decides their best bet is to open the door and push past them. But they don’t succeed, and Amy is turned into a puppet as well.
The Doctor and Alex have found themselves in the dollhouse. Alex is terrified, unable to believe what is happening, but still wants to know what is going on with his son, George. The Doctor puzzles out that George is a cuckoo in the nest – a Tensa. Drawn by Mum Clare’s need for a child, George drifted towards her, and has become her perfect boy, exactly what she’s always wanted, and what she continues to need. He’s the child they always wanted, but something has scared him.
Alex finds a series of five electric lights that go on and off in sequence. A puppet lurches towards them, and the Doctor finds an improbably large pair of plastic scissors to ward off her advances. As Alex fends off the puppet swarm, the Doctor calls to George to face his fears.
Back in his room, George hyperventilates as he nears the cupboard doors. Terrified, he opens the door, and enters the dollhouse world. The puppets sag, lifelessly, then suddenly come back to life, surrounding George. The Doctor realizes that George has overheard his parents talking about sending him to a doctor, and feared being sent away. Alex, accepting that his son is in fact an alien, nevertheless leaps down the stairs to save his son. “Whatever you are, whatever you do, you’re my son. And I will never, ever, send you away.” The puppets disappear, and our fearless group kick open the door of the cupboard and escape. Along with Mrs.Rossiter, who’s woken up in a pile of green garbage bags, Amy and Rory, who finally leave the elevator, and Mr. Purcell, awoken by the friendly kiss licks of bulldog Bernard.
Back in the apartment, the Doctor and Alex prepare breakfast, just in time for Clare to return home from work, and discover her delightfully normal, and unafraid, son. Kippers, anyone? The Doctor takes his leave, just adding, as he goes, that he might pop back around puberty. That’s always a funny time.
And off they go. Amy and Rory await the Doctor on a ledge, before joining him in the Tardis. Rory mentions ‘three wishes’ and how difficult it is to choose where to go, as a children’s nursery rhyme intones in the background. I can’t make out the lyrics to the rhyme, but just as the scene ends, the photo card of the Doctor’s death again flashes on the screen…
Next week – Amy and Rory find themselves in alternate and shifting time streams.
Matt Smith, Karen Gillan, Steven Moffat, Arthur Darvill, Mark Gattiss (writer), Leila Hoffman (Mrs. Rossiter), Daniel Mays (Alex), Emma Cunniffe (Clare), Andrew Tiernan (Mr. Purcell), Jamie Oram (George) , Sophie Cosson (Julie)