We ended last week’s episode with some very insistent knocking from inside the mysterious vault, and this week’s offering is called “Knock Knock”. I’m seeing a trend developing here. Let’s see how this plays out…
Bill is moving out of her foster mum’s flat and into her own with her mate and a bunch of folks she doesn’t really know. Wahey, student life! Unfortunately, like typical students, they are short on cash and can’t really afford anywhere that suits them … that is until an older gentleman (not just any older gentleman – the ever-brilliant David Suchet!) offers them residence in his house. It’s a big house with affordable rent. What could possibly go wrong?
The others rush to sign the contract because they’re so excited, but Bill doesn’t buy it straight away. Pavel moves in first – he has to leave his student housing, which might mean he’s not going to make the best housemate – and sets up his record player. Soon after, we hear him screaming, and his record begins to skip.
The Doctor helps Bill move into the new space by materialising the TARDIS around her stuff. Oh, I want that – cheaper than hiring movers and no trucking things across town yourself! Bill does her clever question thing, and he lets the R-word (‘regeneration’) slip.
The Doctor immediately recognises that something is up with the house. He insists on going into the house with her. The housemates seem to know him from campus and like him. Despite mouthing off last week about how he’s over 2000 years old (much older, on last count…), this week, he doesn’t think that he’s old enough to be Bill’s grandad.
Paul seems keen on Bill – ah, look another direction, lad. He helps her take herself up to her room and invites her to a freshers’ party in the park. The first thing Bill does is hang up a photo of her mum, and the wall creaks angrily. Bill convinces herself that it’s just a big, draughty house full of people she doesn’t know – it’s all cool.
It’s a stormy night with Chinese food and new housemates. They compare notes on the sounds the house makes, and they hear some rattling and banging. Bill braves up and heads into the kitchen to investigate … only to find that The Doctor is still in the house. He has a list of grievances for the landlord – no central heating, no washing machine, hob from the 1930s, ancient wiring… He tells them they should leave. The biggest issue, he points out to Bill, is that it’s draughty when there’s no wind.
When they move back into the lounge, the landlord is already standing in there. He nearly blends into the wood panelling, as his suit seems to be the exact same colour. Is he part of the house itself? He says he has a daughter who is still under ‘his protection’. He takes their list of grievances and balks at the idea of a cat (for the mice) and positively snaps at the question of how to get into the tower. He encourages The Doctor to leave, at which point he starts asking him who the prime minister is. He clearly knows something is up with this dude – and we get a Harriet Jones callback! The man uses his tuning fork on the wall (um, okay), smiles, and bids them good night. Shireen remembers she forgot to mention the lack of washing machine, and, when she goes to catch him outside, he’s nowhere to be found.
The scritching starts up again. The Doctor appears to ‘catch’ the sound in the wall and refuses to leave. He is going to hang out with Harry and Felicity. Bill tries to chase him off; this is the part of her life he ISN’T in, she says. He is going to stay anyway, and she’s free to go on upstairs. He adds, though, that she should probably check on Pavel since he hasn’t been seen for a day and is constantly playing strange music.
Paul offers his assistance if Bill gets scared in the night. (Snort.) She gently lets him know that she’s not really into dudes, and it becomes obvious that Shireen is into this particular dude. Paul pretends that his room is attacking him, but then it seems like something is actually happening, as he’s going a little overboard with the screaming. The door is locked. They are worried, but the knocking makes them feel better – at least for a moment. Suddenly, knocking comes from all around. They run.
The Doctor tells an amusing tale about once playing bass for Quincy Jones (who had accidentally hired a Klarj Neon Death Voc-Bot who, worse yet, couldn’t play) before pointing out that the front door is now sealed shut. The window shutters also close by themselves. Felicity freaks out about being trapped and forces her way out of the kitchen window, but she’s grabbed (I think) by a tree outside.
The Doctor tells Harry that there’s no use in being scared because it doesn’t help. Meanwhile, Bill and Shireen do eventually investigate Pavel’s room, finding the record skipping and him trapped in the wall. Shireen is going to turn off the record, but Pavel’s eyes react. The landlord appears, saying that music can be pleasant but ‘hope is its own form of cruelty’. He lifts the needle of the record player, and Pavel disappears within the wall. The landlord explains that he has been released and that they will all have to pay their dues because they signed the contract – but not him because he is the exception.
He uses the tuning fork against the wall again, and the scritching starts up again. Bill and Shireen run, and Bill looks like a secret corridor to the tower, all Indiana Jones-style. The Doctor is spitballing ideas about what could be in the house. He invokes it, and a little alien bug climbs out of the wood. He is amused and talks to it like a sweet little pet, but more and more come pouring out. He and Harry rush into the cupboard – it’s a lift! – and they go exploring in the (stone!) basement. Harry starts to question him referring to them as alien, and The Doctor backtracks a little, suggesting they could be native to the planet, but neither of them have ever seen them before now. He is going to call them dryads because he doesn’t want to just call them lice.
Bill and Shireen make it to the top of the tower and find a sparse bedroom. Shireen opens a music box, and a voice calls out from behind a dressing screen for ‘father’. One of the dryads crawls over a portrait of a woman.
The Doctor and Harry find six boxes of belongings and a tenancy agreement from 1997. There is a series of Polaroids that shows the same situation from them – settling in and then an infestation. There are six further boxes: 1977. The landlord appears, and The Doctor calls him on the whole thing. He explains that his daughter was dying, and the creatures saved her. Harry freaks and tries to run away, but the creatures get him when he climbs the wooden stairs. The Doctor asks him to call the dryads off – he’s a doctor! Maybe he can help!
A hand comes from behind the screen in the tower, and Eliza introduces herself. Eliza is wooden, but she is happy to meet new people. Shireen tries to stay calm, but a creature crawls through her foot when she stomps on it, and she’s soon consumed. Eliza is upset, but her father says they must let the dryads take people to survive.
The landlord and The Doctor appear in the room, and The Doctor wants to help her. He tries to figure out what has happened: she was ill, her father brought her a creature from the garden to amuse her, and they were ‘activated’ by high-pitched sound. Ah, her music box! By morning, she was well, if wooden. He keeps monologuing, but Bill interrupts to ask why he would bring in an insect and why he appears too young to have an adult daughter preserved 70 years ago. The Doctor has forgotten how short the human lifespan is, but the landlord is trying to calm Eliza while getting quite upset himself.
He’s not her father! He was sent out of the house by her doctors because he was just a child – her son! He found the creature when she was likely dying and wanted to cheer her up. He was willing to do anything to protect his mother by protecting the dryads. He tamed them and fed them to keep her alive. All these years, she listened to him because she thought he was her father, and father knows best.
He just wanted to stay happy and secret with his mummy forever. He is angry with The Doctor for upsetting her and sics the dryads on Bill and The Doctor. They don’t have a plan, but The Doctor appeals to Eliza to be in charge because she’s the parent. They have a battle of wills with the creatures. The Doctor asks when she last even opened the shutters, and they see fireworks from the freshers’ party.
She is inspired. Life shouldn’t be kept secret, and her son shouldn’t be kept in a house his entire life. When he refuses to leave (and threatens to destroy Bill and The Doctor himself), she hugs him and lets the bugs consume them both.
Shireen reappears in a pile of dryads on the floor – Eliza’s final act is to restore the housemates! They rush through the house and find everyone, dragging them out of the house as it crumbles around them. The Doctor suggests they need to go back to the estate agency and saunters off.
Nardole is now at the vault, and The Doctor shows up with lots of food. He points out that The Doctor didn’t have to leave the planet (and violate his oath) to find adventure and things to kill him. The Doctor makes Nardole leave, even though he says their ‘friend inside’ has been a little restive lately.
As Nardole is walking away, piano music (“Fur Elise” by Beethoven – I have so many questions!) begins to play. The Doctor suggests that they eat dinner together. They’re both prisoners there; they’re both stuck. There is no response from inside. He says he has a new story about a house that eats a bunch of young people, and “Pop Goes the Weasel” begins to play on the piano. He says he’s coming in, and the doors of the vault swing open.
Okay, I feel like that’s just the right kind of jokiness for The Master (actually, more specifically, for Missy!), playing “Fur Elise” directly after they release a woman named Eliza – which would mean that whoever is inside already KNOWS the story he is going to tell. And “Pop Goes the Weasel” to basically say ‘yeah, go ahead and spring open the door’ … classic Missy move. It HAS been a long time since we’ve seen her, but we also know that John Simm’s Master is meant to make an appearance somehow this year. Of course, it could be neither of them!
I would be remiss if I didn’t also comment on the fantastic performance from David Suchet this week. He really is a nuanced actor, and he ranged from infuriated to terrified to terrifying to sweet old man in this episode. I’m glad we got to see him on Doctor Who, and I’m honestly surprised we hadn’t yet.
So, Whovians: let us know who you think is inside the vault and how much you’re enjoying this series of Doctor Who so far by chatting with us on Twitter using #PWDW and @PopWrapped. Remember that you can see Doctor Who at the slightly earlier time next Saturday in the UK on BBCOne at 7:15 and at its regular time in the US on BBCAmerica at 9/8c.