I liked this. There were no obvious gender issues, which made it a relief after last week. The plot was solid and the Doctor was wonderful.
Brief, non-spoilery plot synopsis
Little boy is so scared he sends a psychic message out so strong it is registered by the Doctor’s psychic paper inside the TARDIS. It says “Please save me from the monsters”. And the Doctor comes – to save the day and solve the mystery of what the monsters are and how to stop them.
Creepy little children are such a cliché, but overall this episode strikes a nice balance by keeping us guessing as to whether the child is creepy or creepy things are happening to the child. It certainly achieved something that would be scary for children, which is something Doctor Who has something of a duty to perform, but doesn’t always achieve. If you’re a small child, you want to at least say that you were hiding behind the sofa watching Doctor Who at some point in your life, even if you couldn’t ever physically hide behind your sofa.
I also felt it dealt well with the tensions inside the home that children feel but are so often ignored, or that parents assume they can keep from children, and thereby make worse. More than this, it showed the resolution of such tensions, which is something children need to see. I got no problem with sound resolutions like that happening in Doctor Who.
The only minor points of criticism are that the dad was too easily convinced that the Doctor wasn’t a nutter, and that it wasn’t really clear what happened to the old lady. I loved her as a character, but whatever happened to her didn’t happen in the same way as what happened to the other people. (I know this is vague, trying to minimise spoilers.)
Anyway, creepy children and dolls are a little obvious, but I found the resolution original and satisfying. I also really liked the aspect of meta-textuality introduced by what initially seemed, to me, to be a film set. I don’t know if that was intentional, but I liked it.
Other than that, not much to say. It did exactly what a Doctor Who episode needed to do – nothing more and nothing less. Not the best Doctor Who ever, but perfectly satisfying and not at all irritating. For that much, Mark Gatiss should be commended.