A strange and sensitive boy who's scared about what he's keeping in the closet seeks acceptance from his father. No, I can't see any kind of subtext in this episode at all...
To say that Night Terrors is an improvement on Let's Kill Hitler would be a gross understatement. Night Terrors is pretty comfortably the best episode of DW so far this year.
(Pause on that thought. We're nine episodes into the season, and the best episode so far is the Mark Gatiss one. Erk.)
The only one that might give it a run for its money is The Doctor's Wife, but I'd suggest that Gaiman's episode is a story about DW as much as an actual DW story, possibly more so. Whereas this is unquestionably DW, original flavour. That is, after all, what you get when you commission a DW script from Mark Gatiss - a conventional, some might say workmanlike, but undeniably Who-scented adventure story. If New Who were a pub food menu, Gatiss' writing would be the beef and ale pie, and it'd be described as "hearty fare". Cast into sharp relief by the rest of the season to this point, that's unusually welcome.
It helps that this is also Gatiss' best DW story to date. It's his first not to be set in a queasily nostalgic theme park version of Britain's recent past. There's no sign of the reactionary politics that laid a steaming subtext on The Unquiet Dead and neutered Victory of the Daleks. This leaves us free to enjoy the stuff that Gatiss genuinely excels at: witty showcase scenes for the Doctor plus guest actor, character gotchas that are simply conceived and easily realised in an eye-catching way, and of course four-square spooky Who action.
The directing deserves a mention too - I actually noticed the directing this week! It was better than average! The materialising TARDIS' image caught in a puddle and the scene of George's bedroom being sucked into his cupboard were notable moments, I thought. Nice guest turns from the kid playing George and the guy playing his dad. In fact, I wouldn't say anything about this episode was really wrong - again, this is refreshing even as we quietly acknowledge that it really ought to be the baseline for DW. Some more information about the dolls might have been helpful - were they all just bystanders who got sucked into the representation of George's fear, and if so what started them turning into dolls? and if not, where did the first dolls come from? - but this is a great gaping hole in the plot that I somehow find I can forgive. This is Mark Gatiss' hour of glory, bless 'im.
A couple of Moffat-era motifs make their presence felt once more. The giant glass eye in the doll's house, incongruous as it is, harks back to last year's recurring business with eyes. The other revenant device is the use of crap nursery rhyme as a substitute for story-telling, although in this case it's specifically substituting for the equally crap doomy foreshadowing, so I'm less bothered by it than I could have been.
That surely wasn't the estate where they filmed the video for Aphex Twin's "Come To Daddy"? (In which a snarling face inside a TV set steals kids' faces and threatens to eat your sooouuuul... sound strangely like The Idiot's Lantern?) Be a bit of a laugh if it was.
People on the Who forums have criticised the fact that this story contains absolutely no follow-on from Let's Kill Hitler in terms of Amy's and Rory's character - as if that weren't a f*cking blessing. I'll actually be able to watch and enjoy this story again in years to come, hurrah. By now it's a given that week-on-week character development in DW is non-existent, so we might at least cherish the episodes that don't stomp all over the characters. I wouldn't go so far as to say this is a niner, but I'd certainly give it a high 8 out of 10.