The episode is set an unknown amount of time after Let's Kill Hitler and again shows the Doctor's sympathy towards children in distress as in The Empty Child, School Reunion, The Girl in the Fireplace, The Eleventh Hour, The Beast Below and A Christmas Carol. Much like Fear Her's Isolus, the chaos of the entire episode arises from a child's psychic powers; although the difference is that in this episode, the powers were unconsciously being used, while the Isolus was basically throwing a tantrum. It also continued the second half of series 6's theme - the Doctor's impending death - through the contrast of the Eleventh Doctor's feeling of age and impending death and the fears of a child.
During the episode, the peg dolls recite a children's rhyme that at the end is revealed to be about the Doctor. The rhyme reappears in Closing Time and The Wedding of River Song and is shown to be about the Doctor's impending "death".
The Eleventh Doctor receives a distress call, bringing him, Amy Pond and Rory Williams to Earth. George is a young boy terrorised by the monsters in his cupboard. Are they imaginary, or are they real?
In an apartment block on Earth, a young boy called George is being put to bed by his mother, Claire, before she leaves for work; however, George is terrified of everything and reluctant to go to sleep. He makes his mother turn the lights on and off five times — a nightly ritual — and Claire encourages him to put what he's afraid of in his cupboard. When she leaves, George starts whispering, "Please save me from the monsters," over and over. Through the crack in the door, he listens to his mother and father, Alex, talking. Claire insists that George needs to see a doctor about his problems. George thinks about this and continues his chanting.
Meanwhile, in the TARDIS — which is floating in space at the other end of the universe — Amy and Rory are enjoying a mug of some beverage as the Eleventh Doctor works the console. The Doctor abruptly spins around and pulls out the psychic paper, and reads George's plea from it. He then begins setting the TARDIS on a new course, saying he hasn't done something in a while. When questioned by Amy what he means, the Doctor says "a house call".
The TARDIS materialises and Amy and Rory depart, being temporarily unimpressed with where they have ended up, expecting aliens and history. The Doctor says that it's like that most of the time, but they are not up to that today. Instead, they are answering a cry for help from the scariest place in the universe; a child's bedroom. The group splits up to search for George, each meeting a variety of characters, including the elderly Mrs Rossiter, the beefy landlord Jim Purcell, and a mother and her creepy twin daughters. All of the residents are suspicious of the strangers, refuse to answer the visitors' questions and slam the door in their faces.
As they pass by George's window, Rory jokes that they should let the monsters eat him, scaring George even more. The Doctor notices George looking out the window at Amy and Rory. Meeting his companions, the Doctor asks what they found; after they explain, he diverts them to a lower floor while he goes to George's apartment to help the boy alone. He knocks on the door and is greeted by Alex, who believes that he is a Child Services representative that Claire called. The Doctor confirms this easily given cover via his psychic paper.
Amy and Rory take an elevator to the lower floor, but the sound of the lift terrifies George, who continues chanting, "Please save me from the monsters." His mantra prompts the elevator to plummet downwards at an alarmingly high speed; both Amy and Rory scream in terror. Once the lift reaches the ground floor, the doors open to reveal that Amy and Rory are no longer inside. Instead, they awake on the floor of a dark and unusual house, though Rory suspects they have died.
The Doctor speaks to Alex about George's fears, though Alex insists that George is "scared to death of everything". Alex and Claire have created a tradition with George — anything that scares him, they put in the cupboard in his bedroom. The Doctor meets George, who wonders if the Doctor has come to take him away. The Doctor denies this, saying he is only there to ask him about the monsters.
Elsewhere, Amy and Rory have begun exploring their new environment. Rory changes his previous theory, suggesting that the TARDIS has malfunctioned and they have been transported to the 1700s; however, they later discover a lantern with an electric light bulb inside it, along with a wooden pan painted to look like it was made of copper. They are not in the past, but where are they?
Back in the flat, per the Doctor's suggestion, they prepare to open George's cupboard, but Purcell arrives and starts badgering Alex about the rent money he owes. George watches from his room, obviously terrified of Purcell and his dog. The Doctor tries to comfort George by activating all of his electronic toys with the sonic screwdriver; once George has calmed down, the Doctor scans his cupboard for "monsters", and is clearly shocked and terrified by the sonic's readings, which are "off the charts". When Alex returns and reaches for the cupboard door, the Doctor frantically stops him and declares that George's monsters are real.
Elsewhere, Amy and Rory continue to explore the strange house in which they've landed, and become aware of a sinister giggling in a nearby closet. Their fears are temporarily allayed when they see the cupboard merely contains a human-sized wooden doll; however, when they leave the room to continue their exploring, the doll comes to life and begins to follow them.
The Doctor begins making tea, but Alex stops him, outraged that the Doctor has apparently fed George's fears. However, the Doctor tells him he's the ultimate expert and that whatever is in the cupboard is so evil and powerful, it made George's fear break the barriers of time and space to reach him. Alex can only look dumbfounded by the Doctor's explanation — "You're not from Social Services are you?"
Outside, Mrs Rossiter has taken out her trash but sees something moving in the pile. Suspecting it may be George or another kid, she leans in to see who it is, but is "devoured" by the trash and ends up in the same house as Amy and Rory. Scared, she walks around, asking for help, unaware of someone following her around.
At the same time, the Doctor is looking through a photo album of Alex's family, enjoying a cup of tea; he notes that there is something wrong with the pictures that he can't quite figure out. However, he then wonders if they should open the cupboard. At first, he thinks it's the best idea so they know what it is, but then thinks it's a bad idea as he has no idea how powerful or evil the monsters are. Alex agrees with him both times; the Doctor ultimately decides to open the cupboard.
Elsewhere, Purcell is trying to find something to watch on television, but finds nothing he likes, telling his dog, Bernard, that they'll have to watch the same film again. Getting up from his chair, Purcell finds that his foot is stuck in the floor and is being sucked into it. Though he calls for help, Purcell is sucked in completely.
Inside the flat, the Doctor opens the cupboard to find nothing but old clothes and toys inside it. This makes him puzzled because of the readings he got. He then realises that he is missing something. Picking up one of the photo albums, the Doctor realises that in a photo taken mere weeks before George's birth, Claire isn't nine months pregnant. Pressured by the Doctor, Alex shouts that Claire can't have children and becomes confused as to how he just remembered that; Alex goes on to explain that they tried all the IVF they could afford, but it never worked. Blank-faced, they turn to George. If Claire can't have kids, then who's the child that lived with them for all those years?
When Doctor asks George to tell him who he is, all the toys in the room start working on their own. The Doctor asks again, nicely, but the cupboard doors swing open and a bright light begins to suck Alex and the Doctor inside. Confused, the Doctor asks if George is doing this; he tries explaining that he can help. George watches, horrified while chanting, "Please save me from the monsters." Despite their attempts to try calming George, the Doctor and Alex are sucked into the cupboard with the door slamming.
Elsewhere, Rory has begun panicking but is quickly calmed by Amy. They run into Purcell, who begs them to keep "them" away from him. Much to their horror, they watch him be grabbed by a doll and turned into one. Amy tells Rory to panic now and they run into a room and block the door with a large spool of thread.
Inside the cupboard, the Doctor realises that they are in George's dollhouse. Alex is reluctant to believe this and demands the Doctor tell him how he could forget Claire couldn't have kids. The Doctor explains it's because of a powerful perception filter, which changed the memories of them and everyone around them. They pass a mirror, which shows another doll; it begins following them.
Elsewhere in the house, Amy and Rory have decided to take control of the situation by surprising the dolls by letting them in. They open the door and run out. However, Amy is caught by a doll and, much to Rory's horror, becomes one of them. All this while, the dolls sing a haunting rhyme.
In the meantime, the Doctor and Alex have found a toy that flashes on and off the same amount of times as George wants his bedroom light to be. The Doctor deduces that the dollhouse is a psychic repository for all the things that George fears; even the sound of the lift has been put in there.
Outside, the lift and the other things in the building have begun working on their own; George whimpers in fear.
In the dollhouse, the Doctor and Alex are surprised by a doll and use a pair of safety scissors to keep it at bay. As they flee, the Doctor realises George is a Tenza, an alien species that are like cuckoo birds; they find foster parents and adapt perfectly into what their parents want as their child. George instinctively sought out Claire and Alex because they could not have kids. However, something startled him and began this subconscious cycle of fear. The Doctor then begins shouting to George to make him aware that he is controlling everything that is happening in the dollhouse. However, George will not listen to him.
Forced up the stairs, the Doctor is happy to see Rory, who is also being chased by dolls and is horrified to see Amy has been turned into one. He then yells to George again, telling him he is the only one who can save them from being in a "living death" — being one of the dolls. George opens the cupboard and then appears in the dollhouse, causing the to dolls stop.
The Doctor congratulates George, but the dolls begin moving again, this time towards George. This confuses the Doctor as he tries to get George to believe he can smash the world they're in. George is too scared to believe him. The Doctor then remembers George asking if he was going to take him away when he introduced himself. It was Alex and Claire's suggestion that George be sent somewhere for help that inspired George's fears; he misunderstood the suggestion as a rejection of him.
The Doctor encourages Alex to tell George that he was wrong, and while Alex initially expresses some reluctance at accepting George as his son, when he sees the dolls surrounding him and hears George's cries, he pushes the dolls aside to protect him. Alex tearfully embraces George and promises to never send him away. All the dolls stop moving. The cupboard opens and brilliant light shines out.
All who were taken into the dollhouse wake on Earth the next morning returned to their human forms. Purcell is back in his flat with his dog; Mrs Rossiter is lying in the trash bags. Amy and Rory exit the lift, with Amy being very confused.
Back at the apartment, Claire returns home, astonished to find her son happy and well. Alex lies that the Doctor came from Social Services and is the reason for George being better. The Doctor prepares to leave, but Alex runs after him, wondering what he should do since George isn't human. The Doctor commends Alex for his actions and insists that George will grow up like a normal boy, and will become whatever his parents want him to be. However, he promises to visit around George's puberty as it's "always a funny time".
The Doctor meets up with Amy and Rory and they return to the TARDIS, with the Doctor remembering that they previously requested aliens and history. Amy's mind is still having trouble focusing after her transformation into a doll and Rory says choosing a destination in the TARDIS is like having three wishes. The Doctor then gets an idea from this and goes on to explain it. As they set a course for their next destination, a nursery rhyme sounds: "Tick, tock, goes the clock, even for the Doctor," as the time and place of the Doctor's death appears onscreen.
- The Doctor - Matt Smith
- Amy Pond - Karen Gillan
- Rory - Arthur Darvill
- Alex - Daniel Mays
- George - Jamie Oram
- Claire - Emma Cunniffe
- Purcell - Andy Tiernan
- Mrs Rossiter - Leila Hoffman
- Julie - Sophie Cosson
|Executive Producers Steven Moffat, Piers Wenger and Beth Willis|
|Not every person who worked on this adventure was credited. The absence of a credit for a position doesn't necessarily mean the job wasn't required. The information above is based solely on observations of the actual end credits of the episodes as broadcast, and does not relay information from IMDB or other sources.|
- Rory suggests the message on the psychic paper could have been junk mail.
- The Doctor mentions pantophobia, the fear of everything.
- The Doctor plays with a Rubik's cube.
- The Doctor mentions empires of glass and civilisations of pure thought.
- Rory points out the Doctor asking where to go next is like getting three wishes, and the Doctor then says it's like Ali Baba.
- Rory mentions EastEnders.
- Bergerac is one of the shows Purcell briefly views whilst channel surfing.
- One of George's toys is Serpentera from Mighty Morphin Power Rangers.
- Another toy is the Shadow Force Megazord Mode Red from Power Rangers Time Force.
- Another toy is Optimus Prime of Transformers.
- The Doctor mentions three of his favourite bedtime stories as a child: The Three Little Sontarans, The Emperor Dalek's New Clothes and Snow White and the Seven Keys to Doomsday.
- The Doctor again references his age, extending a common English idiom. "I've been around the block a few times. More than a few. They've knocked down the blocks I've been round and rebuilt them as bigger blocks. Super blocks. I've been round them as well."
- The Doctor finds a hatred of clowns understandable.
- Mrs Rossiter mentions that she can go "up and down them stairs like Sherpa Tenzing".
- The Doctor is amused that a man in the building has ten cats.
- George thinks the old lady across the way is a witch.
Foods and beverages
- The Doctor and Alex drink tea.
- The Doctor asks for Jammie Dodgers.
- Amy and Rory have mugs of some beverage in the TARDIS control room.
- The Doctor and Alex prepare kippers for breakfast.
- This episode had the working titles House Call and What are Little Boys Made of?.
- This was originally going to be the fourth episode of the series, but was moved to the second half as Steven Moffat felt that the first half was "too dark". This necessitated minor changes to the episode. A scene with Madame Kovarian was removed, and the ending with the data file from Let's Kill Hitler was added. This means Karen Gillan, when she filmed the episode, was, in fact, performing as the Ganger version of Amy. The Doctor's line at the end of the episode "Well, it's good to be all back together again, in the flesh" referring to Amy's recent turn into a peg doll was written with the intention of also applying to Amy being a Ganger.
- The scene where the Doctor and Alex are being sucked into the cupboard is very similar to the movie Poltergeist where the daughter is sucked into the spirit realm through her bedroom cupboard.
- The Doctor emphasises his age frequently in the episode, in thematic contrast with the core ideas of childhood fears and the toy imagery.
- When Alex is looking at pictures, an announcer from the television can be heard. She says that he is watching BBC One on Saturday night, the same channel and day Doctor Who is on.
- One of the children's stories the Doctor mentions, Snow White and the Seven Keys to Doomsday (which puns on both Snow White and the Seven Dwarves and Doctor Who and the Daleks in Seven Keys to Doomsday/Seven Keys to Doomsday), shares its title with a story in the then-recently published Doctor Who The Official Annual 2012. Had Night Terrors aired as originally planned in the first half of the season, the story would have been published afterwards (suggesting a probable tie-in with the episode). Another story by this name featured in the anthology Time Lord Fairy Tales.
- This is the first episode written by Mark Gatiss to not be set primarily in the past.
- This is the first full-length episode since Fear Her in which there are no casualties at all; each "victim" is seen returned to life by the end of the episode.
- George is stated to have just turned eight and his birthday is given, through a photo of him as a newborn, as January 11, 2003 (or not long before). Alex mentions that George "was eight in January", with this phrasing combined with the reference to him having 'just' turned eight indicating that this episode most likely takes place in February 2011. This places it prior to most of the present-day events of series 6, notably including the Doctor's 'death' on April 22, 2011.
- UK Overnight: 5.5 million
- UK Final: 7.07 million
- Amy will be turned into a doll. This was proven true.
- Dyrham House, Bristol
- When Amy and Rory are first exploring the dollhouse, their torch begins blinking. The shot cuts between Rory, Amy, and a closeup of the torch. In the closeup, the light is in Rory's left hand (you can see his wedding ring), but in the rest of the shots, it's in his right hand.
- While making tea, the Doctor clearly says, "You see these eyes? They're old eyes." The subtitles replace the last two words with "all lies".
- When the Doctor and Alex are being pulled into the cupboard, everything in George's room topples over. However, as soon as the cupboard slams shut, it's all upright again.
- Inside the dollhouse, Rory initially thinks he and Amy are "dead again". (TV: Amy's Choice, Cold Blood, The Pandorica Opens) He also believes at one point that the TARDIS is altering time and space again. (TV: The Doctor's Wife)
- The Doctor asks for a Jammie Dodger. (TV: Victory of the Daleks, The Impossible Astronaut)
- When the Doctor explains to Alex that George is using a perception filter, he stops in the hallway to look in a mirror and makes the same face he did when he first saw his reflection. (TV: The Vampires of Venice)
- The Doctor performs his odd greeting kiss with Claire. (TV: The Lodger)
- The sonic screwdriver doesn't work on wood. (TV: Silence in the Library, The Hungry Earth, The Curse of the Black Spot, The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe)
- The information of the Doctor's death is seen. (TV: Let's Kill Hitler)
- The Eighth Doctor was previously turned into a doll by the Celestial Toymaker in a manner similar to Amy. (AUDIO: Solitaire)
- The Doctor again shows a connection to and concern for children. (TV: The Eleventh Hour, The Beast Below, The Hungry Earth, A Christmas Carol, The Impossible Astronaut, The Curse of the Black Spot)
- The Doctor asks if there are any jelly babies he can have. (TV: Robot, et al.)
- The Fourth Doctor was shrunken down and chased through a doll's house by peg dolls in AUDIO: The Dead Shoes.
- Rory suspects that George's message could be junk mail. Junk mail has made its way into the TARDIS before. (TV: The Greatest Show in the Galaxy)
Home video releases
The episode was later released in the complete series 6, which included the first and second half of the series, was released on DVD and Blu Ray on the 21 November 2011.