Today’s episode of Doctor Who, “Night Terrors,” is one of the more genuinely spooky and scary there has been for a while. The typical banter of the Doctor and his companions lightens things up. But the episode delves into the roots of human (and alien) fears. Spoilers (and terrors) lie ahead in this post, so if you haven’t seen the episode yet, then turn back now! But for the most part, this post will be reflecting on monsters and terrors in real life – which may be all the more reason to stop reading.
In this episode, the Doctor responds to a distress call from a frightened boy, afraid of monsters in his cupboard.
As the Doctor says in the episode, “monsters are real.”
Yet in this episode, the monsters and countless terrifying things are created by the boy (actually an alien) who turns the things he fears into truly terrifying things.
In real life, it is indeed our terror that is often what turns things that we could learn not to fear into things that terrorize us while awake and in our dreams.
But the real monsters that trouble adults most are not aliens or vampires or mythical creatures of this or that sort, but other people, capable of doing unspeakable things to other human beings.
I have often wondered whether it is the minds of children that turn such
“night terrors” into “monsters” or whether it is parents who, in an attempt to keep children safe without causing them to lose any ability to trust other human beings, turned the threat of what other people might do into monsters.
Not that long ago they had a TV interview with the woman who, as a young girl, was abducted and kept as a prisoner and sex slave by a man and his wife for eighteen years. It is horrific to think about what she was put through, and yet the remarkable thing that made the most impression on me was the resilience of this human being.
There are truly dangers and terrors in this world. But it is up to us whether we allow those terrors to turn us into sources of terror, not only as our outlook changes due to fear but also as we perhaps resort to terrible things in order to keep other terrible things at bay.
In the episode, the little boy’s deepest fear is that his parents will send him away. And a father’s expression of love and protection for his son – even knowing that he is an alien – manages to turn the terrified and terrifying child into a happy and normal one (as far as aliens posing as human children go).
It’s corny and trite, on one level. But it is also deeply true as well.
What did you think of “Night Terrors”?