Ignore the scary faced dolls, the comedy horror background of episode writer Mark Gatiss (The Unquiet Dead) and the fact that ‘Monsters are real’ – what Night Terrors is really about is family.
That’s according to guest star Daniel Mays who has spoken to Digital Spy about the role of fathers and the things that haunt little children.
Like all Doctor Who guest stars Mays was first attracted to playing a role in the series by the calibre of other actors who’ve appeared in the series but having read his former Funland co-stars script it was the theme of fathers learning to accept their sons that made him sign up:
“I enjoy Doctor Who but it had this great [family] story at its core. The human element. I’ve got a 5-year-old, so I can relate to that. That was the key that got me involved…the episode does have this great journey. Alex has a great journey and does find this strength within – a real heroic quality. I think ultimately it’s a moralistic story about fathers accepting who their kids are, regardless of what fears they have.”
It was Mays five year-old son Milo that first got the Ashes to Ashes star into Doctor Who:
“I was aware of it, but it was only through watching it with Milo that I got more and more into it. Those last episodes with David Tennant when he regenerated were really fantastic pieces of television – really moving. To be part of that was an honour, really.”
Naturally appearing in an episode designed to chill your children there comes the matter of monsters and Night Terrors has the Peg Dolls:
“The great thing about the writing is that it taps into childhood fears. Kids have got such active imaginations and they’re scared of so many different things. It really will tap into that, with the Dolls and everything else.
I wouldn’t say they’re grotesque in any way. They won’t scare you out of your skin. They’re over-sized and they just sort of creep towards you. They don’t ever run, they just keep moving towards you and in the end they’ll get you! It just ties into those childhood memories you have. [Dolls] are meant to be sweet and loving and fun, but they’re not – certainly not in this episode!”
Night Terrors airs this Saturday at 7 pm on BBC One and at 9/8c on BBC America.