Just as we’re pondering what could be behind the Doctor and Nardole’s mysteriously large vault doors, the show presents us with a couple more — all of which are located in Bill and her friends’ spooky new house.
That’s right, Bill is finally moving out of her foster mother’s apartment — and while no real reason is given, having met the woman once I can see why. The only catch is she’ll be moving in with five new housemates. This proves to be a bit of a problem when house hunting, because Shireen, Felicity, Harry, Pavel, and Paul (not sure about Bill herself) all want a lot of space for a low price. LOL. But just as they’re about to give up at the estate agent’s office, they run into an older gentleman who looks like he’s stepped out of a Scooby Doo cartoon (guest star David Suchet) and is looking to rent his ginormous and mostly wood-furnished house. And despite my shouted suggestions to ask about the washer-dryer situation or whether he’ll be living on the premises, it doesn’t take the group long after a cursory visit to sign the contract to call this place home, sweet home.
And within no time, the house (or something in it) claims its first victim: Pavel. Not that anyone else notices. They’re all trying to charge their phones or see why they don’t have reception. Thankfully, the Doctor, who helped move Bill in, is still around for when the house’s creepy creakiness ramps up. As he tucks into the Chinese food they ordered and cranks up Little Mix on Bill’s Spotify playlist, Suchet’s Landlord makes an appearance. He first uses a tuning fork on the walls, and then when he fails to tell the Doctor who the current English Prime Minister is, he suggests they both leave.
And despite Bill also asking that he go, the Doctor stays put, which is absolutely the right choice in this case as the house first takes Paul (who Shireen had a crush on despite his interest in Bill), and then Felicity, whose claustrophobia saw her escape through a window, only to be swallowed by the grounds.
Later, Bill and Shireen find Pavel half absorbed into the wall — not unlike Ursula in the pavement back in Season 2’s “Love & Monsters” — to which the Landlord quickly puts a stop. Having witnessed a wall swallow their new friend, both girls run towards the tower, with Bill figuring out how to get in (a book on the shelf!). Once up there, they run into Eliza, the Landlord’s daughter… only she’s turned into wood completely.
Elsewhere in the house, the Doctor and Paul discover that the house is infested with intergalactic wood lice (a.k.a. “dryads”) that can pass through objects on a cellular level. After they swallow Paul, the Doctor convinces the Landlord that maybe as a “doctor” he can actually help save Eliza, who these bugs have been keeping alive. They arrive in Eliza’s room just a few seconds after the bugs have taken Shireen. In a bid to save Bill, the Doctor attempts to reason with the Landlord, asking how this happened to his daughter. But in getting him to talk (about how Eliza’s music box activated the bugs he’d found in the garden), it allows Bill to exercise her deductive skills and figure out that the Landlord’s a little too young to be Eliza’s dad…
And with that suggestion, the Doctor uses his little gray cells to figure out that the Landlord is not her father, but her SON! Just like that, my reverse Norman Bates situation becomes an actual Norman Bates situation. Talk about a reverse: “Are you my mummy?”
Eager to protect his secret and keep his mother alive, the Landlord turns on Bill and the Doctor. But they quickly point out, rightly, what is the point of living if you’re not experiencing anything? With that, Eliza steps up as a parent, turning the alien wood lice on her and her son instead. She also returns Shireen and the other housemates, because just this once (this season) everybody lives! Alive, everyone rushes out of the house, only to see it crumble before their very eyes, along with the belongings and their security deposit.