"To you, I'm a ghost. We're all ghosts to you."
IN THIS ONE... A ghost story in 1974. A lost soul in a pocket universe. And the one thing that doesn't end is love. Not always.
REVIEW: An atmospheric ghost story that of course can't really be about a ghost, but writer Neil Cross is doubly clever in the way he makes it science fiction AND in turning into a pair of love stories. The idea that the Gast of Caliburn House is a time traveler trapped in a slow-moving pocket universe is a fun one because it enables the Doctor to rifle through the whole of Earth's life span to solve her puzzle. This in turn gives Clara a moment not unlike Rose's in The End of the World, except it resonates much better with the story that contains it AND Clara's seasonal arc. We're dealing with a ghost who is a time traveler, just as she's a time traveler who thinks of herself as a ghost in relation to the Doctor and/or any future point in time. And there's the extra layer of the Doctor having seen her die twice already, so that she really is a ghost to him. Dramatic irony is piled on.
Before she played Verity Lambert in the Doctor Who biopic, Jessica Raine was psychic sweetheart Emma Grayling, an empath who can see ghosts, but can't be sure she isn't projecting her feelings on former intelligence agent Alex Palmer who looks much too young to have participated in WWII. Their love story is perhaps the weakest part of the episode. If Emma were projecting, that would seem a lot more dramatic to me. And Palmer's ghost hunting being motivated by guilt, trying to prove there's an afterlife for the soldiers he sent to their deaths, is far more interesting than the rather obvious romance, and mirrors the Doctor's own war guilt. Making the ghost their descendant seems silly and unnecessary as well. And the super-ugly monsters in love? Okay, but I'm not sure it's completely earned. Better is the Doctor's hidden agenda for even going there, trying to get a psychic read on his mysterious companion (she checks out).
Ultimately, the episode's greatest quality is its direction by Jamie Payne. Not only are the 70s given a faded color palette, but the spooky horror stuff is wonderful. Hide oozes atmosphere, whether we're in the house or in the pocket universe's woods. The Sarah Jane Adventures had a haunted house story much like this one in its fourth season, but Doctor Who is allowed to be a little scarier. Strangely, we're also introduced to the idea that the TARDIS doesn't much like Clara. Why is this suddenly an issue? Not only are we four episodes in, but knowing what we now know, why would the TARDIS have problems with the Doctor's protector across time? It can't be her complexity as a spacetime event, because River, Amy, Donna and Rose could all fit that description and never had problems. Is she on immortal Jack's level? It works for the plot, in that it creates an extra obstacle for Clara to rescue the Doctor, but then the blue box allows itself to be piloted by the impossible girl. The next episode does a lot more with that antagonism, but has it been introduced just a touch late?
THEORIES: Is it me or have the episode since The Rings of Akhaten been counting up through the Doctor's incarnations? Rings had the Doctor returning to a world he visited with Susan, and an atypical "cultural encounter" story. Cold War had the HADS and an Ice Warrior, both 2nd Doctor concepts. Hide is set in 1974 during the UNIT era and the Doctor uses a Metebelis III crystal (oops, mispronounced!) to help Emma focus her powers. Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS is next and is explores the bowels of the TARDIS just like the 4th Doctor story The Invasion of Time did. Keep counting up and if you include the mini-episodes, Paul McGann shows up right on cue, at #8. The little Time War skit is Doc9's, and 11 teams up with 10 in the one after that. Will I find heavy references to 5, 6 and 7 in the last three episodes of the season? I'll freely admit the show is on an Anniversary referential rampage, and the last three episodes do include things from other eras. Cold War has a singularly 80s plot, not unlike Doc5's Warriors of the Deep, and Hide starts with the Doctor and Clara walking into a gothic house from out of a rainstorm, just like Doc4 and Sarah Jane in The Brain of Morbius. And yet, the progression from 1 to 4 and from 8 to 11 (skipping the War Doctor, of course) gets strong emphasis. I just need to confirm 5-7 in the days ahead.
REWATCHABILITY: Medium - It's all atmosphere, not that there's anything wrong with that. Actually, strike that: Cross also plays with his themes well enough, I'm just not sure I like the outcome as much as I do the set-up.