Doctor Who #911: Hide

"To you, I'm a ghost. We're all ghosts to you."
TECHNICAL SPECS: First aired Apr.20 2013.

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.

- 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.


Toby'c said...

I can certainly confirm a conspicuous Five reference in The Crimson Horror, though not sure whether the rest of the episode is as close as the previous few.

Siskoid said...

Victoriana, especially when it delves into Sherlock Holmes territory, always feels like 4th Doctor territory to me, it's true.

Bill D. said...

My wife and I both agreed that we would've liked this a lot more if the ghost had actually been a ghost, and even more still if the monster had just been a monster and not something sad because he lost his girlfriend.

So much potential here and it just kind of fell flat. Like most of this half-season for us, actually.

Siskoid said...

Series 7 is probably the weakest since Series 2.

In principle, I like that the second half offers so many one-offs, each different from the others, but in practice, most of them aren't quite as memorable or affecting as I'd like them to be.

F. Douglas Wall said...

I spotted the homages to prior Doctors as well.

Rings of Akhaten has the granddaughter mention for Doc1, Cold War has the Ice Warrior for Doc2, Hide has the Metebellis Crystal for Doc3. I call Journey the Doc4 episode, since it was under Doc4 that the TARDIS interior got the most expansion. Crimson Horror had the "Brave Heart" for Doc5.

Doc6 is curiously absent, since Nightmare in Silver was clearly a Doc7 reference (using the word Silver to describe the Cybermen in the episode title and playing chess to defeat the bad guy.)

Siskoid said...

Perhaps 6 and 7 are switched. Doc6 did visit in his tomb just as 11 did (in Revelation of the Daleks).

Madeley said...

I'm behind on the internet at the moment, hence the scattershot commenting. I really liked this one; the Gothic vibe and the explicit callbacks to 70s ghost stories and Nigel Kneale made it feel like an episode specifically aimed at the kind of things I love.

To my mind, Luther's Neil Cross is current Doctor Who's most valuable writer in an otherwise pretty rocky couple of seasons. It was good to see a positive write-up for Rings of Akhaten here, too, because I really enjoyed that episode only to see a flood of negative comments about it online immediately afterwards. I wonder sometimes if I'm watching completely different episodes to other people.

Siskoid said...

Yes, I remember that. The usual Whovian thing of hating Doctor Who.

As I've often said, you've really got two basic kinds of Doctor Who fans. Fans of Who Entire, who love the show in all its forms; and fans of a specific Doctor/era, who hate everything but their own version of the show. I'm of the former persuasion.

Anonymous said...

The TARDIS disliking Clara was introduced in Rings of Akhaten.

Siskoid said...

A locked door? In retrospect maybe, but at the time, just looked like she didn't have a key, and Clara was shouting at the TARDIS as if it could open them without it.

Andrew Gilbertson said...

"Will I find heavy references to 5, 6 and 7 in the last three episodes of the season?"
5, yes. (And I felt like it was 5th-Doc appropriate with a 'Visitation' vibe.) 6... derailed by Gaiman. 7... not specifically that I could see. (No love for #6 and #7, hwo unprecedented.) I had thought the fun apttern ended at #5... but I hadn't considered that Night of the Doctor was 8. So that's cool.

"Perhaps 6 and 7 are switched. Doc6 did visit in his tomb just as 11 did (in Revelation of the Daleks)."
Hmmmm. Hadn't thought about it that way. Still, the lack of overt reference to the point of being missed without clever analysis is still disappointing.

Clara's TARDIS antagonism bugged me, becuase it was 'established' in Ahkatan when the TARDIS wouldn't open the doors for her without a key, which she took to mean the TARDIS didn't like her... even though it doesn't do that for ANY companion. And then, suddenly, in this episode, her certainty of being disliked, based on an illogical premise, is confirmed. It doesn't make sense to me.
...Which was already discussed in the last few comments. I'm behind on everything this thread. :-)

At first, I wanted to object that Season 7 was the weakest since 2... but I'm not so sure. I found a lot of 'meh' in 6 (things like Girl Who Waited and God Complex which didn't grab me as they grabbed you), but... well, if you don't count the gap year (weakest of all), that may be true. I would add the caveat that- for me at least- the high points in 7 were much higher than the high points in 2, which is why I think I remember it better. Overall, I found 7a to be a lot stronger than 7b. (Despite an unabashed love of Cold War and Name of the Doctor and a (rare, in fandom, it seems) enjoyment of Nightmare in Silver.


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