Doctor Who: Hide [Review]
Do you like ghost stories? Or do you enjoy the prickling sensation on the back of your neck when something is watching you from a dark corner? Ghosts and monsters and shadows are a plenty in this one.
Here we have what could quite possibly be an episode of Doctor Who that is scarier than “Blink”. I’m not entirely sure about that, but I have refused to watch episodes of Doctor Who with the lights off since that episode. Nevertheless, this one definitely has me looking over my shoulder thinking twice about walking into the dark hallway to visit the bathroom, which is unfortunate at the moment. What I mean to say is this one was really very good. If I had one complaint, it would be that it was simply over too fast and now I need to watch it again.
…as soon as I find another lamp to turn on… and a few friends to watch it with me.
Warning: Episode spoilers below.
Its 1974, Professor Alec Palmer and his assistant Emma Grayling are investigating a ghost, known as the Witch of the Well, in the Caliburn mansion. Emma, a psychic, uses her talents to open a connection and summon the ghost. It’s all very interesting and spooky and then the ghost actually shows up, and it’s actually quite frightening. Then, as soon as the ghost vanishes, The Doctor and Clara knock on the door, announcing themselves as Ghostbusters. After a good bit of fun in typical doctor fashion, a detail of the ghost really piques his interest. In each photograph of the ghost is in roughly the same position. Now this makes The Doctor very excited, a little too excited, it’s unnerving. With candelabra in hand, really, you can’t do a proper ghost hunt in a mansion without a candelabra lighting your way, The Doctor and Clara set out to find the ghost. They feel like they are being watched, like you do in a haunted mansion and The Doctor finds a spot that is noticeably colder than the rest of the house. Without warning, the house gets cold, and all hell breaks loose, a think black disc appears and what looks like a forest with a ghost in the doorway and a ghost that seems to be screaming for help. When things calm down there is a large “Help Me” scrawled on the wall, which quickly vanishes. There is always something about a ghost screaming for help that makes me nope, this was a big bunch of nope. However, there is little in the universe that kicks The Doctor into action faster than a cry for help, so alright let’s go.
The Doctor and Clara take the TARDIS to photograph this same spot during various points in the earth’s history, and discover the ghost is someone trapped in a pocket universe. He also discovers the individual is Hila Tukurian, a lost time traveler, and a big old monster. There are some pretty interesting things here, and some fairly poignant conversation between Clara and The Doctor. I think this is shaping up to be a very interesting relationship, especially when you add the dynamic of the TARDIS not liking Clara. It will be really interesting to see how this plays out, but I don’t want to take too much time to analyze this. Now The Doctor can’t use the TARDIS to pop over to this different universe as its energy would be drained and the universe would collapse, and it would be too easy. So he rigs a system to open the wormhole between the two universes and jumps though with a good study rope.
The pacing of this episode had been pretty pokey before this point, it all moved quickly, but in fits and starts. Now things move into an all out sprint. When the Doctor crosses over, he finds himself in a forested area, a small bit of land floating in a void. He meets Hila, who warns him that something else is there, following them. They race to the gateway; The Doctor insists Hila go first, and she is successfully saved, but the gateway closes, leaving the Doctor trapped in the forest. Clara, being clever, runs to the TARDIS. The TARDIS, being a stubborn old box (cow), doesn’t like Clara and refuses to let her in. Clara and the TARDIS have a brief argument, and we are reminded that the TARDIS has a very distinctive personality. After that argument, Clara is able to convince the TARDIS that a few seconds is long enough to pop into the alternate universe and pick up the doctor. Sadly, it’s a thoroughly predictable rescue, but it was fun enough to watch to keep it from detracting from the episode as a whole. At this point, the episode is effectively over, but there are still lose ends that need to be tied up. I’m always happy to have loose ends tied up. One of those ends relates to why The Doctor is there in the first place. Apparently the whole point in visiting was so that Emma could get a read on Clara, to which she reports nothing unusual, other than she is more frightened than she lets on. The other loose end is that of the monster. It would seem that the monster was not actually malicious, but just trying to get home, and the ghost in the mansion wasn’t just the echo of the lost time traveler, but the mate of the lost monster (I believe they called them crooked men). Naturally, The Doctor can’t leave them abandoned, and sets off to rescue them, we get a good look at this thing, and honestly, it’s about the creepiest thing I have ever seen.
Last minute rescue aside, this was one hell of a good episode. Watch it again, with the lights on, it’s just as spooky the second time. Hats off to Neil Cross (who also wrote The Rings of Akhaten), he really rose the bar here, I look forward to seeing what he has to show us next. In addition, director Jamie Payne, I believe his first, turned out some marvelous (and subtle) performances from the cast. The subtlety of the direction here I didn’t give quite the credit it deserves it was superb.
Until next week, keep on whoing…. No? I thought I’d try a signoff. I don’t suppose “whoing” is a very flattering term. You just keep doing whatever it is you happen to do most of the week, best as you can.