Two scary stories in a row from Doctor Who. They must really be trying to harken back to those days when children would watch from between their fingers or from hiding behind the sofa. And “Hide” manages to be scary in all those ways we love stories to be scary. Set in an old, eerie looking manor where wailing and knocking can be heard and every once in a while there’s an apparition of a screaming woman. Staying at the house hoping to discover the ghost – or ghaaast – is Professor Alec Palmer (Dougray Scott), a former WWII spy now living with guilt and working as a paranormal investigator, and Emma Grayling (Jessica Raines), an empathic psychic and associate, or rather companion, to the professor. The whole premise is like something out of a 70s horror film – think The Legend of Hell House – and The Doctor and Clara simply stumble in, looking to do some ghostbusting.
If “The Rings of Akhaten” and “Cold War”, while good, were on the weaker end of the Who spectrum, “Hide” is definitely a swing back to the strong end. The setup relies heavily on the ghost hunters premise and it allows us to dive right into the investigation. Which is quite creepy. Much of the photographic evidence gathered by the Professor and Emma look like scenes out of The Ring video, with a ghostly white figure and its stretched, screaming face. Doctor Who has really excelled at creating unique atmosphere’s for each of its episodes this season. Whether it’s the thrilling, fast-paced city of London in “The Bells of Saint John”, or the beautiful, vibrant “Akhaten”, to the claustrophobic, damp, and bleak “Cold War.” Out of all, “Hide” is probably the best. That manor house is ideal with its creaky hallways and shrouded rooms, and the “surrounding” woods of the pocket universe are equally as spooky.
Professor Alec and Emma were adorable. Their characters were interesting with complex back stories the show did a wonderful job at getting across quickly. Within the first few minutes of the episode I was shipping them. Good to see I wasn’t the only one as both The Doctor and Clara picked up on the mutual attraction. And I guess, at first, I was thinking we’d get some Doctor/Companion commentary through the interactions of Alec and Emma, but the show went a different way with it. “Hide” really is a love story, masquerading as a ghost story. Even for the monsters! And for being quite the typical, scary story with how it relied on typical scary moments – the ghost in the glass pane, the creature appearing in a lightning flash, the bit about who’s holding whose hand – “Hide” has a rather upbeat ending. Everybody lives! Haven’t been able to say that about Who story for a while.
But, can we take a moment to appreciate how fuckin’ creepy those monster were! Seriously, I think they’re the creepiest things Who‘s ever come up with.
It’s interesting to note this was the first episode Jenna-Louise Coleman filmed as Clara. This Clara, the modern Clara, and Coleman already has her all figured out. She’s still baffling to The Doctor, acts braver than she feels, and is sympathetic enough to reach out and comfort others. I liked that The Doctor had to dare Clara to investigate the spooky house and when he was trapped in the pocket universe she risked it all in order to save him. Clara is at times stupidly brave and she never wants The Doctor to see her scared, for fear, I think, he won’t keep bringing her along.
There were more instances of Clara/TARDIS antaganism, Clara feeling the TARDIS is looking at her funny and the TARDIS mocking Clara with its visual interface, and I just know this is all coming to head next week. “Hide” also had another little Clara moment that stood out to me, one I wonder may become significant later. After both Clara and Emma turn up their noses as the whiskey, Clara says it’s, “the eleventh most disgusting thing ever invented.” Hmm, why eleventh? Is that like chapter eleven being the best, but it’ll make you cry, from “The Bells of Saint John”? ‘Course, it could be as simple as Moffat has turned me into a Who-spiracy nut, looking for clues absolutely everywhere.
“We’re all ghosts to you. We must be nothing.”
“You are the only mystery worth solving.”
The highlight of “Hide” comes in a moment where Clara comes to a realization all companions must eventually. Their lives, their human lives occur in the blink of an eye to someone as old and enduring as The Doctor. It’s a tough realization to come to terms with, but Clara handles it beautifully. And Matt Smith, I don’t know how he does it, but he’s capable of making The Doctor feel so old for an actor who’s really quite young. When Clara says, “We must be nothing,” you can just see the age and all those years pass over his face, remembering all those companions who were anything but nothing. And I wonder if his comment, “You are the only mystery worth solving,” was directed at humans in general or Clara directly.
This episode gives us more fuel for the “impossible girl” fire as we learn the entire reason The Doctor and Clara go ghost hunting is to learn from Emma the empath if she gets any weird vibes from Clara. The Doctor doesn’t trust Clara, not fully, and I wouldn’t be surprised if that plays a role in the TARDIS’ inherit mistrust of her. He’s still trying to figure her out. Why is she so non-plussed? How could she appear multiple times throughout history? He isn’t being entirely honest with her either and after the warning from Emma, “There’s a sliver of ice in his heart,” if I were Clara, I’d be wary.
Next week it’s the highly anticipated, “Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS,” which looks promising not only because we’ll see and learn more of the TARDIS than ever before, but because I believe parts of this “impossible girl” mystery will begin to unravel.
Doctor Who airs on BBC America at 8pm EST Saturdays.