Episode 7.09 Writer: Neil Cross Director: Jamie Payne
THE ONE WHERE Caliburn House, 1974. The Doctor and Clara stumble across a ghost story which turns out to be much more than a simple paranormal parable.
VERDICT You could be forgiven for fearing the worst after seeing Neil Cross’s name pop up at the end of the vortex after his, let’s just say “divisive”, debut episode. His second script is much better. And though “Hide” is many things – creepy, oddly-paced, poignant, confusing – what it isn’t is a ghost story.
Despite the Scooby-Doo-spectre-haunting-the-hallways premise, the time-traveller-trapped-in-a-pocket-universe solution is squarely based in science fiction, with a dash of paranormal around the peripheries. It’s this aspect of the episode which works least successfully, leading to more questions than satisfying answers (why did Hila crash-land in the pocket universe? Who, or what, created it? What’s the deal with The Crooked Man?) Where “Hide” excels is that it has a charming little love story at its heart.
Say what you will about too much New Who being set on terra firma, but more often than not it’s the episodes with identifiable human stories to tell that are the most affecting. The blossoming romance between Alec Palmer and Emma Grayling (guest stars Dougray Scott and Jessica Raine, both excellent) is full of wonderfully resonant moments: a stolen glance here, a loaded statement there. If you’ve ever been through the early, awkward stages of a relationship it’s endearing stuff.
The episode’s best scene (arguably) has almost the polar opposite impact. Clara’s moving moment of realisation about how the Doctor must see humanity after a seconds-long journey from the birth to the heat-death of our world (see above) is heart-breaking, and almost manages to take all the joy out of time travel in a big blue box. Matt Smith and Jenna-Louise Coleman have proven their comic chemistry works time and time again, but Clara asking “And you’re okay with that?” puts their dramatic chops to the test. It’s a real lump-in-the-throat moment, the Doctor left dumbstruck to the point that the only answer he can muster is “wibbly vortex”. Predictably the pair rise to the challenge of portraying a clearly rattled companion and Time Lord with aplomb.
Equally predictable is that it’s a luscious-looking episode, with an especially effective first half set entirely in a creepy candelit manor. It never quite ratchets the tension up enough that you could honestly call it “scary”, however, and by the half-way point it all but abandons the slow-burn-atmospherics for breakneck universe base-jumping and cross country racing around foggy forests. Naturally, there’s a monster to deal with too. “The Crooked Man” (as we learn in the credits) and his stranded love don’t have much of a role to play in the story; in a way their inclusion feels like one twist too many. What’s admirable is the obscure way they’re shot – extremely up close, at a distance or in the shadows – while their movements have frames edited out, giving them unnervingly alien rhythms. A little bit of restraint goes a long way.
Alec and Emma weren’t impressed with the Doctor’s Carlisle snaps.
INFLUENCES In an interview with SFX writer Neil Cross mentioned Quatermass and 1972 horror The Stone Tape as influences on this episode.
WHAT IF? In the same interview Cross mentions that Quatermass would have been the guest star this week, had pesky rights issues not put the kibosh on the idea. One can dream…
PEDANTS CORNER The Health and Safety Act was passed in 1974, but the phrase arguably didn’t pass into popular parlance until many years later – perhaps odd then that Alec and Emma don’t question the Doctor’s mention of it at the beginning of the episode…
LMAO Clara’s conversation with, er, herself via the TARDIS Voice Visual Interface is one corporeal upgrade away from a catfight. What does the big blue box have against the Doctor’s new companion?
“Call me smaller on the outside, will you?”
WORDS WITH FRIENDS The Doctor seems unusually obsessed with verbs this week. I can only presume he finally downloaded one of the thousand Scrabble-derived apps to the Sonic.
SONIC DOOM Despite its numerous appearances this week the Sonic isn’t really used for much beyond giving the odd reading, a big improvement on “Akhaten”.
FACT ATTACK This was the first episode which Jenna-Louise Coleman recorded as the third iteration of Clara Oswald, and it was written and filmed before “The Rings Of Akhaten”.
DID YOU SPOT? The psychic-power-enhancing Metebelis Crystal popped up in publicity images before the episode aired. 1,000 SFX Points* if you recognised it as the device from Third Doctor stories “The Green Death” and “Planet Of The Spiders” before you even watched the episode.
*Note, SFX Points are only redeemable against bragging rights.
“Does my head look big in this?”
CONTINUITY Speaking of Metebelis, the Eleventh Doctor pronounces the planet’s name in a very different way to the Third Doctor (Me-TEB-elis as opposed to Mete-BEE-lis). An inconsistency? Then again, he is notorious for being a little slow so you can’t blame him for the odd mistake.
CONTINUITY 2 Nice to see the Tenth Doctor’s spacesuit and the Eleventh’s favourite catchphrase making a return though.
IT’S WOSSISNAME! You may recognise Dougray Scott from Mission: Impossible 2 and The Day Of The Triffids miniseries. Catch him next in Netflix werewolf series Hemlock Grove.
IT’S WOSSERNAME! Jessica Raine is probably best known for her role in smash BBC series Call The Midwife but she also popped up in Hammer ghost story The Woman In Black. She’s playing first Doctor Who producer Verity Lambert in Mark Gatiss’s upcoming An Adventure In Space And Time.
BEHIND THE SCENES Director Jamie Payne makes his Who debut with “Hide”. He’s previously helmed episodes of Primeval, Survivors, Ashes To Ashes and Outcasts.
BEST LINES Doctor: “Excuse me, sorry to interrupt the rest of your life.”
Clara: “So, when are we going?” Doctor: “That is good. That is top notch.” Clara: “And the answer is?” Doctor: “We’re going always.”
Clara: “Say we actually find her, what do we say?” Doctor: “We ask her how she came to be… whatever she is?” Clara: “Why?” Doctor: “Because I don’t know and ignorance is, erm, what’s the opposite of bliss?” Clara: “Carlisle.” Doctor: “Yes. Yes, Carlisle. Ignorance is Carlisle.”