Doctor Who, series 7 continues! We’re on episode 4 of 2013’s run, and episode 10 of series 7. Hide, written by Neil Cross (who also wrote The Rings of Akhaten, two weeks ago) and directed by Jamie Payne, who has made his debut into the world of Doctor Who. I have never been a great fan of ghost stories, particularly the sort where all the action is contained within one dull haunted house – which has been done so many times before – but it soon became clear this would would be quite different.
The actual ‘haunted house’ segments at the beginning were also better than I expected them to be. The characters of Alec and Emma were more interesting than the ‘ghostbusters weirdos’ I expected, and there were some genuine frights. The ghost in particular… Ah, that face. Though I found the constant lightning distracting, perhaps for obvious reasons. Hide, like last week’s Cold War, is a historical story, set in 1974 (the year Tom Baker became the Doctor, fact-fans!), though this wasn’t a very important element of the story. It did mean a reliance on analogue photography, which gave us that great scene where the Doctor and Alec talked over developing photos. It also made the use of candles for lighting more realistic, as this particular house may not have been inhabited for some time and therefore not had electricity installed.
The story really went up a notch (“top notch”, as the Doctor was keen on saying) when the Doctor and Clara took the TARDIS to the same location throughout history, to snap pictures of the changing ghost. We saw the Earth at the beginning of its history, a prehistoric jungle populated with now-extinct life, the mansion in Victorian times and then the same spot at the ending of the world. This gave the episode a much greater scope than I expected, and while scope does not always equal quality, it saved Hide from being the rehash of ghost ideas I had been expecting. And then, the pocket universe! Such a good idea, and incredibly well realised. The trees, shrouded in fog and harbouring a monster, created a very creepy and claustrophobic atmosphere. My only reservations with the plot is the theme of love, which seemed shoe-horned in at places. I did like the ending, where the Doctor returned to the pocket universe to rescue the ‘Romeo’ creature and to reunite it with its mate, though it was rather rushed. I know it would have completely ruined the tone and the flow of narrative, but I’d have quite liked to see two of these hideous creatures in the TARDIS!
Speaking of the TARDIS, it behaved quite oddly in this episode. There is the continuing arc of the TARDIS’ hostility to Clara, but this verged on sarkyness at times, bizarrely. When she addressed the TARDIS voice visual interface and it took the image of Clara herself, making that jibe about being someone Clara esteems – what was that about? Also, it’s been commented that having a TARDIS voice interface thing, particularly when it shows bits of personality, ruins the tragic ending to The Doctor’s Wife where it was assumed the Doctor would never again be able to speak to it. Just niggles, but still things which stuck out.
I am really enjoying the double act of the Doctor and Clara. Matt Smith and Jenna-Louise Coleman just fit into the roles of Doctor and companion – staggeringly so, when you consider this was the first episode of Coleman’s to be filmed (Asylum of the Daleks aside). Their ‘banter’ may be a bit wearisome at times, but it is also quite endearing. They also have quite a balanced relationship; I do like Clara continuing to question the Doctor, this time wondering how he can see people as anything other than ghosts when he has the whole of time at his disposal, on top of Emma’s warning that he has ‘ice in his heart’. This is definitely setting up for something in the finalé. Another thing I love about Clara is that she reacts realistically. She has seen the end of the world, and that grief, that confusion, it stays with her throughout the episode. This is what Rose was like at the beginning of series 1 in 2005, before the character became ruined, and its very refreshing to see. Dougray Scott and Jessica Raine were also great as Alec and Emma, playing the awkward couple-to-be realistically and with conviction. I look forward to seeing Raine play Verity Lambert in An Adventure in Time and Space later this year.
The direction from newcomer Payne was also, generally, pretty good. Doctor Who increasingly looks like a very expensive and well-produced show. I’ve already mentioned the success in making this a highly atmospheric and creepy episode, and I’d also like to add that the effects in animating the creature in the forest was, well, ‘top notch’. Some form of stop motion animation, perhaps? This gave it a very disjointed, staggered movement, adding to the tension.
In conclusion, this was a highly enjoyable episode, one which I liked far better than I expected to. This 2013 run of episodes, in my opinion, has been pretty consistent in quality. I look forward to next week’s Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS, which promises to certainly be interesting!
Final rating: 8/10