The folks at the BBC have done it again, airing yet another episode of Doctor Who on April 20th. Titled “Hide,” this week’s romp through the Doctor’s world centers around supernatural events occurring in and around the mysterious Caliburn mansion, where Professor Alec Palmer (Dougray Scott) and Emma Grayling (Jessica Raine) are investigating the “Witch of the Well” who is rumored to be haunting the place. Emma uses her empathic abilities to reach out to the specter, while the Professor snaps photographs and takes readings on a wide range of odd devices.
The news that Neil Cross would be writing this episode made me rather nervous. After the rather ham-handed grandiosity of “The Rings of Akhaten,” I suspected that he would try to transfer the same techniques to “Hide.” Which rarely, if ever, make a successful ghost story. Episodes are made thrilling and truly frightening not through gigantic plasma spheres with jack-o’lantern faces, but with a creak in the dark room, a shadow passing across a window, a camera angle that gives you the feeling that there’s something right behind you, a brief returns to normality before being assaulted yet again by tense forays into the dark unknown. And, thankfully, “Hide” included all this and more.
The characters were the central focus of the episode, which was a welcome relief from the giant scale of the episodes that have characterized Series 7. The tension between Emma and Alec as they fumble their way through a budding romance is lovely, though Raine’s acting falls somewhat flat at times. However, their relationship offers a mirror to the Doctor-Clara dynamic, as love story signals conflict with Emma’s warning to Clara about the Doctor: “There’s a sliver of ice in his heart.” Which one?
The Doctor does his classic about-face as he has a “Eureka!” moment and runs into the TARDIS with Clara. We see a brief montage of that exact spot on Earth throughout the millennia as the Doctor snaps photographs of the place where the Caliburn mansion was/is/will be.
The Doctor then rescues a stranded time traveller named Hila as he bungee-jumps into a collapsing “pocket universe.” The white-clad woman was running from an Unidentified Scary Thing, which was why Emma felt her feelings of fear. We see glimpses of a spider-like creature crawling jerkily through a misty forest as the Doctor and Hila run. And then Clara rescues the two from the dying world by flying the TARDIS in and saving them. I believe some badass points are in order for this maneuver.
The revelation that the creature in the forest was the mate of the thing making the creaking noises in Caliburn house drastically reduced the total creep factor of the episode. However, this is somewhat made up for by the fact that the Doctor then quotes Cole Porter’s “Let’s Fall in Love” to illustrate his point.
The Doctor finally reveals the real reason he and Clara came to the mansion when he asks Emma if there is anything strange about Clara. Emma replies that Clara is “a perfectly ordinary girl…[but] is more scared than she lets on.” Moffat clearly does not want us to know anything more about the enigma that is Clara Oswald. I’m assuming all will be revealed in the 50th Anniversary Special, though hopefully more clues will be offered before then.
“Hide” was a welcome reprise from the giant settings and general mega-ness of the previous episodes of Series 7. It also was able to keep the “ghost story” trope fresh with the addition of time travel and alternate dimensions. However, I do wish everyone had ramped up the sass – there were several missed one-liner opportunities.