TV REVIEW: Doctor Who Series 7 Episode 9: Hide

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The first three episodes of this season have been nicely standalone and have provided a variety of story types. Neil Cross returns to write the fourth episode, following The Rings of Akhatan two weeks previous. Here’s the blurb:

Something terrifying is hiding in Caliburn House, and the Doctor finds himself part of the ghost hunt.

I had mixed feelings about Rings, so how does ghost story Hide compare?

The episode opens with guest cast Dougray Scott and Jessica Raine as intrepid 1970s ghost-hunters Alec Palmer and Emma Grayling as they try to uncover and exorcise the Witch of the Well who has been said to haunt the site of Caliburn House since saxon times – well before the house was built. As the titles kick in, the Doctor and Clara have arrived at the house, announcing that they are “Ghostbusters”. From here, our regulars must establish their credentials, get to know Palmer and Grayling and on top of this, discover the secret of the Witch. Palmer is revealed to be an ex-military man who has served behind enemy lines on many missions turned ghost-hunter. His companion is the ideal one for such a job: an empathic psychic, Grayling knows intuitively what people are feeling.

Interestingly, although the episode is particularly tense, there is no explicit threat to the four investigators. While Doctor Who has toyed with Ghost stories before both on-screen and off (such as BBC Audio‘s The Ghosts of N Space and Mark Gatiss’s Big Finish audio Phantasmagoria and TV episode The Unquiet Dead ), Neil Cross manages to bring a different explanation for ghostly encounters to the table. Usually in Science Fiction, these ghosts turn out to be echoes of the past or alien beings from parallel dimensions … but not so here. As with his previous story, Neil Cross manages to bring a fresh view of the Doctor Who universe and, as with Rings of Akhatan, this is refreshing. However, Hide certainly comes over as a more complete realisation of concepts for me. Perhaps this is because of the smaller scale of the story itself.

Cross’s writing is helped by the excellent direction that Jamie Payne brings together with stellar performances by our regulars, Scott and Raine. Even potentially cliched dialogue such as Clara and Emma’s chat about Palmer’s feelings (or otherwise) towards his young assistant don’t grate, despite the revelation coming almost from nowhere. To be honest, I’d managed to imply the mutual love from the actors’ performances and didn’t need this and other scenes that spelt it out. But the scenes didn’t detriment the episode nor did they stand in the way of the story and so there’s no real criticism there.

Once the team begin to unravel the nature of the ghost, things take a turn for the more interesting. It’s at this point that the adventure twists and the Ghost (not actually a threat) turns out to be in trouble. Naturally, our intrepid Time Lord tries a rescue which leads him to a very atmospheric forest. I love forests and to be honest feel quite at home wandering in them. But the presentation in Hide almost made me reconsider. This is proper dark, Fairy tale forest inhabitted by a often glimpsed but never truly seen creature that seems to stalk it’s prey.

In the ongoing Clara story (which has been nicely in the background rather than the focus of the series) we are reinforced with the idea that the TARDIS doesn’t like the new companion for some reason. We also get a glimpse at a projection used by the vessel to communicate with others such as in the short story The Lying Old Witch in the Wardrobe and Tony Lee’s excellent ten-doctor story The Forgotten (which has recently been re-published by IDW publishing in a beautiful hardback edition. Go read it). It also turns out that contrary to his earlier words, The Doctor was not looking to solve the mystery of the ghost … rather he wanted to get a reading of Clara by the empathic psychic Emma Grayling. He’s still not sure about that girl.

I do have niggles. What the heckers did the title have to do with the story? It seems a bit out of kilter to me. And yes, I could be-moan Matt Smith’s mispronunciation of Metebelis 3 (I did do while watching. Both times) but you know what? It makes no odds. Yes I’m a pedantic fan-boy, but by Grayskull, you have to draw the line somewhere. To prove fan-boy pedantry: in the Big Finish audio The Apocalypse Element, Colin Baker mis-pronounces the word “imprimature” from a story he starred in on TV (The Two Doctors). Didn’t complain then either. But enough digression! I also thought it odd that the TARDIS could find the Doctor almost on request by Clara, but frankly the high-speed whizz through rescue was quite a spectacle.

Hide is an excellent, tense ghost story which, like last week’s episode is one that can be enjoyed on repeat viewings. I really enjoyed the twists taken and especially liked the almost cliff-hanger ending that clearly has no bearing on next week’s adventure. Some things, we don’t need to see through I guess!

Rating:  4 / 5
Reviewer: WedgeDoc

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