Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Episode Review - "Hide"

Now THIS is what "Doctor Who" is all about.  In the space of a few weeks we've had an urban thriller, an escapist fantasy, an "Alien meets Doctor Who" underwater episode and now we have a good, old fashioned ghost story.  Sort of.  A ghost story with a "Doctor Who" twist, of course and more than a few creepy or downright uncomfortable moments.  "Hide" was Neil Cross' second episode to be aired - interestingly, it was actually written before "The Rings of Akhaten" which leads me to believe that maybe "Rings" suffered from a bit of "too much too soon" syndrome perhaps.   In fact, some of the strengths of "Hide" were the opposite to what we'd seen in "The Rings of Akhaten" such as the small cast and initial familiarity with the subject matter.

"Hide" has many elements and many layers to it - it's a wonderfully creepy ghost/horror story interspersed with some delightful character moments and a hefty dose of science fiction that could feel out of place but, of course, doesn't - it all just fits rather well.  For the first 20 minutes or so, you could almost be forgiven for thinking the writer had decided to take most of the standard ghost story tropes and throw them at the screen - an old "abandoned" house, a thunderstorm, a ghost, a couple of ghost hunters and characters wandering around corridors with nothing but candles whilst being frightened out of their wits by loud noises and "something" touching their hands.  It was "Doctor Who meets The Haunting" really - the old 1950's version of the film...not that horrific remake.  And it's fun - especially to those of us who love horror films and sit there in smug superiority thinking that WE would never go wandering off along ghost haunted corridors like that but the reality is that of course we would.  And in fact, I have - more than once (yes, in an old large mansion house, in the wee small hours, in the dark).

There are pauses in the madness with some superb character moments.  Clara and Emma have a bit of a chat whilst Professor Palmer and the Doctor discover some shared ground.  The chat between Clara and Emma over first a glass of whiskey then a cup of tea seemed innocent enough - with Clara trying to convince Emma that the Professor had feelings for her - but then there was one of those significant yet dark moments with Emma telling Clara not to trust the Doctor because there's "a sliver of ice in his heart".  It was ominous and perhaps a foreshadowing of things to come.

The conversation between the Doctor and Professor Palmer whilst developing photos didn't seem to be foreshadowing - it was more along the lines of showing us the parallels between the two.  Both wounded, both have killed and caused others to lose their lives - although Professor Palmer came across as more like the Ninth Doctor with his "post war angst", it was still a scene that bought home the fact that the Doctor knows far better than anyone what it's like to lose people and still have to go on living.  The Doctor is haunted too.

The character moments didn't end there - when the science fiction elements kicked in and the Doctor and Clara took a trip in the Tardis to the past and the future, the Doctor was having great fun snapping photos to try and detect the ghost.  Clara, on the other hand, was continuing the theme we saw last week with her reaction to the bodies.  This time she was seeing another reality of travelling with the Doctor - his long life and time travel ability leading her to note that "we're all ghosts to you.  We must be nothing".  The Doctor's response of "you are the only mystery worth solving" may have been a bit frustrating or obscure for Clara but it reminded us, the audience, that essentially Clara has saved him...she's dragged him off his cloud and caused him to embrace the universe again.   Clara may have been dubbed "the impossible girl" and there's no doubt that she's smart but what endears her to us is her insecurity about travelling with the Doctor and the fact that she's "more scared than she lets on" (I wonder if that's one reason why Clara and the Tardis have "issues"?  If Clara isn't really fully committed to the Doctor's lifestyle then maybe that's one cause for the lack of trust from the Tardis.  Possibly they've started to come to an understanding though).  We can understand that.  Wouldn't we all be scared?

Whereas Clara empathised with Emma and was uneasy throughout the episode, the Doctor, on the other hand, was positively gleeful.  He was definitely in "child with a new toy" mode at first especially when playing with "toggles" and heading off into the dark corridors with Clara.  He's loving life again - loving seeing the universe and all its wonders.  Look at his sheer exuberance when explaining the theory of pocket universes - it even got a smile out of the sombre Emma Grayling.  It was only later in the episode that he pulled that back and the seriousness of the situation finally got through.  "Every lonely monster needs a companion" - the Doctor's words could actually mean himself, Professor Palmer or the "crooked man".  The Doctor was so convincing with his delight at the thought of ghost hunting at the beginning that when he admitted to Emma at the end that it wasn't the ghost he was there for, it was something of a shock.  The Doctor wanted to "use" Emma's psychic/empathic abilities on Clara and the look on his face upon being told that she was a "normal girl" showed that he's definitely not convinced.

There were many underlying themes to "Hide", like the parallels between Professor Palmer and Emma Grayling and the Doctor and Clara, to such an extent that the more you watch the episode, the more you're likely to see.   The explanation of the "ghost" being a time traveller trapped in a pocket universe where time moved at a different speed to our universe was wonderful - there were no "spirits" to move on into the light etc which was a big plus.  The "crooked man" - interesting.  Not just the time traveller trapped in the pocket universe - and separated from his "love".  I know there are complaints that "love conquers all" again but I rather liked it.  "Don't judge by appearances" is rarely more fitting than in "Doctor Who".

"Hide" was atmospheric and beautiful - from the house to the misty woods.  It was a delight and kudos to the director, Jamie Payne for pulling it all together.  The cast were, of course, superb.  Dougray Scott and Jessica Raine were wonderful, really bringing their characters to life; Jenna-Louise Coleman is showing us more of Clara each week and Matt Smith is just continuing to delight us with his perfectly fantastic Doctor.

There is one thing I have yet to mention.  The thing that caused twitter to go into meltdown whilst various factions tried to tear chunks out of each other.  Yes...I'm referring to what has been dubbed #spidergate on twitter:  Matt Smith's "mispronounciation" of "Metebelis".  Jon Pertwee pronounced it "Met-a-bee-lis" whereas Matt Smith went for the more risque "MetAH-belis".  Okay, so it's a different pronunciation - but look at how words change over the years.  Think back to how we used to pronounce "Uranus" for example. Is it Boadicea or Boudicca?  Tom Baker used to pronounce Gallifrey as "Gallifree".  I'm happy to think of it as a natural shift in language (or as the Doctor said "new mouth, new rules") even though I DID wince at the time.  So, no big deal - just accept the fact that languages and pronunciations change over time.  From now on, of course, I will be adopting the Matt Smith method of saying Metebelis - if only to wind up some of my more anal acquaintances...


Yet more Classic nods - with Metebelis and the "subset of the Eye of Harmony"

Episode Rating - 10/10 - loving the variety in this series.