The Doctor goes to Caliburn House in 1974 to get a psychic, Emma Grayling, to check Clara out. To his delight, Emma and Professor Palmer are trying to unravel the mystery of the ghost that haunts the place so, understandably, The Doctor and Clara decide to join in the spooky fun.
“Hide” was Neil Cross’ first Doctor Who script and it apparently impressed the production team enough to get him to write “The Rings Of Ahkaten.” Some of the themes here were explored more overtly in that episode but there’s still some meaty stuff going on. Again we get the old science vs the supernatural scenario. The Doctor, of course, doesn’t hold with the ghost being an unquiet spirit and, rather cleverly, sets out to prove it. There are some genuinely spooky scenes on the way though and the constant image of the distorted scream of the white spirit-like figure is very effective.
The Doctor’s use of the TARDIS, flipping back and forth through time to encounter the “ghost”, is a great idea and it’s good to see the Doctor using his smarts and his time machine to solve a mystery. It also provides a great “walking in eternity” moment. The Doctor fails to notice that Clara finds seeing the last days of the Earth as something painful – she notes that everyone must seem like ghosts to him. It’s a strong scene, without some of the OTT weight that the darker side of The Doctor usually evokes, less melodramatic and more effective because of it.
The explanation for the ghost, that it’s a time traveller trapped in a pocket universe, and the use of a Metebillis 3 crystal and Emma’s psychic gifts to sort it all out is carried off very well. The Doctor’s running around in an ever misty forest is evocative and the creature stalking him is well crafted. This basic plot, with scary stuff, science stuff, running around and a decent monster is all good material and there’s been plenty of Doctor Who that has gotten by on just these elements.
Where “Hide” rises above is in the extra layers. Emma and Alec Palmer’s unspoken love is gently handled, both are well written characters and very well portrayed by Jessica Raine and Dougray Scott (adding a sparkle of star power). Emma’s psychic gifts make her a troubled soul and she can find a bond with Alec, who is tortured by the memories of those he feels he caused to be killed in World War 2. Hence Alec’s determination to study the ghost – he wants to see if he can make contact with the “other side”, to atone, to explain and to apologise to those that died. He can’t get his wish, because science unravels the truth and there’s no comfort to be found in the supernatural.
But he does find love instead; declaring his feelings for Emma gives her the strength to save The Doctor and both troubled souls find peace. The Power of Love gets overused in New Who, but here, love does what it’s supposed to do – inspire, encourage and empower.
This episode is a gem. There’s no exciting old monster returning, no great big secret being revealed, no huge series spanning story-arc being resolved. It’s just a simple tale of a time traveller trapped in a pocket universe and being chased by an unfortunate monster that’s been separated from its mate, that gives rise to a terrifying apparition in a stately home that’s being investigated by a psychic woman and a traumatised ex-spy whose personal problems prevent them from being in love. Okay, so that doesn’t come off as being that simple, but therein lies “Hide’s” beauty – somehow, it makes all of that seem simple. Thanks to The Doctor, people fall in love, find the way home and are healed. A spooky, scary but not really spooky or scary 8/10.
Written and edited by Richard Barnes