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Sunday, April 21, 2013

Doctor Who Review: Hide


You know when writer Neil Cross steps up to pen a Doctor Who episode, you're going to get something different. Whether it was the instant classic "The Doctor's Wife" or the still hotly debated "Rings of Akhaten", Cross always puts his unique touch on familiar tropes. Hide not only is no exception, but it is a perfect example.

The Doctor and Clara arrive at Caliburn House, a giant mansion beset by a wailing spirit known throughout history as "The Witch of the Well". Set in the 1970's, this episode used every ghost story antic without seeming cliche. Stormy night? Check. Candelabras? Check. Hard science mixed with psychic abilities? Checkaroo. Splitting up in order to catch something that you're clearly outmatched by? Oh, so much Check! Yes, this episode touched on everything from The Ring to Scooby-Doo and mixed it all together to create a really dynamic, suspenseful, and kind of creepy episode.

You can't die after seeing The Ring if you can't see without your glasses!

But, of course, this is Doctor Who we're talking about, so we know we're not in for a mere ghost story (the Ninth Doctor episode "The Unquiet Dead" comes to mind). As the story progresses we find that our ghost is actually a pioneering time traveler stuck between our universe and a pocket universe (perhaps a nod Neil Cross' "The Doctor's Wife"). In an interesting turn of events, the Doctor discovers that every time they see the ghost they are seeing one brief moment in her timeline, stretched out over hundreds of years. Usually, it's the Doctor who seems to pop in and out of people's lives, but this time it was the other way around. When the Doctor goes through the history of the world, taking pictures in order to piece together Hila's flashes through time, it has a startling effect on Clara. To him, she surmises, they must all seem like ghosts, since the Doctor can witness the birth and death of a world in minutes and not even blink. The Doctor assures her she is "the only mystery worth solving". This very much echoes Rose's sentiments in "The End of the World" (again with the parallels!), but I don't think the Doctor was as successful in comforting her this time.

Doctor Who
What? It's just the end of everything and everyone you ever knew! Get over it.
I also like how the contentious relationship with Clara and the TARDIS, first hinted at in "The Rings of Akhaten", was further explored. Clara lets the Doctor in on her suspicion that the old girl doesn't like her, and the Doctor likens the TARDIS to a cat that has to get used to someone. And when the Clara runs to rescue the Doctor from the pocket universe, she has to first get past the TARDIS audio/visual matrix, which sarcastically takes the form of Clara ("the person you most esteem"). Eventually the blue box relents, lets Clara in, and the two rescue their man. I have a nagging belief that their story isn't over, and will come to a head next week.

When the Doctor does find himself in the pocket universe, it is just plain creepy. It's misty, disintegrating, and completely void of life....well, except for one thing. The monster that inhabits this world doesn't look or move like anything we've ever seen. It actually reminded me a lot of old claymation monsters with its jerky movements and that definitely was unsettling. Even though we eventually learn that it (credited totally un-cringe-inducingly as "Crooked Man"), like Hila and the Doctor, was stuck there and just trying to reach its one true love back at Caliburn House, seeing it's face made me jump, and most definitely scared the bejeezus out of younger viewers.

Doctor Who Hide
But yes, folks, it turned out that this was a love story, after all. No villains to defeat, no apocalypse to stop, just the simple saving of a girl and the reuniting of lost (if incredibly ugly) loves. I think that's something that a lot of people lose in the new Who, that these stories don't always have to be dark and serious. The show, at its core, is about the power of love and good versus all the badness in the universe. In a way, we were actually treated to three different types of episodes in one: A ghost story, a classic timey wimey story, and a love story. Each one flowing effortlessly into the next.

And this episode, Whovians, more than any so far, should have your inner geek tingling. For one, the Doctor uses the space suit he used during his Tenth incarnation in the two-parter "The Impossible Planet/The Satan Pit" and "The Waters of Mars". Also, in order to boost Emma's psychic powers and her connection to the pocket universe, not only does the Doctor fetch a Metebelis crystal from the TARDIS (a reference to the last adventures of the Third Doctor), he does so utilizing a subset of the Eye of Harmony (last seen as the focal point for the 1996 movie starring Eighth Doctor Paul McGann)! There was also an interesting bit where the Doctor directs Clara to hang up her umbrella, only to remember that he's since removed the coat rack he had in his previous TARDIS (and that of earlier incarnations). And, of course, when things start going wrong (as they inevitably do), we heard the familiar ring of the Cloister Bell.

Doctor Who
Also that one episode where the Doctor runs a lot...
A unique twist on a familiar story type, tons of references, a nice and different ending, and a deepening of the mystery and character of Clara, "Hide" definitely delivered! And it was great to see the TARDIS fully in action once again! The episode also touched on unrequited love, fulfilled for Emma and Alec, and the monsters, but perhaps not for Clara? Will she be Eleven's Rose, or will she find her feelings rebuffed like Martha? And what about the Doctor's search to find the answer as to exactly who Clara is...and why she is? Emma's empathic powers were no help, and in fact were used to warn Clara not to trust him. No matter how that story plays out, "Hide" will definitely go on the list of top Eleventh Doctor episodes for many fans (yours truly included.)

Doctor Who
Women? Amiright? 'eh? 'EH? Ahhh you know.
 What did you all think? And where do you think this is all leading? Sound off in the comments below and I'll see you next week for the eagerly awaited "Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS"!


- Joe

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