Just two weeks after the divisive Rings of Akhaten, Neil Cross was back on writer’s duty for Hide - a ghost-hunting romp through an old stately home in the seventies. What begins as a traditional ghost story, moves through some really quite tense and scary scenes, before resolving itself as a love story that spans pocket/balloon universes. This felt more like the Doctor Who people expect, dashing through corridors, unravelling a mystery that appears to be one thing but is actually something quite different. And boy, it was beautiful to look at.
Each and every scene in the forest was exquisite, grim colours, shafts of light squeezing through the trees, and the Doctor scampering away from fear. I also thought it was fascinating that this was a terrifying situation - being chased by some unknown monster that kept disappearing every time you looked round (Silence?) - but gradually the Doctor came to terms with his fear and faced up to it, working out the logic behind the madness. That was great to watch.
Meanwhile, back at the house, Clara was left behind supporting an odd couple - the gruff professor and the young psychic - all working together to bring home the wanderers. What begins as a simple ghost story, with photographic evidence scattered across chalk boards, becomes a love story on many levels. The burgeoning love between the ghost-hunters, the family love that brought them to rescue the lost soul in the pocket universe, and the love of the beast in the forest and the one left behind.
In fact, the only person not showing very much love this episode is Clara, who calls the TARDIS a “grumpy old cow.” I was actually a bit annoyed that the TARDIS eventually capitulated and let her inside, she was so rude to it. Has she actually done enough to earn the respect of the TARDIS yet, why should she just assume it will do her bidding? I wasn’t happy about it, but I must admit it makes for amusing viewing. It’s easy to forget the TARDIS is meant to have a personality, even if the Doctor references it and talks to her all the time, it’s nice to see it play out in front of us. I wonder if this TARDIS business will continue throughout the series. (I assume it will play a big role in the next episode, but that could be the culmination, and they could now be BFFs.)
It’s an odd relationship developing between the Doctor and Clara, too. We’re so used to him picking up a random friend, learning to like them, and inviting them along for the ride because he wants to spend time with them and show them the universe. We’ve had unrequited love stories that have grated, but at the base level, the Doctor has wanted to travel with the companion and vice versa.
With Clara, I keep getting the feeling the Doctor doesn’t really have the same passion to show off as he used to - whether it is because he has been burned by the loss of each and every companion before him, or perhaps because he hasn’t invited Clara along because he likes her. She’s there because he wants to find out her mystery, and that makes the dynamic different, intriguing, and slightly less fun than previous series’. The moment where she says “I’m not happy,” and the Doctor replies “No,” and just walks off was so jarring. The Doctor has displayed plenty of anti-social behaviours before, but not at such a fundamental uncaring level. Fascinating.
Overall, I enjoyed the episode, it was both fun and scary. It perhaps lacked some of the laughs we have seen before, but had everything for an entertaining story and left no confusing threads as the previous two episodes have. Next time, the episode is called Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS, so it’s already got my attention.