On first look, it was easy to mistake this week’s episode of Doctor Who as something more in the way of supernatural than scientific. Whilst this isn’t necessarily a new theme for the show, it is the first of its kind in rather a while.
‘Hide’ told the story of the creepy Caliburn House, dwelled in by Professor Alec Palmer (Dougray Scott), his assistant Emma Grayling (Jessica Raine), oh and their friendly neighbourhood ghost. Only, it doesn’t seem quite so friendly. Naturally, The Doctor (Matt Smith) and plucky Clara (Jenna Louise Coleman) wade in to investigate, finding bits of the house that are colder than others, hearing odd voices and having their hands held by unseen beings. It’s worth mentioning at this point that Grayling is psychic, and is consequently picking up on a disembodied voice crying for help, in a rather nice twist on the usual scenario of The Doctor himself hearing said pleas before racing to anybody and everybody’s assistance. This being an episode of Doctor Who, however, naturally the ghost, or ‘ghast’ as everybody insisted upon calling it for reasons I never quite understood, was SPOILER ALERT not a ghost (or ghast) at all, but a time travelling lady caught in a shrinking ‘pocket universe’ whilst simultaneously being chased by what is quite possibly the ugliest alien in the show’s lengthy history.
The episode moved neatly from old school ghost story to quirky science fiction tale, a transition foreshadowed from the off by Clara introducing the two of them as ‘the Ghostbusters’ at the start of the show. There were also a couple of surprisingly touching stories of the ol’ romance genre running through ‘Hide’, the first, between Professor Palmer and his sweet yet talented assistant, and the second of a much more, er, ugly alien nature. Whilst heart-warming storylines in their own right, the romantic threads of the episode gave us all a well-earned break from our perpetual analysis and wonderment along the lines of WHO ON EARTH (nearly got through the review with that pun, then) IS CLARA? WHAT is Clara? WHEN will we find out? Do you even KNOW, Moffat? Which was nice, as all that shouting at your screen can become tiresome. Not least for your neighbours.
Performance of the week award goes to Jessica Raine as Emma Grayling, convincingly portraying both the doting assistant and tortured psychic elements of her character. Smith and Coleman were on form too, with the latter really settling into her sparky, quick witted role, and developing a charming relationship with the haughty TARDIS, despite this episode allegedly being the first one she actually filmed as the companion. Dougray Scott was also on hand to provide a brooding, almost Gothic sort of hero, initially appearing oblivious to both his own feelings and those of his assistant, but turning out to be something of a sweetie pie the second Grayling was in danger.
If I have a criticism of the show, and what would an Assorted Buffery review be without a niggle of sorts, it’s that there was a little too much going on for me personally. Neil Cross’ plot had just a few too many lines, any one of which could have provided the crux of the episode. To name a few, we had the Professor’s role in WWII and The Doctor’s awareness of the two of them, the ghost-ghast, the time travelling lady, the pocket universe itself, the fact that it was shrinking, the monster, the second monster, the monster love story AND the family connections at the end. Phew. It all flowed nicely enough and didn’t feel jumpy, unlike several other Doctor Who episodes I could mention, but and call me boring if you will, the time traveller being stuck in a pocket universe which can only be accessed by a psychic was plot enough, thank you very much, especially with it shrinking. The presence of the monster as well felt a little overkill in places, even though the overall arc of the show did work very well.
All in all, however, a really rather nice, fun episode. Particularly enjoyable as we suspect that it won’t be long until the questions start to be answered, and things all get a trifle serious again…
Doctor Who is next on tonight, 6.30pm. Look out for Becky’s review.