Doctor Who Review: "Hide"
Ghost stories! Don’t you just love them? Spooky houses on the moor, fog rolling across dark hills. Chills and shadows and terrified scientists poking into the paranormal assaulted by weird noises and things that go crash in the night.
Well, if you were hoping "Hide" was going to follow the parameters set by The Woman in Black and countess other ghost house movies – then you’re following the wrong path because what we got was a tale of two-halves. One exceptionally good and very typical Who; the other a, unwanted denouement that should have been left on the cutting room floor.
So things start off very traditionally. Rain. Check! Lightning. Check! Scientist who is a disgraced military boffin in a duffle coat. Check! Prim proper assistant who loves said scientist, but can’t show her feelings because it screws up her empathic abilities. Check! Doctor and Clara turn up – tacked on Ghostbuster references for the movie buffs. Slight groan!
Then things settle down and get scary – well, as scary as a prime time British TV before 9.00 pm GMT can permit. Spoiled by the fact that outside it is bright and sunny, and not a cloud in sight (send memo to BBC that this run should have been shown in Winter when everyone was snowed in and the days were dark and gloomy Check!).
New Director Jamie Payne certainly loves old school horror films - good being that this is set in 1974 when Hammer Horror films were the rage. So, too, were dramas like The Stone Tape* – which writer Neil Cross uses as a template for his second script. Yes, it is sound effects galore and glimpses of both the Witch from the Well and the “thing” in the house; not full on “here I am – this is what I look like” style associated with modern horror flicks. Let the imagination fill in the gaps. Raise the terror bar and lower the temperature to freezing and the sudden need to scuttle behind that handy sofa becomes ever more urgent for the youngsters (and some adults).
Then we get to Who twist one. Our ghost isn’t a ghost but a trapped “time traveller” trapped between dimensions – and she’s been pursued by the “thing.” So after a helter-skelter trip through Earth’s beginning to its final ending (hello Satan pit spacesuit!) establishing that there is a fixed wormhole on the site of Cainbourne House (a time fissure – established as the true source of all haunted houses) – Neil Cross plays the closeted Who fan by not only producing an Eye of Harmony crystal but also a Metabelis Three** crystal – that made me smile!
Things really get scary when the Doctor goes into the bubble universe – fans weep slightly as many though these scenes in the dark scary wood were from the final episode ("Name of the Doctor" – will they really reveal that?!). Doctor gets very scared of the “thing”- always good to see when the Time Lord gets scared – finds the Traveller and hey presto after a lot of flickering lights all Poltergiesty (no dwarf mediums present – another memo) everything gets resolved. And then we get twist two and yep – everything falls apart!
So the “thing” is yearning for its lost mate – trapped inside the house! Suddenly all that fear and real tension of seeing the Doctor attacked in the woods – just keep to glimpses – let the imagination fill in the gaps – is suddenly and irrevocably thrown into Mills and Boon mode! So love lost “things” are reunited and Great Great Great Grandaughters are reunited and everything is rosy except the Tardis really doesn’t like Clara!
This is a typical thing that would not have happened in classic Who. If the story had just ended in the cloister (oh – nice to hear the Cloister Bell back!) – after the reveal the Doctor just wanted to see if the medium (played brilliantly by Jessica Raine) had any insights into Clara’s mysterious nature – (she's normal. Yeah as if we really believe that) this would have been great. Yet throw in the “love things” – full reveal looking like bits of driftwood - and it all comes tumbling down. This is the problem that blights Modern Who. Everything has to have a happy neat ending. Russel T. Davies showed that this annoying trend can be averted (remember "Midnight" and "The Satan Pit" - even "Waters of Mars!"). If Moffat had a tighter reign this could have saved "Hide." Forty-three minutes of greatness blown away by two minutes of madness. What a shame (send angry memo to BBC!). Let’s hope next week’s trip through the Tardis doesn’t end up the same way.
*The Stone Tape was written by Nigel Kneale in 1972 - creator of Quatermass. It told the story of a group of paranormal investigators researching a haunted house which turned out to be possessed by an alien force. You can read more by visiting http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Stone_Tape
**and in case you need to know more about Metabelis Three crystals go an read up on "Planet of the Spiders" – Jon Pertwee’s (Third Doctor) last story. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Planet_of_the_Spiders
For a preview to the next episode of Doctor Who, Journey To The Center of the Tardis, head on over here.