Wow. Hide, the latest Doctor Who episode, has been getting a lot of positive responses. The Nerdist especially loved it. A friend of mine even texted me saying how much he enjoyed it, and reinforced a previous comment of mine that Doctor Who needs to do more horror.
Doctor Who DOES need to do more horror. Tom Baker’s legendary first few years on the show were filled with titles featuring words like “The Horror of” and “Terror of, or at”. In fact Robert Holmes, probably the most significant writer the series has ever had, was known for fighting to get more horror in the show. His time as script editor was both praised and criticized for it’s affinity for giving kids nightmares.
Since the show returned in 2005 there have been only a few episodes one could classify as horror. The ones people seem to love the most, The Empty Child, and Blink, were both penned by current show runner Stephen Moffat. Not only are they two of the most beloved horror episodes but they are also two of the very best stories the series has ever told. They embody everything that is great about Doctor Who. Their smart, creative, fun, a little funny, and plenty scary. When you’re able to bring those into one story you end up with more than just an episode, you create fond memories for the future.
I was REALLY hoping Hide would join those other stories. The NExt Time trailer advertised an atmospheric and creepy chiller that saw The Doctor on a ghost hunt. The poster for it looked like a classic Gothic paperback novel. And the writer, Neil Cross, demonstrated his firm understanding of what makes Doctor Who work with his previous episode The Rings of Akhaten. I thought that if this guy was finally able to deliver the out of this world alien-tastic episode I’d been waiting for he’d certainly give me the goose flesh causing scare-fest I’d been craving.
Sadly, this was not the case.
Hide has a some stuff going for it. The cast was great. The dialogue was snappy and entertaining. It’s set was phenomenal. The special effects were really impressive. And it looked better than any film I’ve seen lately. I love the old English haunted house movie vibe. Really good looking episode.
The best scene for me is when Clara is smacked in the brain with the realization of how surreal it is to travel through time. Rose had a similar moment but it didn’t have as much weight. When The Doctor has traveled far enough in the future that the world outside is a virtual wasteland, she has to wonder if her body is buried out there somewhere. The fact that The Doctor truly does walk in eternity is not an easy one to grasp. Needing her to deal with that is very important and I’m glad they included it.
Unfortunately nothing else really did it for me. This felt like two episode split in half and jammed together to make one. The first is the spooky Doctor investigates a haunted house story. The second is the Love will find a way story. Both are good on their own, but together are sort of jarring.
I have no problem with a story taking a huge shift in tone halfway through. When handled well it can even be refreshing. There are two reasons, I think, that it doesn’t work here for me.
The first are the characters. Emma and Prof. Palmer simply aren’t that interesting. The obvious romantic tension, and equally obvious resolution to it, is established from the very start. Emma is your average empath who serves more as a plot device than a character and Palmer comes off as a talking head rather than a man.
The other reason was the revelation of what the ghost actually was. I don’t think anyone was at all surprised by it not being an actual ghost. Doctor Who excells and spinning expectations and reinterpreting already established mythologies. And I have to say I was a little let down by the truth behind the ghost because, frankly, Sarah Jane did it first.
Most of you probably know, but some of you may not, that there used to be a spinoff of Doctor Who called The Sarah Jane Adventures. It was meant strictly for kids and had some really amazing writing. Well, there is a story in the show’s fourth season called Lost in Time. Sarah Jane and her friends are scattered to different time periods. She winds up in a haunted house.
With the help of a girl named Emily they discover the truth. These are not ghosts from the past, but people from the future, reaching through time, warning of a great fire that would burn down the house and kill them. It’s not quite the same thing as Hide, but it was similar enough for me to feel a little disappointed. During the whole episode I kept repeating to myself, “Don’t be like Sarah Jane. Don’t be like Sarah Jane. Don’t be like Sarah Jane.”
Not that it’s a bad idea. It’s a great one! A really original take on hauntings. I just liked it a whole lot better when Sarah Jane did it.
The episode wasn’t bad. It just wasn’t great. That is quickly becoming the trend of season 7.2. Not bad and not great episodes. With the exception of Akhaten of course.