Doctor Who: “Hide”

I think “Hide” can best be summed up by what my wife Alexa said after we watched it: “This is the first Doctor Who episode I’ve liked all season.” I liked it, too, and was just as surprised about that as she was. I liked it even more than “Cold War,” which is the only other episode this season that hasn’t made me want to give up on the show entirely. Of course, “Hide” is a haunted house story, so I might be biased.

No spoilers this time, though some may appear in the comments, so proceed there with caution!

As haunted house stories go, it’s a good one. It draws a bit too much from the well of Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House — the loud banging noises, the “I’m not holding your hand” gag —  but the spooky atmosphere works. So do the characters of Alec Palmer, the ghost hunter masterfully played by Dougray Scott with understatement and humility, and empathic psychic Emma Grayling (Jessica Raine, keeping up with Dougray Scott quite well). Of course, this being Doctor Who, we know from the start it won’t really be a ghost. While the supernatural does exist in Doctor Who, there always turns out to be a scientific explanation, usually aliens or alien technology. That’s not quite the case here, but I’ve promised no spoilers because this one actually has quite a good solution to its central mystery. A rarity for Doctor Who these days.

I also quite liked how they keep the mystery of Clara going, without it being ham-handed like the crack that showed up at the end of every episode in Season 5, or the eyepatch woman showing up randomly in Season 6. I’m interested in finding out what the deal is with Clara, but also dreading the inevitable Moffatisms that will no doubt come into play upon the mystery’s solving. I still think Matt Smith is mugging too much for the camera, though, playing the fool in situations where he should be graver. But I have a strained relationship with the Eleventh Doctor. Sometimes I warm to him, and other times I just roll my eyes.

And now, some good old-fashioned Doctor Who neepery!

This isn’t the first haunted house the Doctor has explored. In the absolutely dreadful 1965 serial “The Chase,” William Hartnell’s First Doctor — along with Ian, Barbara, and Susan replacement Vicki — go on the run from the Daleks’ newly invented time machine and wind up in a variety of locales. One of them is a haunted house occupied by — I shit you not — Dracula and Frankenstein’s monster. Of course, it turns out they’re merely animatronic robots in a future Earth haunted attraction, but the whole episode is a low point for Doctor Who, even among those first few choppy years.

Much better is the 1989 serial “Ghost Light,” in which Sylvester McCoy’s Eighth Doctor and his companion Ace wind up in a haunted house in London in 1883. I’m not a fan of that many of the Eighth Doctor serials. They tend to be overcomplicated to the point of incomprehensibility, and “Ghost Light” is perhaps the prime example of this. Still, it’s an enjoyable adventure featuring a crashed space ship under a manor house that’s causing all manner of fuss.

There is a reference in “Hide” to a blue crystal from Metebelis 3. This, too, has been mentioned before. Jon Pertwee’s Third Doctor would talk about Metebelis 3 all the time, and in the 1973 serial “The Green Death,” he uses a blue crystal from Metebelis 3 as a telepathic tool to defeat the baddies. Then he gives the crystal to his companion Jo Grant as a wedding present. The following season, in 1974’s “Planet of the Spiders,” the Doctor realizes the blue crystal he took from Metebelis 3 is super important to the giant spiders who rule that planet. The spiders decide to invade Earth to get it back. The Doctor eventually goes to Metebelis 3 to defeat the Great One, the leader of the giant spiders, but in doing so his body gets poisoned with radiation. He returns to Earth, to UNIT headquarters. There, in front of Sarah Jane Smith and the Brigadier, and with the help of K’anpo Rimpoche, a Time Lord hiding on Earth as a Buddhist abbot (!), he regenerates into Tom Baker’s Fourth Doctor.

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