Doctor Who, Series 7, Episode 10: “Hide”
Written by Neil Cross
Directed by Jamie Payne
Airs Saturdays at 8pm (ET) on BBC America
This week, on Doctor Who: The Doctor and Clara go ghost-busting, Clara wins over the TARDIS, and Hila Tacorien meets her family
This has been an underwhelming season of Doctor Who, to say the very least. The first half of the season was plagued with pacing and writing problems and the second half hasn’t improved on these issues much, if at all. We’ve lost Amy and Rory, two characters whose presence, after their long connection with the Doctor and the show in general, granted a certain amount of goodwill, and gained Clara, an energetic new Companion who is fun, but has yet to feel like a whole person. Thankfully, with “Hide” writer Neil Cross gets the show back on track, focusing on character and tone rather than whizzbangery and puzzles.
From the first few moments, atmosphere seeps through this episode. The cinematography is gorgeous, from the interior scenes lit almost exclusively by candlelight to the hazy exteriors, where sunlight seems suspended in the thin, but ever-present mist. The location and/or sets are dripping with character as well. Cross’s earlier installment this season, “The Rings of Akhaten” was visually stunning, a tapestry of bright colors and textures, but this episode is just as striking, with dark browns and mustard yellows filling a drafty old home.
“Hide” is a good, old-fashioned ghost story, despite that tiny detail that it turns out not to be one at all. The show and the characters within treat the genre with the appropriate respect, paying tribute to certain classic elements, such as cold spots and horrors lurking in the shadows, without slavishly adhering to genre norms or shallowly ticking tropes off a list. While the mystery at the center of the episode ends up more sci-fi than spooky, it fits nicely into the series’ tradition of gothic horror (dating back to the Hinchcliffe/Holmes era) and the twist at the end is a welcome one. Outer beauty as an indicator of worthiness or goodness has been far too frequent a trope, especially recently, and it’s great to see Doctor Who counteracting that at least somewhat.
There are also several interesting character beats explored, both for Clara and the Doctor. Clara’s emotion at seeing the birth and death of the Earth is heartfelt and a significant moment for her. Few Companions seem to grasp their potential insignificance to the Doctor, especially this early, so it’s great to see her realize and address this. Coming off the warning from Emma, and coupled with the TARDIS’ seeming coldness towards her, this may have a significant impact on Clara, though hopefully it will mostly serve to deepen her understanding of the Doctor, rather than instill a fear or distrust of him.
The Doctor also gets a nice moment with WWII veteran Alec Palmer. These kinds of scenes are rather common in Doctor Who, with a Companion or guest character basically spelling out the Doctor’s state of mind, but this one is particularly well written and performed. It’s reminiscent of the lovely scenes between the Tenth Doctor and Wilf in “The End of Time”- two tired, somewhat broken veterans who understand each other in a way their friends and family can’t. It would be very interesting to see the Doctor travel on a more regular basis with a veteran like Alec or Wilf, but unfortunately, that seems unlikely to happen any time soon. The Doctor does get a rather unfortunate line with Clara, where he boils her entire purpose and value to the mystery surrounding her, rather than anything about her as a person, but otherwise the writing on the whole is great, a welcome improvement from Cross over “Akhaten”.
As ever, Matt Smith and Jenna Louise Coleman remain in top form and Dougray Scott and Jessica Raine are strong additions to the Who guest cast. It’d be great to see Kemi-Bo Jacobs stay on for a little bit as displaced time traveler Hila Tacorien, but with Moffat so focused on Clara-as-enigma, it’s highly doubtful we’ll get even another scene with her. Next up is “Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS”, which promises a long-awaited exploration of the interior of everyone’s favorite time/space ship. Hopefully it will take a page from “Hide” and focus on a manageable story and character beats, rather than intricate puzzles or reveals.
What did you think of this episode? Anyone else irked by Smith’s mispronunciation of Metebelis III (a planet first introduced during the Third Doctor’s tenure)? Emma says Clara is normal- anyone wanna bet her parentage will play a role? How do you rate “Hide” with the rest of Clara’s episodes? Post your thoughts below!