Aired 20 April 2013
There’s a trend in modern Doctor Who to give an air of sympathy to its non-Dalek and non-Cybermen antagonists; generally, this works quite well and gives added and appreciated depth to the foes, but the tacked-on nature of the love story epilogue of ‘Hide’ feels completely superfluous to what is otherwise another strong and atmospheric entry in the current run of episodes.
Doctor Who is no stranger to a good ghost story, and ‘Hide’ starts out in a very traditional fashion as the Doctor and Clara land at a large creepy house and promptly find themselves immersed in the paranormal investigatory events. They quickly come across Alec Palmer and his empathic assistant Emma Grayling, both looking into the local spirit, the Witch of the Well, who seems keen to wail and make strange noises around the house.
Yet after the requisite time dealing with familiar horror tropes such as extinguished candles, sudden temperature drops, glances into empty corners, and other strange happenings, ‘Hide’ reinvents itself mid-story by adding a much grander science fiction element while still retaining its heart by focusing on its human characters. The TARDIS hasn’t been used too much recently within the episodes, but here it is used to great effect to get across the story of a woman on another world experiencing just a few minutes of time from her perspective but many years from an outsider’s. It’s also here that the requisite monster of the piece makes an appearance, realized very well in its brief appearances and certainly fitting of the underlying horror themes of the episode. Some genuinely good tension is raised as the threat followed just out of sight.
The star-crossed lovers of Alec and Emma, played strongly by Dougray Scott and Jessica Raine, respectively, are fleshed out very well due to the small cast size and claustrophobic setting. Emma gains further prominence as it turns out that the entire reason the Doctor came to this particular house at this particular time is to question her about Clara, the only mystery worth solving as the Doctor puts it. However, the mystery only deepens further by story’s end, and, interestingly, Emma offers both Clara and the Doctor individual advice about the other, most notably as she warns Clara not to trust the Doctor since he has a sliver of ice in his heart. The TARDIS again starts to gain further prominence in the buildup to the upcoming ‘Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS’ as it appears that Clara is correct in her proclamation that the TARDIS dislikes her.
It’s a confident writer who takes on the task of telling an atmospheric ghost story, adding in a science fiction and monster element, briefly delving into love, appeasing fans by inserting a reference to the Eye of Harmony, and even exploring and further deepening the mystery of one of the main characters, but Neil Cross manages to do so quite successfully. Of course, each of these aspects of the story is worthy of more screen time as each is quite intrinsically exciting, but the case can also certainly be made that the monster is so creepily effective because of its limited appearances. Still, ‘Hide’ is certain to gain Cross more generally positive reviews than his earlier ‘The Rings of Akhaten’ as it puts a unique twist on a traditional story and puts some very interesting concepts into play for future episodes.