“Hide” Review

Set in 1974, there’s more than a small nod to Jon Pertwee in this one, that I feel goes beyond merely mispronouncing Metebilis (there’s no way uber-nerd Tennant would have done that). There’s something of the sprit of the 3rd Doctor’s era in this one, even while the being in aesthetic and productions values a distinctly 2013 episode.

There are two things I particularly like Doctor Who doing. One is the genre episodes, like The Unquiet Dead (period Dickensian) or the Unicorn and the Wasp (Poirot style whodunnit) or A Town Called Mercy (western). This was going to be a haunted house story so I was looking forward to that, but it didn’t turn out to be quite what I expected. The other thing I like is when Doctor Who surprises me and it doesn’t happen that often. Well, tonight, it really did surprise. What starts as a Stone Tapes style paranormal investigation opens out in scope into a survey of Earth’s entire history in a way that makes Tom Baker’s brief jaunt in The Pyramids of Mars seem like a trip down the road to the chemist, and reminded me of the primordial sequences in Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency, Douglas Adam’s reworking of one of his unmade Doctor Who serials, Shada. Clara is startled by the casualness with which the Doctor treats this history of her planet. This is tied nicely to a well drawn scene in which our sympathies lie with Clara who is engaging the confidence of Grayling. When suddenly, the empathetic Grayling warns Clara against the Doctor, it challenges our loyalty to him as viewers. We have bonded with these two girls, and moreover, we know what Grayling says to be true.

The whole episode is told with terrific economy. The cast is small, the locations limited, the special effects appear on screen only briefly (although that could well belie the effort involved in creating several different planet-scapes) and they really count. But what initially appears to be a very spare storyline is layered with an inter-dimensional, trans-temporal story being layered onto the ghost story (with a love story as the cherry on the cake). Once you unpack it, there’s an awful lot going on and underneath it we learn a little more about Clara’s relationship with the TARDIS (and with the Doctor), and the Doctor’s pursuit of the mystery of Clara. It is extremely efficient storytelling, both in terms of crafting a satisfying episode in its own right, and situating it within (and having it drive forward) the season-story arc. There are nods to the past (Planet of the Spiders, Turn Left) yet in a story that is like nothing Doctor Who has done before. This one is a bit special.

You can listen to me say all this with your ears, at 45’35”, on Fusion Patrol:

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About Simon Wood

Lecturer in medical education, lapsed mathematician, Doctor Who fan and garden railway builder. See simonwood.info for more...

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