Well – this week’s episode of Doctor Who, titled Hide, certainly goes to show that the writers have gone soft.
Surprisingly, we find ourselves watching another episode written by the same person who wrote The Rings of Akhenaten – Neil Cross, but thankfully he’s managed to shrug off the negativity from his other contribution and come up with an engaging, tense, well scripted story with great performances from the entire cast.
When it comes to any horror/ghost story it is imperative that you have great actors who are able to pull of great performances of fear, to create the atmosphere so commonly associated with such genres. If you don’t believe their fear then the whole thing practically falls apart. But there is no need for concern here. Both Jessica Raine (plays psychic Emma Grayling) and Dougray Scott (plays Professor Alec Palmer) are absolutely fantastic in their portrayals and the integrated love story between them adds a second layer to their performance.
But this is Doctor Who. Even when they’re doing a ghost story they can’t do without some comedic moments. Mainly it came from the usual scenario of the Time Lord doing his best to act as human as possible and in most cases failing spectacularly. But there has been a second running joke throughout Clara’s time as the companion and that is her shaky relationship with the Tardis, who doesn’t seem to like her. Without revealing everything, this is picked up on and becomes part of the actual story, as opposed to being simply a side joke, coming out with some great comedy moments. But the question we should be asking is why the Tardis isn’t too fond of her?
However, Matt Smith’s personality as the Doctor kind of hindered the overall effect of being a truly, well-made horror episode. There was plenty of great moments that seemed to be taken straight from Hollywood titles – the one that springs to mind being The Woman in Black – such as a flash of lighting revealing the ghost right behind the characters. But the atmosphere and tension that was constantly built up throughout specific sequences seemed to be disarmed by a quirky comment or an unusual gesture from the Doctor. Now this could simply be down to the fact that they needed to keep it tame for the younger members of the audience, or – more likely – that writer (Neil Cross) simply meant to keep the Doctor’s character consistent and to be fair, if it hadn’t been, I’d probably be criticising that factor. It could merely be that Matt Smith’s Doctor and the ghost story genre don’t mix together. You may disagree, but I can’t help but think how the episode would be different if it had been David Tennant’s Doctor at the helm. But enough about that – we can’t live in the past.
It was quite refreshing to not be bogged down by all the clues and conspiracies that shroud the mystery of Clara Oswald. Unlike past series’ where each episode left us with questions such as ‘what are the cracks,’ ‘who are the silence’ and ‘who on earth is that lady looking at Amy through the walls,’ Hide seemed to leave alone the whole mystery of who Clara Oswald really is. That’s not to say it isn’t related in any way, but it was much more low key than throwing it in your face. It similarly allowed for Jenna Louise-Coleman to thrive as the new companion – not that she hasn’t been doing so since day one – but unlike previous companions, Clara seems to be more human in the sense that she is notably afraid of what they encounter. We experienced the start of this in last week’s episode, Cold War and it’s beginning to flesh out, arguably making her more human. I mean who could say that they wouldn’t be scared of creepy ghosts, crooked creatures and terminator/alien styled Ice Warriors. But have no fear. Clara may be showing her fear, but that doesn’t take away from her sassy, flirty relationship with the Doctor which gets strong every week.
When the truth about the ghost is explained – which isn’t easy to understand – I couldn’t help but be a little disappointed despite the fact that the logistics (if you can call it that) of the theory were quite interesting and indefinitely creative. But when the true ghost, played by Kemi-Bo Jacobs, becomes a member of the main cast, she becomes a bit of spare part with very little dialogue and purpose in the rest of the episode, as though she was merely a clever plot device that was left loose by the end. There was also the problem with the creature itself, named the crooked man. In all respect, it was (rather is) a terrifying creation that we see very little of which adds to the whole fear factor effect, but the final twist that Neil Cross adds at the very end seems like one twist too much, which felt uncalled for and unnecessary, hence why I named the writer’s soft at the very beginning, but for the sake of those who haven’t yet watched it, I won’t spoil it.
Overall, Hide isn’t on the same level of fear as Blink, but certainly manages to be one of those episodes up at the top of this series (including Series 7 Part 1) which provides both chilling and comedic moments with some great performances, if not a bit of a fairy tale ending.
Next week we Journey to the Centre of the Tardis, which has been a long-awaited episode and has been written by Steve Thompson, who wrote the concluding episode to last season’s Sherlock. If that doesn’t get you excited, I don’t know what will.
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