Sunday, 21 April 2013
N.B. From this week on, my Doctor Who reviews will be getting shorter, because I’ve returned to university and realized how much work I’ve been neglecting. Fans of brevity, rejoice.
Neil Cross’ first Doctor Who story, The Rings of Akhetatakaktenetanekaten, was hated by many, but I loved it. I wasn’t sure what to expect from his second.
Entitled Hide, it’s set up as a traditional ghost story. A haunted house in the 1970s was the setting, and the Doctor and Clara joined ex-spy Alec Palmer and his assistant Emma on a ghost hunt. The first ten or fifteen minutes of the episode set this up very well, hitting all the right spooky notes. I particularly liked Dougray Scott saying ‘Caliburn Ghast’ in a rich Scottish accent.
The episode took a turn for the worse, however, when Cross then tried to bring in a science fiction explanation for the hauntings. Now, Doctor Who has never been the most scientifically sound of shows, and often I don’t care. I’m happy to suspend disbelief if the story’s good enough. But sometimes, making shit up can be taken a step too far, and Cross crossed that line.
The ghost was a time traveller trapped in a bubble universe psychically projecting herself through to the… what?
The Doctor made a portal through to this bubble dimension, which contained a forest floating in space, and sometimes, but not always, a copy of the haunted house… how?
The time traveller was perceiving time much faster, so millions of years for the real world was three minutes for her, and yet that changed so they were in synch as soon as the Doctor went there… huh?
Oh and also, there’s a misshapen rubber suit trapped in the bubble dimension, who has a lover trapped in the real world in which time moves who-gives-a-shit-about the-numbers times slower, and they… oh, for…
As I write this, I keep thinking of more things that were never explained. The ‘HELP ME’ on the wall. The floating black disk. There was a floating black disk. It smashed at some point. I don’t know what it was.
Basically, Hide was a bloody shambles, hindered by Cross' apparent need to give a science fiction explanation to the traditional ghost story while retaining its atmosphere. This resulted in a story much more complex, flawed, and even generic than the episode would have been had it kept the straight-faced and very effective ghost story of the first fifteen minutes going.
On the plus side, the repressed love between the Professor and his assistant was sweet. Watching the two of them flounder over each other before finally finding a way to express their feelings made the rest worth sitting through.
Also, the arc about the TARDIS disliking Clara is developing interestingly, and I liked the joke about the umbrella stand.
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