Doctor Who: Hide
(1 episode, s07e09, 2013)
A ghost story?
The mystery begins at Caliburn House. It is November 25, 1974, and is the fourth night of Professor Alec Palmer’s attempt to contact an apparition with his psychic assistant Emma Grayling. As they make another attempt, they are interrupted by a knocking at the door. When they answer, they find the Doctor and Clara who claim to be Ghostbusters.
The Doctor poses as an agent of “the Ministry” and claims to know who Alec (a secret war veteran) and Emma are. Photographs by the professor show the same figure in the same pose throughout the history of Caliburn House. The travelers tour the house and get to know the investigators. They also examine the history of the “Witch of the Well” and encounter the ghost.
The Doctor talks with Alec while Clara and Emma share a drink. Alec researches ghosts to avoid the horrors he experienced in wartime, while Clara suggests that Emma and Alec could have a relationship.
After the encounter, the Doctor and Clara return to the TARDIS – She’s like a cat: A bit slow to trust – and take a series of photographs of the ghost throughout Earth’s timeline. Clara laments that she is nothing more than a ghost herself in the Doctor’s eyes, asking what humans are to him. He tells Clara that human beings (or maybe Clara herself?) are the only mystery worth solving.
The Doctor returns them to 1974 and analyzes the series of photographs and Emma consoles Clara, who is disturbed by seeing the end of the world. The Doctor speculates that the ghost is really a time traveler – Hila Tacorien – who is trapped in a pocket universe. Unfortunately, the pocket universe is collapsing and Hila is being chased by an unknown creature.
The Doctor tells Emma that she is the beacon that will lead Hila home. He uses a crystal from Metebelis III connected to a subset of the Eye of Harmony to enhance Emma’s abilities and create a doorway to the pocket universe. The Doctor dives into the pocket universe and locates Hila. He’s able to send her home but ends up trapped himself.
Alec has been apprehensive about Emma’s role in this affair, but to rescue the Doctor he encourages her to try one more time, finally admitting that he loves her. Emma tries to open the portal as Clara rushes to the TARDIS – the time machine sounds the Cloister Bell in alarm – and argues with the voice interface.
She’s annoyed that the voice interface looks just like her, but she soon convinces the TARDIS to break into the pocket universe and rescue the Doctor.
With the crisis abated, the Doctor reveals that he brought Clara to Caliburn House to see Emma, curious about what the psychic senses about his companion. Emma can’t detect anything strange about Clara. The Doctor doesn’t seem entirely pleased with the answer, but he decides that it’s time to move on.
As he and Clara are about to depart, the Doctor reveals that Hila is Emma and Alec’s future descendant. Hila can’t return home since history says that she’s gone missing, but she can remain with Emma and Alec. When he suggests that the two lovebirds hold hands and never let go, he realizes that the creature in the pocket dimension has been trying to reunite with another creature in the house.
After another brief trip to the pocket dimension, the Doctor reunites the creatures and promises to take them to a safe place. It seems, in the end, this was not a ghost story.
It was a love story.
I really like the story overall. We get another discussion of jumping from one universe to another, as well as a refresher on entropy draining the TARDIS power supply. Circle back to the Pete’s World trip for that connection. I also liked the twist, making us think once again about whether or not every creature is an enemy.
The parallels to Ghost Light, The Eternity Trap, and The Talons of Weng-Chiang were a nice touch, as was the decorative headgear: The device used to connect Emma to the Eye of Harmony is very close in design to the one that the Second Doctor used to show his thoughts to Zoe in The Wheel in Space.
We get another dose of star power with Dougray Scott, a man who has been all over the place and was fantastic here, even if I didn’t recognize him at first. It must be the Clark Kent effect with the glasses.
Hila’s fate was a fun bit of timey-wimey business, but it ends up as an after-thought when the true reason for the Doctor’s stop is revealed. This is where this story falls down in my opinion. The Doctor tricks Clara into being a Caliburn House so that he can use Emma’s skills to divine Clara’s secrets, the plot of which feels squicky. It couldn’t be a simple ghost/love story, but instead had to be another chapter in the Doctor’s quest to unravel the Impossible Girl.
That part of the twist just doesn’t sit right with me.
Rating: 3/5 – “Reverse the polarity of the neutron flow.”
The Timestamps Project is an adventure through the televised universe of Doctor Who, story by story, from the beginning of the franchise. For more reviews like this one, please visit the project’s page at Creative Criticality.