As I said on the podcast, I adored this story. But I don’t think I was quite as effervescent and squeeful as I should have been when we talked about it. So here are the rest of my thoughts, presented in the yippie-skippy manner this story deserves.
TENSION!! This was the theme of “Hide” for me. I was completely and utterly gripped from moment one, and it did not let go. That’s what was missing from “Cold War” last week. I felt no sense of fear or dread during that story. “Hide” had me literally on the edge of the couch, every muscle in my body tense. I needed a deep-tissue massage when it was all over. I realize that kind of thing is a matter of taste (plenty of people felt that way for “Cold War”), but for me, this one was a direct hit.
I love a good ghost story, and while we all knew this wouldn’t be an actual ghost, it was proper creepy. The setting, the performances by the small cast, the excellent direction, it all worked together to make me a very happy (if tense) camper indeed. (Watching it alone in the dark probably helped too.) Weirdly, the part that scared me the absolute most was when the camera panned across all the photos of the ghost. Something about that touched a frightened place deep inside. It was deliciously terrifying.
Add to that the sheer horror of catching glimpses of the Crooked Man in the hallways and the (possibly deliberate?) similarity to Poltergeist (sliding down a rope through a portal into another, very scary, dimension), and you’ve got one heck of a ride. Even the forest was chilling in its own eerily beautiful way. This episode really pushed all my horror buttons.
I also quite enjoyed the writing. Not only was the plot interesting and not entirely predictable, but the individual scenes and lines of dialogue were wonderful. Admittedly, I didn’t love every bit of it—as we said, the Ghostbusters line was unnecessary, but it was more than balanced out by lines like “Doctor what?” “If you like.” “We’re going always.” “Like a microphone…or a pooper-scooper,” or the Doctor waxing poetic about toggles or explaining how Emma won’t/might/will maybe feel pain while opening the portal. Even the more somber moments were just lovely: “He’s a liar.” “Experience makes liars of us all.” “Don’t trust him. There’s a shard of ice in his heart.” And the scene in the TARDIS when Clara recognizes what the Doctor’s life is really like—heartbreaking.
The line “You are the only mystery worth solving” makes me wonder if the Doctor is really “back.” The mystery surrounding Victorian-era Clara is what truly popped him out of his blue funk. When or if (who am I kidding, it’s “when”) he solves that mystery, will he return to his galactic vagabond ways? Or will he find another cloud to park on and mope some more? I occasionally catch a whiff of grief peeking through under his adorable 11th Doctoreyness—like someone putting on a brave face while they’re still coping with a loss. Though I suppose that’s a hallmark of every Doctor since the Time War.
Speaking of the Doctor, he was so fun to watch in this episode. I love seeing the Doctor (any Doctor, but Matt Smith’s most of all) go all fanboy over a historical figure he admires. (Though do not get me started on the freaking “Shakespeare Code.”) The way he bounces around the room, exclaims over the professor, and fiddles with the equipment had me grinning from ear to ear. Also, his assumed identity of someone from The Ministry elicited the kind of glee only a fan of the classic series can truly understand. His delivery of “Geronimo” in this story is my favorite: matter-of-fact, resigned, understated. When Matt Smith plays something that way (as opposed to his usual boisterous flailing), it has a lot more punch. Well done.
I should also point out that I am still loving Clara! As we said, there were a few moments when her performance seemed a shade off what it was in the past few episodes, but I chalked that up to fallout from her brush with dismembered bodies and an Ice Warrior. It wasn’t until after I watched “Hide” that I found out it was the first ep she shot as Clara Oswald. I still think there was a purposeful element of hesitation on her part as a result of her last adventure. She’s afraid to search the house—not surprising, given she’s now seen what consequences adventures can have. So she tells the Doctor to dare her. How very Clara. She’s got a good head on her shoulders, but she loves a challenge. Later she even takes initiative and tries to bully the TARDIS into rescuing the Doctor. (Not that I believe for one second the TARDIS can actually be bullied into anything by anyone other than the Doctor.)
Okay so I wasn’t in love with every little bit of this story. Kat is right that they needed to maintain a certain level of lightness for the kiddies, but every time they did that, it suffered for grown-up me. The moment in the forest when the Doctor and Hila accidentally back into each other did not work for me. It was supposed to lighten the tension, but it dragged me out of it too far. And I will say again how much I HATED the very end the first time I watched it. I enjoyed the adventure and the scares and the terror SO MUCH that when they effectively nerfed the boogeyman, I was outraged and felt completely cheated and betrayed. I’m slowly getting over this by telling myself that they’re still terrifying creatures, they just happen to like being terrifying together. Still though. Nerfed. Lame.
I also think “Hide” is a bit silly and useless as a title. Something as grand and spooky as this story deserved something equally grand and spooky. Maybe something mentioning “Caliburn House”? Oh well, far too late now.
The ghost is called the witch of the well. Why? Ok, so the well was the time well Hila was trapped in, but who figured that out? Was some empathic psychic hundreds of years ago savvy enough to figure that out? Or pick it up from Hila somehow? Seems unlikely and a bit thin.
The Doctor states that the witch only appears in photographs in the presence of an empath. That’s all well and good, but why does she appear when the Doctor travels to “always” and takes her picture all those times? Is he supposed to be an empath? Is the TARDIS? That’s never made clear.
Metebelis! Oh the controversy! (Controversy: another word with multiple accepted pronunciations.) To be honest, for many years I’d only seen the word written. (I saw Planet of the Spiders as a youngling, but I forgot it entirely.) I assumed for many years that it was pronounced as Matt Smith said it. I only found out I was wrong within the last year. I now feel a not-insignificant sense of vindication. *smug*
Since we recorded, I’ve been thinking more about Deb’s assertion that the are-you-and-he-an-item conversation was unrealistic, and I’ve realized it’s happened even more than I thought when we recorded. I’ve asked the question fewer times than I’ve been asked, but that makes sense given my level of introversion most of my life. I honestly can’t count the number of times some random person asked me if I was dating the guy I was with. (I lived with eight guys in college, so I was almost always hanging out with one fellow or another.) And these were not all in situations where hitting on someone was a goal or even an option. That conversation has happened with people both male and female, single and married (or in committed relationships). Generally it just comes across as general curiosity—no more personal than “so where do you live?” or “where did you go to school?” All those questions are personal. Why is it taboo ‘cause it’s asking about a relationship? It never came across that way in Madison society over the past decade or so. Then again, it is Madison. We’re not described as “77 square miles surrounded by reality” for nothing.
It seems my theory about my mood hugely affecting what I watch needs to be tossed out the window. I was in a terrible mood when I reluctantly sat down to watch “Hide.” Apparently that didn’t matter. I wasn’t kidding when I said this story is up there with my absolute favorites of all New Who. Whatever happens in the rest of 7b (and I’m quite excited for whatever does), it’s already won my heart and probably earned top status of all the New Who series. Seriously.