1974 to be exact, and a haunted house borrowed from a Jonathan Creek script; thunderstorm and all. The Doctor and Clara barge in like an excited couple late for a fondue n’ phantoms party – if that was ever a thing – interrupting the hunt for the Witch of the Well with Tennant levels of enthusiasm. It’s refreshing to see Smith’s Time Lord so truly eager about something, rather than enigmatically cocking his chin at another mystery.
So begins a story which isn’t as cogent as it thinks it is but which, in its first half, creates a creepy atmosphere that may have the little ‘uns shuffling closer to a parent or reassuringly big cushion. It’s just a shame the ambience will likely be spoiled by spring sunshine washing across your TV screen, diluting the chills and thrills. If ever there was an episode that should have been shown in the dark of Autumn, it’s this.
Are the Scooby-Who shenanigans down to ghosts, Gelth, or even semi-reconstituted Aussie popstars? We can’t say, but ‘Hide’ ends up being an entertaining example of the fun you can have within the elastic rules of Doctor Who: a demonstration of how the show can take you in one direction only then to yank you in another. And clearly Cross is familiar with the show’s past. If you thought ‘Cold War’ leaked Who history (‘Whostory’?) then see if you can count the references here. Beneath the white sheet with two holes cut into it ‘Hide’ is a patchwork monster; a Morbius of visual and verbal treats that range from ‘Planet of the Spiders’ to ‘Let’s Kill Hitler’.
Yet the real treats lie in the performances. Cross is so particularly good at writing for Clara you’d think he created her, and Jenna-Louise Coleman has never been better, nor more button-cute. That she even manages a feisty rapport with a big blue box – in what’s arguably the episode’s best moment – is testament to just how much she belongs on this show. As Professor Palmer Dougray Scott might well nab ‘guest star of the series’ for inhabiting a beautifully understated portrayal of a man haunted by his own past, as well as his feelings in the present.
There is, though, a problem with ‘Hide’, and you won’t have to seek far to find it. It’s two minutes too generous to the weakest part of its story, creating an unnecessary protrusion to the plot that upsets the balance of the episode right at the end. It’s a tiny mis-step but to say any more would be to spoil things, and run the risk of scaring you away. And we don’t want to do that. ‘Hide’ deserves a more than a ghost of a chance from fans.
Airs at 6.45pm on Saturday 20 April on BBC One.
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