A frightened Doctor, a companion who is catching on to the darker side of time travel faster than most, a ghost, imaginative storytelling, and a couple of love stories all combined in this overall satisfying, creepy, and emotionally juicy episode. While I enjoyed Neil Cross's first episode, "The Rings of Akhaten," this one was a vast improvement, plot-wise.
"Hide" began in a haunted house, where former spy/war hero Alec (Dougray Scott) and his companion, an empathic psychic named Emma (Jessica Raines), were holed up. They were trying to solve the mystery of a ghost that had haunted the old, castle-like Caliburn House for a long, long time, and the Doctor and Clara had arrived to bust some ghosts. They were shown evidence of "The Witch of the Well" dating back to the seventeenth century, always in the same position and screaming "Help Me!" Plenty of shadows, blink-and-you'll-miss-it shots of things lurking in the dark, and a genuinely spooky looking house helped create the atmosphere that was, for me, missing in last week's "Cold War."
As the two pairs split off to look for the ghost, Alec and Emma had a conversation that spoke volumes about the kind of character arcs we're watching unfold in this series, the title of this episode, and time travel itself. Emma suspected that the Doctor was lying about who he was.
Alec: "That's often the way that it is, when someone's seen a thing or two. Experience makes liars out of us all. We lie about who we are, what we've done…"
Emma: How we feel?
Alec: Yes, always. Always that.
You see, Alec and the Doctor have a lot in common, as we learned when they switched off into boy-boy and girl-girl pairs. Alec, as a former spy, had seen a lot of people die doing things at his behest, and it was haunting him, much like it torments our Doctor. The Doctor asked what Alec would like to say to all those people, perhaps looking for an answer for himself, and Alec replied that he'd merely want to thank them. I wonder what the Doctor would like to say to the people he's lost? He seems to spend most of his time hiding from the thought of them. Meanwhile, Emma, using her empathy skills, warned Clara against getting romantically involved with the Doctor, because he's got "a sliver of ice in his heart."
We've seen the Doctor struggle with being a peacemaker with so much blood on his hands, a lover of humanity who has to watch people die with their puny human lifespans, and I feel like this is definitely going to be focus of the rest of this season. When the Doctor and Clara took the TARDIS to check out the site of the Caliburn House billions of years ago all the way through to billions of years into the future, the Doctor was having a blast, taking photos of the site to discern the origin of the ghost, but Clara was horrified. She saw the birth and death of the planet she lives on and realized her own insignificance within it. "We're all ghosts to you. We must be nothing." The Doctor's response—"You are the only mystery worth solving"—may not be the most explanatory of utterances, but that scene really resonated with me, and I hope the discussion will come up again. I sometimes get annoyed with the portrayal of the Doctor as a damaged wizard, but this is an angle that's rich with possibilities.
Through the pictures taken on their travels, the Doctor figured out that the Witch in the Well wasn't a ghost at all, but a time traveler named Hila who messed up a bit and gotten herself stuck in a "pocket universe." She'd been trapped there for three minutes, but for our universe, it'd seemed like billions of years, which was why she was always in the same position in pictures. The Doctor's plan? Get Emma to communicate with Hila so the Doctor could jump into the pocket universe, grab Hila, and get out of there before a) the monster they spotted in the pics could get to her, or b) the pocket universe collapsed. He managed to get Hila out, but Emma collapsed from the effort, trapping the Doctor in the pocket universe… with a very bizarre-looking monster we only saw in flashes. His fear was palpable, and I love seeing the Doctor when he's afraid and defenseless. I love it when he's vulnerable.
The Doctor's peril forced Clara to go and make nice with the TARDIS, who doesn't seem to like her much. I don't remember if this has been as much of an issue with past companions, but ever since "The Doctor's Wife," I have certainly imagined the TARDIS as a jealous woman. Clara managed to convince the TARDIS to help "their" man, and grabbed the Doctor from the pocket universe (she seemed quite handy at piloting that TARDIS—was this because the TARDIS was helping?) just as the monster was bearing down on him. Everyone was rescued, Alec and Emma realized their love for each other, the monster lovers were reunited, and there was a mega happy ending... save for one interesting conversation between Emma and the Doctor. Because he didn't actually come to Caliburn House for the ghost—he came for Emma the psychic. He wanted Emma to get a read on Clara, to find out who she is. Emma said Clara is a pretty, clever girl who is more scared than she lets on, but she didn't sense anything else. The Doctor was clearly disappointed. I'm happy to say I wasn't. Neither the Doctor nor Clara will be able to hide for too much longer. This episode for me was the closest to a home run we've gotten so far in this second half of the season.
Every lonely monster needs a companion, indeed.
– I like how, several times in this episode, Clara acted as the Doctor's social skills helper—guiding him away from conversations when he was interrupting a moment, or rubbing salt in a wound. It's a good task for a companion to take on with the Doctor.
– This is crass, but I genuinely thought, at the end of the "he's a liar" conversation between Alec and Emma, that she was casually reaching for his genitals. I spit my coffee out! But alas, she was not.
– "The color's a bit boisterous." "It brings out my eyes!" "It hurts my eyes."
– There were a few bits in the episode that were a bit too cheesy or on-the-nose for me—the hand-holding bit (although I get that it was setting up things later), the monsters actually being in love and looking for each other, the fact that Hila was Alec and Emma's granddaughter. But I'll take a little bit of cheese in exchange for a story that resolves itself well.
– I could be totally wrong, but I'm starting to get a strong suspicion that this idea of pocket universes that slow time will come up again in the mystery of who our dear companion actually is.
– The TARDIS Voice/Visual Interface represents itself with an image of a person you esteem, and for Clara, it chose… Clara. Does this say more about her feelings about herself, or about the Doctor?
– The high-five that the Doctor and Clara exchanged when she rescued him and he was clinging to the side of the TARDIS better be made in to a .gif IMMEDIATELY, and I would love that .gif to play over and over again forever in my heart.
– The "how do sharks make babies" run was pretty clever and adorable.
– The ending, oddly, reminded me of the ending of Say Anything, going black at a moment that could have been wrung dry in the hands of other writers. I thought it was very classy and clever, especially for a show that usually doesn't depart too much from a specific (albeit awesome) formula.