I love ghost stories. Oh, I bloody love ’em. I have never been as scared as I was reading Oh, Whistle and I’ll Come To You My Lad, the masterclass in tension by MR James. Something about ghosts freaks the bollocks off of me, and this week Doctor Who offered up its first proper ghost story in yonks in the form of Hide. And it was top.
Right off the bat, the episode set itself up as a classic, haunted-house story-the muted colour pallette, whirly-crackly ghosthunting equipment, the constantly flickering candlelight- a media student’s wet dream in terms of production. There’s a lot to be said for an ever-expanding Doctor Whoniverse, but if you are going to fall back on an old faithful, at least make it a good one. One that does not involve the Ood and instead involves a ghostbusting duo made up of a charmingly awkward Dougray Scott, a ballsily vulnerable Jessica Raine and a shoveload of crackling chemistry, for example. Chuck in a nice little reference to The Haunting of Hill House, and I’ve got a massive Who-on.
First and foremost, there’s a thumpingly good plot at the heart of this episode-the Doctor and Clara arrive at a creepy old mansion to aid a couple of supernatrual investigators in sorting out their witch problem (no, don’t worry, they haven’t brought back River Song). Of course there’s more of a sci-fi spin on it, but screw that: HAUNTED HOUSE!
But there’s a lot more going on; including a brilliant speech from Clara about the nature of the assistant in the show, the deeply enjoyable humanizing of the Tardis like a big, blue HAL, and the continuing questioning of the Doctor as the be-all, end-all hero. In the last few series, there have been various hints at the Doctor’s fallibility; it’s a brave choice for such an iconic leading man, but it’s one I like very much.
A few solid performances from guestars Scott and Raines cement and sell the story-did anyone else finally feel like they were looking at all the Doctor Who ships for the next four months every moment they shared the screen?- and a kick-arsingly creepy monster turns into teatime television at it’s best. Hide was a very, very good episode; advancing a few themes without letting it get in the way of the plot having a rollicking good time of it. Oooh, and you see next week? I got me the tingles I did.
But don’t think I didn’t notice how obviously you’re setting up Clara and the Doctor for a bit o’ romance later in the series, though-I’ll have you yet, Moffat.