Saturday, October 19, 2013

50th Anniversary Countdown: Doctor Who 7.10: "Hide"

“To you, I’m a ghost. We’re all ghosts to you. We must be nothing.”

“Hide” tried to pack a lot of concepts into one episode. Interestingly, this episode was written by Neil Cross, who also wrote “The Rings of Akhaten,” a similarly plot-dense episode. “Hide” packs in meditations on love, the nature of the Doctor/companion relationship, and complex pseudoscientific concepts, all in the setting of a seemingly haunted house out on the Moors. I’ve been to just such a haunted manor house myself, at age eight. On a family trip to the UK, we paid a visit to Chambercombe Manor in Devonshire, and yes, there was a creepy incident where a door opened on its own. Eight-year-old me thought that was pretty definitive proof that the place was haunted. Anyway, what starts as a haunted house turns into a pocket universe-bending adventure, which was pretty cool. Although my favorite episode involving a pocket universe is still “The Doctor’s Wife.”

Anyway, like I said, “Hide” takes place at a house out on the Moors that is said to be haunted. The year is 1974. Professor Alec Palmer (who also happens to be former military) and his assistant/companion Emma Grayling are conducting some Ghost Hunters-style experiments at said haunted mansion. It turns out that Alec actually owns the place. I guess he finds the ghost hunting to kind of be a pleasant diversion. Anyway, Alec is a psychologist now as well, and Emma is an empath. They’re trying to use Emma’s empathic abilities to connect with the ghost in the house. Emma does connect with the “ghost,” and it’s quite traumatic for her. Soon after this first incident, the Doctor and Clara arrive on the scene, and the Doctor takes control of all the ghost hunting post haste.

This episode is really all about companionship and love. The Doctor and Clara are a fairly new team, and they’re trying to figure out the boundaries of that. There’s also clearly some unresolved sexual tension between Alec and Emma. There’s a funny bit where everyone debates whether Emma is Alec’s assistant or companion, which I’m assuming is a shout-out to the nomenclature change between classic and modern who. Those who traveled with the Doctor used to be called Assistants, and now they’re Companions. At one point, Clara and Emma have a girl chat about the respective men they support. Clara makes it pretty clear that she thinks there will be nothing romantic going on between herself and the Doctor, which I think is probably a good thing. The Doctor has had significant romances with Rose and River in recent years, so it might be time to take a little break. Emma and Alec clearly love each other, although they’re both too afraid to say it. Alec feels like it would be improper somehow.

Clara starts looking through photographs Alec and Emma have taken of their “ghost,” and she realizes that the ghost looks exactly the same, down to the pose, in each picture. When she tells the Doctor this, he breaks out the old orange spacesuit that most definitely made me nostalgic for the days of the Tenth Doctor. Ten wore that spacesuit in the classic series two two-parter “The Impossible Planet/The Satan Pit.” He wore it again once or twice more, but that two-parter was what made the spacesuit iconic. Anyway, once he’s in his spacesuit, the Doctor goes all through time, taking pictures of the “ghost” all the way. Clara is taken aback at the enormity of seeing the entirety of Earth’s timeline, and that’s when she says the Quote of the Episode about how the Doctor must see all of us as ghosts. The Doctor assures Clara that he doesn’t see her that way, but he declines to elaborate further.

Now that he’s looked at the ghost through the entirety of earth’s history, the Doctor has a theory. Because she is present throughout that entirety of history, the Doctor doesn’t think she’s a ghost after all. He thinks that instead, she is a human trapped in a pocket universe where time runs at a different speed relative to our universe. A few seconds in the pocket universe have been an eternity in our universe. It’s like a little Narnia, basically, but the opposite (in Narnia, spending a lot of time there is a very little bit of time in our universe). The Doctor puts a very scary looking device on Emma’s head and asks her to use her empathic abilities to open a portal to the pocket universe. She does so, even though it causes her great pain. The doctor jumps in and convinces the traveler, a woman named Hila, to travel back to the portal. She’s fairly frightened, but she makes it through. Unfortunately, Emma runs out of energy, and the portal closes before the Doctor can make it through himself.

Clara wants to pilot the TARDIS into the pocket universe to save the Doctor, but the TARDIS doesn’t like her very much (I still don’t really understand why), so they have to have a bit of an argument before she (the TARDIS) relents and goes where Clara wants. Clara gets there just in time. The Doctor was being chased by a rather large, threatening monster, and he manages to grab on to the TARDIS just before getting eaten (presumably). Emma puts the torture crown back on and opens up the portal again to help them back into our universe. Once everyone is safe, it’s time for the Doctor and Clara to say their goodbyes. It turns out that Hila is an ancestor of Alec and Emma, and that is why Emma’s empathic link to her was so strong. Learning that they will get married in the future makes Alec and Emma a little uncomfortable, but there’s also some relief that their mutual feelings can finally be out in the open.

Before leaving, the Doctor takes Emma aside and asks her what she senses when she looks at Clara. He’s still trying to figure out how Clara can be “Impossible,” apparently. Emma assures the Doctor that Clara (or this version of her, at least) is a perfectly ordinary human. Just as they’re about to leave, the Doctor has one last epiphany, and it’s related to the overall love/companionship theme of the episode. He realizes that the monster in the pocket universe isn’t the only monster out there. The monster has a mate, and that mate is somehow in the haunted house. The monster wasn’t really trying to eat or scare people. It just wanted its mate back. And so the crew resumes dimension-hopping to bring about one last reunion of lovers.

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