Doctor Who is a science fiction show, but it is not The Twilight Zone. In this show, supernatural phenomena always go back to space travel and wibbly wobbly timey wimey explanations. So advertise an episode of Who with an emphasis on spirits and the unexplained and however intrigued I may be, I’ll never believe that there are actual ghosts on the show. I will, however, believe that there are mysteries to be solved.
For those who have not yet seen “Hide,” and therefore do not wish to have it spoiled for them, this is your one and only warning: Spoilers ahead.
This is the first episode of Doctor Who to be written by Neil Cross – however, the writer did also compose “The Rings of Akhaten” which aired first despite being filmed later. “Hide” is spooky and clever, set within a supposedly haunted house in the 1970s with a professor and a psychic working together to try and exorcise a spirit from the mansion. But it is the way that the story unravels that really sets this story apart from the last couple of episodes from this season.
It seems pretty standard. Haunted house. Perturbed ghost. Frightened people. Doctor comes to save the day with his companion, Clara, in tow.
Then we start dealing with another dimension, extra characters who are not, in fact, ghosts, but actually individuals stuck in that other dimension, one of those characters is a monster, but is he a monster? Ordinarily you wouldn’t take a crab-legged deformed creature as being a romantic lead, but leave it to The Doctor to turn your way of looking at the world around, over, backwards and forwards again.
It’s hard to explain “Hide” in a series of words, however. It has so many underlying themes, so many little moments with nuggets of truth or emotion held within them. It is better told through a series of quotes.
First, we have adventure. The Doctor must save this woman who has trapped herself in between dimensions while time traveling and is now “haunting” this house. “All I need to do is dive into another dimension, find the time traveler, help her escape the monster, get home before the entire dimension collapses,” the Doctor says, “and Bob’s your uncle.”
But this isn’t an episode all about the Doctor’s accomplishments. In the process we learn that “this isn’t a ghost story, it’s a love story.” The alleged monster that the Doctor must save the time traveler from is actually the Romeo figure in a tale of romance gone awry. “Hide” also showcases a love story between the professor and the psychic, who in the process of helping Clara and the Doctor, confess their own passions for each other.
However the biggest turn in the episode – and the most telling quote as it relates to the whole series occurs when the Doctor starts searching for the origin of the alleged “ghost” (namely, the time traveler caught in between dimensions). He hops from time period to time period, taking photos and never stopping to notice that he’s showed Clara the beginning and end to the planet Earth. In a moment of sadness, Clara says, “To you, I haven’t been born yet. And to you, I’ve been dead a hundred billion years. Is my body out there somewhere? In the ground?” She continues, “But here we are, talking, so I am a ghost. To you I’m a ghost. We’re all ghosts to you. We must be nothing.”
After a bit more verbal sparring, the Doctor finally comes out and says what’s been on his mind from the first moment he met Clara Oswald: “You are the only mystery worth solving.”
Love may be one of the themes of “Hide.” Horror as well. And science fiction in general is another major theme. But what is at the heart of this episode is yet another insight into the complications of Clara’s persona. We’ve seen her in many different stages, in many different places, in many different states of mind and temperament. She is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.
So while a lot of smaller questions were brought up and then answered in this, a single episode of the seventh season of Doctor Who, the real question that remains in tact is who, what, where and why is Clara Oswin Oswald? And when will we find out?
I may have gone into this episode knowing that the advertised ghost would be a fluke of sorts. But the real excitement of watching another hour in the Doctor and Clara saga is the experience of tiptoeing ever-slightly closer to an understanding of who Clara actually is. That’s a mystery I can get excited about.