Hide – review

“Anti-surveillance, innit bro? Barry says it makes your face come out blurry.”

After last week’s hatchet job of an episode , I was really looking forward to Hide. Neil Cross was responsible for The Rings of Akhaten – which, if you haven’t read my review, is probably one of my favourite Doctor Who stories of the last three years.

But in all honesty, the story didn’t start well. Any sense of atmosphere built up by Jessica Raine and Dougray Scott as the two ghosthunters was completely undermined by Matt Smith’s industrial-strength affectating, which plagued the first twenty minutes of the episode like a particularly foppish virus. Which is a pity, since the last three stories have seen a refreshing paring-back of the wackiness; but this is a side-effect of the episodes being shot out of sequence, Hide being the first in the current batch.

And as with The Rings of Akhaten, there was just too little time to explore the concepts at play. The idea of a chrononaut being trapped in time and the concept of the pocket universe both deserved further explanation, and we were left feeling a little short-changed at the end of it (as, no doubt, was Kemi-Bo Jacobs, who played Hila Turkurian – she only got about three lines, and one of them was just spooky G-G-G-GHOST noises).

With those caveats out of the way, what was worth watching in Hide? Well, Jamie Payne’s direction was suitably fluid and atmospheric; all flickering candles and dappled moonlight, and the Crooked Man’s movement was like something out of a Japanese horror film. But for me, the real beauty of this story came right at the end.

Many reviewers have criticised the two twists, especially the second, but to do so completely misses the point of them. Last week, the Doctor arrived in the middle of a stupid macho sci-fi shoot ’em up and proceeded to play along according to the rules of a stupid macho sci-fi shoot ’em up. As a result, we got a soul-numbingly tedious episode of something that could have been anything and ended up being nothing.

Here, however, the Doctor showed up halfway through a ghost story and turned it into a Doctor Who story. Now this in and of itself isn’t particularly clever; The Curse of the Black Spot tried and failed to do something similar back in 2011, though so cack-handedly that you’d be forgiven for cauterising its memory out of your brain.

But what Cross did – and this was the brilliant part – was to give us another, mercurial switcharoo in the last few moments, where the Doctor turned a Doctor Who story into an oddball romance. That turnabout, that twisting of the rules of story and expectation, more than anything else, is what this show should be doing all the time.

Hide wasn’t anywhere near a perfect episode, and its failings are too glaringly obvious to turn it into a classic. But what it did right was so right, was so true to the fundamental ethos of Doctor Who, that I’m prepared to fall a little bit in love with it.

FINAL RATING: 3/5

ODDS & ENDS:

  • It’s pronounced MeteBELis, not MeTEBelis. Someone needs to show Matt Smith a copy of Planet of the Spiders.
  • Is this series just tracking through the different eras of Who? The Rings of Akhaten was Hartnell-style ambition and madness a la The Web Planet, Cold War was a tedious base-under-siege sans Troughton and Hide seemed to be a retread of Pertwee-era investigation. Which means next week is going to be The Invasion of Time minus the tinfoil, presumably.
  • Bechdel failure ahoy! The Doctor and Palmer have a talk about the war and the guilt of murder, while Clara and Emma chat about… boys.
  • Doesn’t the purple coat look great without a bow-tie?

When not reviewing Doctor Who, Patrick Magee is a passerine bird in the crow family. More of his ramblings can be found here, and you can buy his novel As Baile: A Story here.

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