Doctor Who 7.10 – “Hide” Review

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In “Hide,” The Doctor and Clara meet ex-wartime spy and genius Alex Palmer (Dougray Scott) and his assistant, the empath Emma (Jessica Raine). Ms. Raine might want to complain to her agent; despite the fact that she’s equally important to the plot as Alex, she doesn’t get a last name.

The characters are clearly in love and don’t know it – or are too scared to admit it. This would be a more effective dramatic device if it weren’t used to better effect two seasons ago in “The Lodger” episode.

While I found “The Lodger” lovers fun and funny, Alex and Emma are Terribly Serious. They’re ghost busters seeking a spirit called “The Witch of the Well.” Alex has all kinds of technology he fusses with. Emma’s job is easier as she just relies on what she feels. “Oh, she’s so lonely,” she says about the apparition.

“Let me show you the way home,” she implores the spirit, as “Caroline, go into the light,” was trademarked by Steven Spielberg for Poltergeist. 

It’s fortunate Raine experiences the emotions of others as she underplays to the point where she appears to have few emotions of her own. Dougray Scott, excellent in other appearances I’ve seen, is also a let down. They’re two cold fishes I didn’t find myself rooting for or caring  about. Nor was I particularly interested in the mystery of The Witch.

The Doctor discovers the ghostly visitor is no typical haunting. Rather, she’s a time traveler trapped in a “pocket universe.” The script doesn’t bother explaining how she got there, nor why The Doctor must travel throughout all of time to come to this conclusion. I guess it doesn’t matter.

The best thing to come out the time-traveling, though, was Clara’s realization that since The Doctor has been to the far future everyone, including her, is already “dead” to him. This was a touching moment, well-played by Clara and The Doctor. They’re so good together. I haven’t seen an episode yet where the best parts weren’t their interactions.

Back to The Plot About Which I Don’t Care: The Doctor travels to the pocket universe to rescue the trapped time traveler. He finds her and a monster named only “monster” in the credits. (As monsters don’t have agents, he has no one to whom he can complain.) Through a series of complicated machinations, the time traveler is returned to the present but The Doctor gets stuck in the corner pocket. It’s up to our intrepid Clara to talk the resistant TARDIS into rescuing him.See, the TARDIS can’t go to the pocket universe because the weird physics there would destroy it in a few seconds. Nevertheless, Clara prevails, and a few wonky special effects later, The Doctor is back home.

The Doctor explains the reason Emma felt a particular empathy to the time traveler is because they share DNA – implying she’s a future descendant of Emma and – I think – Alex.

But wait! Despite the rescue of the time traveler, The Doctor sees an odd figure in the haunted house’s window. He remembers a few random bits of dialogue from the episode that – for no discernible reasonable whatsoever – make him realize the figure is the monster’s mate. The Doctor, who apparently knows he’s on a TV show, helpfully explains to us something like “This isn’t a ghost story…this is a love story!” Actually, it was never a ghost story. It was a time traveler story. Details, details.

The Doctor prevails on Alex to once again employ his technology, combined with Emma’s empathic powers, to send him to the pocket dimension. Why they bother with all this is unclear, since, at the end, they’re both rescued by Clara in the TARDIS in the show’s closing moment. SInce we know the TARDIS survived the trip once, why doesn’t The Doctor just…oh, forget it. If the writers don’t care enough to make it sensible, why should we bother?

Speaking of making things sensible, what are the two reunited monsters supposed to do in twentieth century England? Not to be all lookist, but they’re quite frightful. I don’t see them getting jobs any time soon. I might have brought the other monster to the pocket universe, where they seemed to fit in, but what the hell.

Doctor Who is breaking my heart this year. There’s such lovely chemistry between The Doctor and Clara, and so much great dialogue. But these plots! They always fall just close of being satisfying. “The Rings of Arkhaten” started as a great space romp, but fell apart when it came to establishing a clear conflict and a sensible resolution. “Cold War” was almost a scary, claustrophobic creep-fest, but missed the mark. Now, “Hide” is a jumbled mess – a ghost story that’s a time travel story that’s a love story that makes no sense.

One last thing – why are the supporting characters so boring lately?  The last few seasons brought us memorable and varied inventions such as River Song, Madame Vastra, Craig and Sophie, Brian Pond, the blue-headed Dorium Maldovar and the lactating Sontaran Strax. Even small roles like the “Thin Fat Gay Married Anglican Marines” were inspired.

Who will we remember from the past three episodes? The submarine crew? The ghost hunters? The wi-fi kidnappers? Nope. They were all were boring. Maybe the professor from the submarine was colorful, but only because he seemed like he’d wandered in from a more interesting story.

I’ve been saying since the start of this half-season that the weak plots were due to Moffat’s interest in a single element of the storyline. I was vindicated this week when The Doctor tells Clara “You are the only mystery worth solving.” I think he’s speaking for Moffat there. Unfortunately, the result is lackluster episodes with dull supporting casts. The pay-off better be great.

Random thoughts and theories:

  • Several times, we’ve seen Clara carrying an umbrella: Is this a lame Mary Poppin’s joke?
  • Speaking of lame jokes, for the second time in three episodes, Clara refers to “the eleventh” something (in this case, “whiskey is the eleventh worst thing”). He’s the eleventh Doctor – we get it. This fan-service is distracting and takes us out of the episode. Think we’ll see it again?
  • The Doctor tells Alex that the secret to a lasting relationship is “hold hands and never let go.”  In the same episode, a point is made of his holding hands with Clara. Coincidence?
  • Referring to the mutant from the pocket universe, The Doctor says “Every lonely monster needs a companion.” Is he talking about himself?
  • Far-fetched theory: Empathic Emma warns Clara about The Doctor: “Don’t trust him- there’s a sliver of ice in his heart.” That’s a strange phrase. Why not “he’s got a coldness in his heart,” or a “darkness?” But “a sliver of ice?” It only seems significant because in two episodes with Clara – the Christmas special and “Cold War”, ice is a metaphor for villainy. The season’s only recurring Big Bad – The Great Intelligence – animates through ice. Is the GI somehow infecting The Doctor? Or, was Moffat traumatized in a snowball fight as a child?  Let’s see if future episodes continue the chilly theme.

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