Sunday, 21 April 2013

Duncan reviews Doctor Who: Hide

"This isn't a ghost story, it's a love story!" says the Doctor towards the end of this episode. Given that it spent its first half looking almost exactly like a ghost story, you could be forgiven for feeling a bit cheated by this.

Yesterday evening, not long after Hide finished its premiere showing on BBC1, I watched The Stone Tape, a one-off drama by Nigel Kneale first shown on BBC2 in 1972. An early scene of Hide directly references The Stone Tape, when guest character Professor Alec Palmer talks of finding American Army Spam left over from WW2. By doing this I would say that Hide, were it a ghost story, was inviting us to compare it with its 40 year old predecessor. Fortunately it is not a ghost story, as the comparison would do Hide no favours at all.

For a start, Hide doesn't have Tom CHAAAAADBON in it.

The reason for this I have to put down to the Doctor and Clara, who at no point take the story seriously and, from the moment they appear, prevent the kind of atmosphere that Hide would need to be an effective ghost story (which, fortunately for it, it isn't) from being established.

So about halfway through, with Hide still looking to the audience like a ghost story - just not a very good one - we get the intrusion of this year's story arc. The less said about that the better, but the point is that it does intrude on the plot and disrupts the flow of the story, something I have less and less tolerance for the more that Doctor Who does it.

Back to the story we came here for, and time for the Doctor to explain what the ghost actually is, because of course it isn't going to be a real 'ghost' or supernatural phenomenon. Credit where it's due, the explanation is a pretty good one, and we can all now stop pretending that we're watching a ghost story.

The business with rescuing the time traveler from the pocket universe ought to have been the conclusion of the episode - the nonsense with the monster that is scary and ugly but which really just wants to escape too feels tacked on and unnecessary. Perhaps it would have been more effective as a metaphor for the Professor and his assistant's they-love-each-other-but-they-don't-know-it, except that particular subplot was intensely annoying in its sledgehammer unsubtlety.

Now I've said "subplot" there, but it turns out that this was really the plot! "This isn't a ghost story, it's a love story!" My mistake; the ghost story was the subplot. (Apologies for hammering this point into the ground.) The phrase 'bait-and-switch' comes to mind, and I'm left thinking that this is yet another Doctor Who episode that showed early promise that it then failed to deliver on.

A final thought on Hide before I roll my eyes and head off into the sunset: the name. I'm guessing it's called Hide to try and echo the effective titling of Blink, an episode that set out to be a scary and atmospheric story and succeeded at both. And of course in Blink, the secret of defeating the Weeping Angels was to not blink. Here the secret to success was to not hide.

No comments:

Post a Comment