Hiding behind the sofa, or is it just horrific?
The infamous cliché of 'hiding-behind-the-sofa' is one what that Doctor Who, for the most part, embraces. Many a story has set out with the express intention of scaring the kiddy-winks, but this week, it's Hide, Neil Cross's second outing into the series after The Rings of Akhaten. So does it achieve it's aim?
Hide is a haunted house story, but not one which abandons it's Sci-Fi roots. Shaggy and Scoob-, sorry, the Doctor and Clara arrive at the haunted house in the hope of doing some ghostbusting, teaming up with a professor (Dougray Scott) and a psychic (Jessica Raine). The story makes good use of its setting, with some nice references to the 1970s time period, and making the house feel very large and unnerving. Director Jamie Payne pulls off an absolute stunner with every shot, making even innocent shadows seem like a potential monster. What's more, the story does venture outside of the house a surprising amount, but Payne keeps everything together beautifully. Helping along is the acting, which is very solid, with a special mention to Matt Smith (as usual) and Dougray Scott, whose interactions are truly magnificent.
But is Hide scary? Yes. The main (or at least, original) focus of the story is on 'The Witch of the Well', a ghost constantly trapped in a moment of fear. The pictures of the Witch are very unnerving, ful lof warps and distortions.It's human, but not quite right (the thing which I maintain always made the Cybermen scary). But there is another monster, the 'Crooked Man', who is perhaps a more traditional monster. Everyone involved in the production realises that a monster is scarier when you can't really see it, so its sections are full of fast cuts and whatever the opposite of slo-mo is. This episode certainly has atmosphere.
The characterisation is pretty strong throughout the episode. There's a romantic sub-plot between the Professor and the Psychic, which is mostly believable, (although the apparent age gap occasionally gives pause for thought). Clara does feel a little to 'fresh', acting in places like she's never seen anything like this before, despite the fact she's no longer a new companion. I can forgive this though, as it was one of the earliest episodes to be filmed and JLC (as she will now be referred to) does do another very good job. The dialogue is generally pretty good, although it does sometimes lean towards to generic 'exchanging quips' setup.
However, towards the end the story does fall down. And the ending itself makes no sense; without wishing to spoil it, the whole thing completely negates the horror of the story. What's more, there's another character, who is vital to the plot, but get's maybe three lines of dialogue. Then, to add more superfluous rubbish to superfluous rubbish, she is revealed to be the Great X7 Granddaughter of the Professor and Psychic! Why? What's the point? It's not adding anything - it's just busy work! Perhaps this a pattern with Neil Cross's work - The Rings of Akhaten was full to the brim with unnecessary additions that only made a mess.
Taking the last five minutes out of the equation, though, Hide is brilliant, accelerating to the spot of being my favourite story of 2013 so far and my third favourite episode of Series 7 so far (only just losing out to A Town Called Mercy and The Snowmen). It's scary and atmospheric, so what more could you want from a haunted house story? But it gives more - it gives character, and charm, and fun.
Overall, Hide is great. Getting past the rather irritating ending (which, after a couple of re-watches, I found easy to forgive) this story is a great example of why Doctor Who has earned it's scary reputation.