I suspect the title ‘Hide’ is a warning to the kiddies that they’ll be following the family tradition of hiding behind the couch for this episode.
A rambling mansion situated on the moors hosts Professor Alec Palmer (Dougray Scott) and his empathic assistant Emma Grayling (Jessica Raine) who are trying to contact the resident ghost during a thunderstorm. Once the scene is set, the Doctor and Clara knock on the door then comedically appear to mug for the cameras, que end of teaser.
Gradually the story unfolds, or should I say ‘stories’? There are several parallel stories in this episode: the obvious ghost story, the romance between Alec and Emma, a science fiction parallel universe story and the alien story. The link to the over-arching seasonal story is the Doctor investigating Clara by bringing her for Emma’s empathic inspection.
‘Hide’ appears rushed in the writing whilst also trying to appeal to the broadest audience possible: families sharing the Doctor Who experience. In providing a not-too-dark story with a happy ending for children to share with their parents and grandparents, ‘Hide’ is successful.
I say ‘rushed’ because the same writing team works on the very tight scripts for Sherlock, yet in Doctor Who plot holes and discrepancies abound. For example, reference was made to the professor being a prisoner of war and working in espionage during The War (the capitals could be heard in the dialogue); later this was confirmed as World War II with discussion of U-boats and a war in Europe. As the story was set in 1974, the professor would have been 19 years old at the end of the war. I guess they started them VERY YOUNG in those days.
The ghost story portrayed a scary ghost making knocking noises, screaming and carving messages in walls. She was always photographed ‘in the same position’ even when she appeared in different places – see the problems with the parallel universe aspect of the story. Centuries ago, some brave soul built a manor with the ‘heart of the house’, the music room, dead centre on a renown ghostly site. In spite of having all of the moors to choose from as a site. Although the ghost scared people out of the manor, it remained fully furnished and in fairly good condition.
The parallel universe story uses exposition to explain that the ‘ghost’ is a woman in a pocket universe where time runs incredibly slowly, so much so that the Doctor taking a photograph every 100,000 years creates a stop-motion film of her running.
Spoilers, sweetie (skip to the Conclusion to avoid spoilers)
The Doctor uses the same camera in the ‘present’ as he does in every other time zone to which he travels yet in the ‘present’ the photos show a white, indistinct ghost while in other time zones the photos are crisp, clear and in colour.
Next, the Doctor knows who, where and why the ghost appears although prior to the current Doctor Who era, the Doctor used to learn about the situations into which he habitually fell by, y’know, TALKING TO PEOPLE.
Dealing with a parallel universe running on a different time zone, it makes perfect sense that the Doctor would have to travel there in the TARDIS, right? By the time he arrives in the parallel universe, finds the stranded woman and rescues her, hundreds of thousands of years would have passed in the current reality.
The TARDIS can’t go there because it would be stranded within 4 seconds, dead within 10 seconds.
So the Doctor uses rope as a tether to jump from our universe to the other universe, being stranded in the process. The TARDIS goes to the rescue, spending waaay more than 4 seconds in the parallel universe only to do the same thing a second time. While putting limitations on the ‘magic’ of technology can be a good thing, the story needs to be consistent within itself: having established that X would be fatal, the characters should not do X without dying.
Matt Smith is an awesome actor, doing his damnedest to carry deeply flawed writing on the shoulders of his character work. When Matt took over as the Doctor, I was very ‘meh’; Matt has now won me over with his acting because this boy has SKILLZ.
Above are the biggest issues with the plot; if you can willingly suspend disbelief without shrieking ‘The Plot! The Plot!’ you’ll enjoy this story. I’d enjoy it more myself if my kids were still little so I could share this with them while I trained them up in the Ways of Science Fiction.
This story is meant to be a wild, exciting ride that carries viewers with the characters, starting at a scary place and leaving the kids feeling not just reassured but also triumphant and safe, ready for bedtime.