Doctor Who: Hide

Sean Alexander reviews `Hide`

Four episodes into what we are obliged to refer as ‘Season 7b’ (or the 2013 series as DWM prefers) and finally there is a spark of quality.  So far we’ve been treading water this year. ‘The Bells of Saint John’ was a silly run around which just introduced the new plus-one (or, in this case, the third version of the same character).  ‘The Rules of Akhaten’ was worse: a basic re-tread of Season One’s ‘The End of the World’ with less heart and a frankly ridiculous trip on a space-bike that made scaling the Shard on a Triumph almost acceptable.  And ‘Cold War’ likewise only reminded one of Robert Shearman’s far superior ‘Dalek’.  If Season 7b was an album it would be a tired greatest hits released by a record company whose artist has long passed its sell-by date.

The Doctor is so busy he doesn't notice the old fashioned ghost behind him.

But like I say tonight there was hope. ‘Hide’ would probably still be an average episode had this gone out in 2006 or 2007. But after three clunkers it shines bright.  Basically it does what Doctor Who has done so well for a very long time: tell a tight, tense tale with plenty of scares and performances that help sell the concept.  Neil Cross was a curious choice of writer to be blooded this year.   His police crime Luther is more of a Cracker for the 21st Century, with a flawed protagonist who has more in common with those he investigates than he would care to admit.

‘Hide’ has two great performances at its heart.  Dougray Scott and Jessica Raine (soon to be seen as Verity Lambert in the drama-doc An Adventure in Space and Time) really impress as the couple whose furtive attraction provides the necessary emotion to make you care about the people involved.  Raine especially captures the quirkiness of a medium/psychic  who senses the paranormal and is the link between the real world and a pocket universe that contains a trapped astronaut who manifests herself as a spectral presence.  The scares are well handled by new director Jamie Payne, especially the very moody woodland scenes that evoke the fairy-tale nature of much of Who’s output at present.

The resolution – an almost retread of ‘Image of the Fendahl’ – is disappointing merely because a scientific resolution seems unnecessary.  If the spectral plot had been maintained, and the air of mystery sustained, then this would have been elevated into a genuine highpoint of the Matt Smith era.  Speaking of whom, Smith still has a preponderance for mugging which belies his otherwise mature handling of the role.  Like Peter Davison three decades ago, Smith does have the ability of depicting an old man in a young man’s body.  If he dropped the whole ‘Toff’ aspect then we’d see more of the quality he is capable of.

Both ‘Vincent and the Doctor’ and ‘The Doctor’s Wife’ showed that Smith is an accomplished actor who understands what makes the role tick but unlike David Tennant he seems incapable of mixing the light with the serious.  The woodland scenes show him at his best, but all too often his approach to the essential eccentricity that made the likes of Troughton or Tom Baker so good is more like overacting and playing to the crowd.  Even Baker at his most uncontrollable always respected the audience enough not to allow the Doctor to come across as a buffoon.

Another weak link this season has been Jenna- Louise Coleman.  She’s just a bit too clever for her own good – in a smug, self-satisfied way that is unbecoming of the companion role – and the final reveal as to who (or more importantly, what) she is will have to be damn good to make this all worthwhile.

‘Hide’ shows signs of definite improvement, but this is still a work in progress.  As the season reaches the halfway stage there needs to be a real upping of the game.  Neil Cross is a far better writer than his debut script suggested, and given more free rein on the show could see him produce a genuine classic.  But in a series that has done little more than underwhelm so far – especially with anticipation so high in this Anniversary years – ‘Hide’ feels like a tribute band playing to the crowd.  Doctor Who should be celebrating its story-telling prowess as well as its longevity in 2013; but then Season 20 wasn’t very special as memory serves either.


  1. OK, so you obviously wrote this to provoke a comment, so I will oblige. I obviously could not disagree more with almost everything you say, other than that this is one of the stronger of the four stories so far in the block.
    J-LC is simply a spark of life. How you can claim the character is too clever I cannot fathom. Plucky, yes. Smart enough to follow what is going on, in the Sarah Jane tradition, yes. Smug? I don't see it.
    Matt Smith continues to bring the alien back to the Doctor, a merciful relief after the laboured 'emo' stylings of his predecessor. What's more. it's equally refreshing to see his unforced style, which is again a break from the visible 'acting' of Number 10. DT played the Doctor, MS inhabits him. I also like the mixture of likability and danger that the writing is now bringing to the character.
    As to Hide in particular, I thought the resolution was just fine. In what way is it like 'Image of the Fendahl'? (Although if it were a retread, it would continue a line, as Image is a pretty direct riff on Quatermass and the Pit'). I don't recall the rescue of a lost soul, along with its apparent tormentor, in Image, nor it resembling a love story in any way. Nor do I recall the imprisonment and eventual destruction of an adversary in Hide. Even the more relevant sources - the Stone Tapes, Poltergeist - have very different resolutions and tone.
    You have a better point about the superficial resemblance between Dalek and Cold War, and I might even agree that overall Dalek was a better story. However, the stories are not the same, nor the tones. Dalek resembles Terminator 2 (remorseless enemy kills all in plain view), Cold War more Alien (deadly foe stalks a trapped party). Dalek resolves because the foe and its core belief has been polluted by human nature; Cold War by an appeal to the actual core beliefs of the adversary.
    Anyway - I guess your mileage may vary

    1. Roger, any opinion provokes a comment surely? Hide was an average story in a very poor run of episodes. The supposed dynamic between Coleman and Smith is meant to be like Spencer Tracey and Katherine Hepburn: I just don't see it. People referred to the Tennant/Piper Season 2 combo as smug: I didn't see it then, but I do with these two now. The 'Image of the Fendahl' comparison was mainly based on the Doctor revisiting the past to solve the present. David Tennant is a far more versatile character actor than Matt Smith and balanced the serious and the comic far better than Smith does. The slump in overnight viewing figures - with Hide down to 5.0 million - would suggest I am not alone in finding Season 7b a turn-off. The rest of the season must be far better than what we've seen since March 30th or this will be a damp squib of an anniversary.

  2. Indeed.. but some expressions of opinion are designed to be provocative, and I took this to be one such. I had not heard the Tracey/Hepburn analogy, and so was watching what is presented. I see an interesting pairing, quite a dark one actually. The Doctor is fascinated with Clara as a puzzle, less so a person, and has almost been stalkerish. I like that - far better than another pseudo-romance, and positively alien. I still do not see the smugness - especially not given Clara's reaction to the birth to death of the planet.
    I would dispute your assessment of the relative range of MS and DT (I assume the comparison is on their work in DW, not in general). Both aimed to play young/old and alien. MS carries it off, DT always fell short of the young/old, and shied from the alien in favour of a very human charm. I prefer my Doctors to be alien (which is a pain when making appointments, I can tell you).
    Oh, stats! First off, Hide was put up against the biggest watch of the week, and one that is supposed to have audience interaction, so less likely to be time shifted. A drop of 12% is better than one might have expected, half a million more than the Hungry Earth, the same as the Almost People. Let's return to this when the consolidated figures come out next week (though even they ignore the iplayer watches, which are invariably considerably over a million in the same week). For what it is worth, the consolidated figures so far are up 0.3M on the same point in series 6 (or 32 in old money).
    You are of course entitled to enjoy or dislike whatever you like, and to say so!

  3. Any opinion is - by its very nature - designed to provoke a reaction, so if you're not ready to accept an alternative view then perhaps you're reading the wrong site. Try Outpost Gallifrey instead.

    'Hide' would have been a very ordinary episode in any of David Tennant's three series. In the post-Moffat era of recycled plots and half-hearted story-telling it was positively above average. The guest cast was good. and following three episodes that ranged from the good, the bad and the ugly it was the best thing this 'series' has seen.

    The 'Image of the Fendahl' comparison related to the Doctor solving a problem in the present by visiting the past. Nothing more, nothing less. Sometime a cigar is just a cigar, as Sigmund Freud once said.

    The falling 'overnights' are a symptom of viewer apathy which has been building since Season 5 and the still-unresolved 'exploding TARDIS' arc that left the majority of casual viewers completely non-plussed. As did the Doctor's 'death' at Lake Silencio a year later. Yes, those adjusted figures will look relatively healthy by comparison, but as someone who remembers the slide in viewers between 'Attack of the Cybermen' episodes one and two (not to mention what happened a couple of months after that) then bums on seats is still important. Otherwise viewing figures wouldn't be released until all the figures are in.

    I won't bother mentioning the further (slight) slide for 'Journey to the centre of the TARDIS' the following week. If the show had got these figures back in 2005 we wouldn't be discussing this now.

    The final three episodes should see a dramatic improvement on what has been a pretty 'meh' run of stories. Good writers hopefully writing to their strengths. And a climax which may (or may not) capitalise on this season's themes of identity and loss. Stay tuned, as someone once said.