Thursday, 4 July 2013

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Originally Broadcast 20th April 2013

Written by: Neil Cross



In a nutshell: Professor Alec Palmer and Empathic Emma Grayling are ghost hunting in 1974 when the Doctor and Clara show up to lend a helping hand. But does the Doctor have another reason for being there?


Review: Straight away this episode is set up as being spooky and unlike any Doctor Who before it. It’s eerie, dark and frightening as we follow two people on the trail of a lost spirit. Then the Doctor and Clara knock on the door and we get a corny line about Ghostbusters. That didn’t work well in Army Of Ghosts and it appears it doesn’t get better with age.


The Doctor gets a long babble when he enters the house which works well although a little too fast and it’s painfully clear it’s there to get us into the adventure. Not that that’s a bad thing, it throws all the important stuff we don’t have time to learn at us in a couple minutes so we can get on with searching for the ghost. In fact the entire set-up for this episode is incredibly simple so we can get moving. Our two regulars teamed with a stereotyped professor and an empathy which isn’t exactly a new idea, although it’s one that’s getting more common in today’s media.



I’m really enjoying how simple and effective this is. Such a small cast means we get to learn more about them and get more story involved as well. The Doctor and Clara are loveable here, daring each other to do things and just having fun whilst Alec and Emma are the opposite, creating a nice contrast for the story. The cold spot is a great idea too and another one that’s realised well on the screen. The disc that appears in the middle of the room, however, isn’t the greatest. It’s quite a surprise to see the Doctor spooked and cry out as he and Clara run away. It’s another of those moments that I can only imagine happening with this incarnation of the Time Lord showing how much Matt has stolen this part.

Opposites to the Doctor and Clara
After a while the action (well, the spookiness) slows down for a few minutes so we can have more intimate moments with our characters, learning more of the intriguing back story of Alec Palmer. It’s surprising but he’s quite like the Doctor who Clara’s being warned against by Emma. The warning feels a little out of place, a bit like a poor man’s Gwyneth from The Unquiet Dead.



Back in the TARDIS there’s some lovely scenes between the Doctor, Clara and the TARDIS and a nice moment when Clara asks when they’re going. It’s a clever idea for the Doctor to watch the entire lifecycle of the planet in a few minutes and it’s even greater for Clara to react the way she does. Travelling with the Doctor it’s easy to forget and take things for granted, once in a while we need a new companion to ground him more and reign him in to the power he actually holds.



The explanation behind the ‘ghost’ is, like the rest of this episode, pretty simple yet extremely clever. The Doctor has to save her by jumping into the pocket universe sans TARDIS as well, which makes the stakes instantly higher than before. Such as back in the earliest episodes of the show, you always lose a sense of escape for the heroes when the TARDIS is lost. The Doctor can’t simply run back inside and escape, not that he would, but he has the choice. Here, he’s lost in a different universe and that’s scary.

You are the only mystery worth solving
Unlike the last episode this one is constantly uncertain and evolving. I don’t think I’ve ever guessed what will occur next apart from when the Doctor doesn’t manage to jump back into our universe in time. Other than one point of obviousness, this has been a no holds barred episode wrapped in darkness. Even the cloister bell doesn’t like it as, in a truly chilling moment, the Doctor admits he’s scared. I must admit, though, this line seemed so much more effective in the trailer than in the episode itself.



Things really heat up as we enter the final section of the episode, with Clara involved in a conversation with the TARDIS before taking a dangerous trip to the pocket universe to rescue her new friend. I’ve been constantly pleased with Jenna Louise Coleman and Clara with each episode. She seems like a best friend of the Doctor in a way dissimilar to Amy and Rory. She always jokes with him, they know each other and she’s put herself in danger in every episode of the series so far, heck, she’s even died for him twice in the past!



This episode does, sadly, fall into the trap of the last episode and begins showing too much of the monster but luckily we get Murray Gold’s best ever score as the TARDIS enters the pocket universe and swoops the Doctor back into ours. It’s quite spooky when we learn the Doctor’s real reason for visiting Emma and Alec is to learn more about who or what Clara is. I don’t like this side of the Doctor, he’s scary and godlike and dangerous at moments like this.

Clara and the TARDIS. More than meets the eye?
The final resolution over there being two alien creatures who are in love but separated is a nice ending and wraps up everything nicely in what has been a fantastic episode. Never mind what happened to Cross’ The Rings Of Akhaten, this is the best episode of the 2013 series so far, it’s absolutely stunning, excellently written, atmospherically directed and beautifully acted and, above all, it’s scary. And once all these elements are combined it’s impossible to not have a fantastic episode of Doctor Who! I demand more episodes like this from the pen of Neil Cross, this one’s a beauty!

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