This week Clara and the Doctor hunt down a ghost! Violet gives her recap, while Josh provides commentary in blue. Read more after the jump. Spoilers!
The episode begins on a stormy night in a big creepy house in 1974. There’s a bunch of electronic gadgets hooked up, as a man monitors them, and a woman attempts to contact the spirit that inhabits the house. The ghost starts coming toward the woman, and it gets closer and closer as the man takes pictures of its approach. It eventually passes through her and disappears. Then they hear loud knocking on the door. They open the door, and it turns out to be none other than the Doctor, saying he’s looking for a ghost, and Clara, who pokes her head out and says they are the ghostbusters.
While this was “advertised” as a ghost story, we Doctor Who fans know that most ghost-like stories in Doctor Who are more than simply ghosts. There is usually a pseudo-science basis for the supernatural, so this episode I basically sat around waiting for the “big reveal”.
The Doctor introduces himself, and the man asks, “Doctor what?” The Doctor knows all about the man, who we learn is Professor Palmer, a member of the Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare, which specialized in espionage, sabotage, and reconnaissance. The woman is Emma Grayling, his assistant. The Doctor tells him that the Ministry has sent him to check that everything’s in order. We find out that the Professor actually bought this haunted house, which Clara comments was very brave of him, as they walk through the house using candles as light. We learn that the woman is an empathic psychic, meaning that she senses feelings sometimes (but not always).
Pretty quickly, we are introduced to the relationship tension between the professor and the companion–err I mean, assistant. It is going to be a focal point for the show, but unfortunately, I was really rather bored by this storyline. I found it quite odd that, as an outside observer, they both practically held up signs of their feelings, yet neither one would take the first step. It seemed a bit forced to try to convey that neither one could tell the other person’s feelings.
The Professor shows them his pictures of the ghost, known as “The Witch of the Well,” whose presence is always accompanied by dreadful knocking, and whose existence dates back a long way. Clara notices that in all of the pictures, the ghost woman Is always in the exact same position. We learn that the ghost monitoring equipment cannot detect her, and the only way to detect her is with a powerful psychic, hence Emma. The ghost woman is always saying, “Help me.” When asked where the well is, the Professor says they could not find one on the property.
Clara and the Doctor step off to the side and are whispering to each other. The Doctor wants Clara to go searching for the ghost, but she is reluctant. Finally, she gives in after some playful childish banter (“Dare me?” and “No takesies backsies”) and she and the Doctor go walking around the house. Behind them, we see a dark, shadowy figure lurking in the corner.
I felt this scene played up on the Doctor and Clara’s relationship, which may move on the next level eventually I think. I doubt the show would ever delve too deeply into a romance between a companion and the Doctor, as that would probably get rather boring quickly.
Meanwhile, the Professor and Emma are discussing the Doctor and whether he is really from the Ministry. The Professor comments that the Doctor is capricious and brilliant, much like a Ministry person would be, but that it also means that he is deceitful. The Professor talks about how experience makes liars of us all, and Emma comments how we lie about how we feel. They exchange a look that suggests something unspoken is going on between them.
The theme I felt reiterated through this episode was lying and how people present themselves to others. We have a lot of discussion of lying, espionage, and how each companion relates to the other.
Clara and the Doctor arrive at the Music Room, which they were told earlier is the “heart of the house.” They feel like they are being watched, and all of a sudden there is a cold spot, and the Doctor can see his breath. He amusingly figures out how far the cold spot extends by stepping back and forth in every direction (“warm, cold, warm, cold”), and draws a circle around the cold spot. Meanwhile, the Professor’s equipment is going crazy. We see smoke rising from the lining of the circle, then hear banging, and the candles blow out. We also see on the thermometer that the temperature is rapidly dropping. They realize she is coming, so the Doctor and Clara retreat from the room. As they walk down the hall, Clara tells the Doctor there’s no need to hold her hand, but the Doctor points out that he is not holding her hand. They scream and run back to the room where the Professor and Emma are.
While a funny scene of the Doctor playing Hot/Cold, in the grand scheme of the episode, the cold spots don’t seem to be explained by the end of the episode ****SPOILER**** since the ghost is actually a time traveler, why would these cold spots be produced? Was it our ugly spider-like creature making them? Would have been nice to have some sort of explanation rather than simply using a common supernatural/ghost cliché.
All of a sudden, a circular metal object appears, spinning in midair. The Doctor takes several pictures of the object. Emma sees a vision of a woman in the woods saying, “Help me,” and writing appears on the wall, reading “HELP ME.” However, both the writing and the floating object soon disappear.
Later, Clara and Emma are having a heart to heart, while the Doctor and the Professor are in the dark room developing the photos that were just taken. Clara asks Emma about her and the Professor, reassuring Emma that it’s obvious they have feelings for each other, but Emma says sometimes they get their signals crossed. Meanwhile, the Doctor asks the Professor how a war hero ends up here, and he says it’s because he killed so much that it haunts him. Emma then asks Clara about her and the Doctor, and Clara immediately dismisses the idea. Emma is glad, and tells Clara not to trust the Doctor because there’s a sliver of ice in his heart.
Again more discussion of trust between Clara and the Doctor, which seems to be a recurring theme this half of the season. I wonder if this is a foreshadowing, that will put a rift between the Doctor and Clara in some way.
The Doctor and Clara go out to the Tardis. It is raining and Clara brings a red umbrella. The Doctor is confused as to why she has brought an umbrella, saying he already has one in the Tardis, but when he looks around for it, he can’t find it. Clara shakes off the umbrella inside the Tardis, and the Doctor gets offended for the Tardis. Not sure if there is some sort of significance behind the red umbrella, if it is going to come up in a later episode and be explained why he thought he already had one. Is it just a reference to the Seventh Doctor’s umbrella (due to the 50th anniversary of the show), or is there something more going on here? Anyway, so the Doctor takes the Tardis and goes through the whole life cycle of Earth from birth to death, taking pictures of the same spot throughout time. This upsets Clara, and she begins to cry, wondering how the Doctor can be okay with what that, and comes to the conclusion that she’s a ghost to him, we’re all ghosts to him, and that we must be nothing. The Doctor disagrees, saying, “You are the only mystery worth solving.”
I am beginning to wonder if there is something “timey-whimey” with the TARDIS. It seemed odd for the Doctor to get so hung up on the umbrella issue. I think there has to be something going on with the TARDIS, which may be answered in next week’s episode. The scene with Clara and the Doctor seeing the Earth birth until death is very interesting though. We get a peek into the coldness of the Doctor here. It actually might be more of desensitization however. The Doctor is 900 years old, and can see any point in time. It would be hard to not become numb to seeing the tragedies in the Universe. Such as a doctor doing surgery for 20 years, or a mortician taking care of the dead for most of his life. Eventually it becomes “routine”. For Clara though, seeing the end of the world is horrifying, even if it is tens of thousands of years away from her lifetime.
They return to 1974, and the Doctor reports his findings. He has taken a snapshot every few million years, and reveals that the ghost woman is not actually a ghost, but a pioneer time traveler named Hiller Takorian who is caught in a pocket universe and appears to be running from something – but exactly what she is running from we don’t know. The Doctor tells Emma that she is the only one that can save the woman, and she agrees to do it. Clara and the Doctor run back to the Tardis to collect some equipment needed for Emma to help save the woman. The Professor tells Emma that he doesn’t want her to do it, it’s not worth the risk to him. Clara asks why can’t the Tardis just go to the parallel universe, and the Doctor clarifies that it’s a pocket universe, not a parallel universe, and that the Tardis can’t go because it would quickly decay her.
One pet peeve I have with Doctor Who, is the sudden introduction of “convenient” plot devices that either hinder or assist the Doctor in his situation. I feel this “pocket universe” explanation is one of those things that are convenient for the sake of the story (reminiscent of the lack of being unable to rescue Rory and Amy Pond).
The Doctor and Clara return to the house with the equipment, some sort of helmet, which will amplify Emma’s natural abilities. Emma asks if it will hurt, but the Doctor doesn’t have a definitive answer for her. The monitoring equipment starts going crazy, the circular floating object appears again, and wind is crazily blowing throughout the room. The Doctor clarifies that the circle is a wormhole, then yells “Geronimo!” and jumps in, attached to a rope, and lands in the woods. He quickly finds Hiller, who says something is in the mist, and they run. Unfortunately, the Doctor seems to have misplaced the exit. They can hear Emma yelling “Doctor!” repeatedly. Emma uses her powers to place an echo of the house in the echo universe, which the Doctor and Hiller run into, then close and secure the double doors behind them, while the thing chasing them is trying to find a way in. The Doctor and Hiller run further into the house and find the rope, and Hiller gets pulled through the wormhole back into the real house. Then the wormhole goes away, and the Doctor takes a step and is no longer in the echo house, but back in the woods, and the creature is stalking him.
I am not quite sure why, but I really didn’t feel that connected to the episode at this point. I guess maybe I felt it was a bit of a silly rescue mission. I just felt pretty disinterested at this point.
Emma has collapsed, and the Professor is holding her in his arms, praising her for what she did. Clara says she has to do it again, but the Professor says she can’t. Clara runs to the Tardis, desperate to save the Doctor, but the Tardis is locked. Suddenly, another Clara appears in front of her. Turns out it’s just a hologram though, that the Tardis has selected to appear to her as. Clara tells the hologram that they have to save the Doctor, but the Tardis protests, saying that if she went to the pocket universe, her energy would be depleted within 4 seconds, and she would be disintegrated within 10 seconds. Clara mocks her and says let’s go. The Professor tells Emma that she is the one that brought him back from the dead. Emma puts the helmet back on, then joins hands with the Professor and Hiller, and the wormhole appears again. The Tardis decides to unlock its doors and lets Clara in.
The TARDIS’s exchange with Clara was interesting, almost that of arguing with her. Perhaps the TARDIS is wary because of Clara’s mystery. I have a feeling this may be explored a lot next week.
Meanwhile, the Doctor is afraid of the creature in the pocket universe. He realizes that the creature wants him to be afraid. He wonders why he is still alive, and figures out that the creature needs the Doctor to piggyback it across to the regular universe. He tells the creature to chase him, and the creature eventually catches the Doctor, knocks him over, and pins him down. Just then, the Tardis appears flying rather haphazardly (how does Clara even know how to fly the Tardis at all?), and the Doctor is able to grab on. They arrive safely back inside the house, with the Doctor still hanging on outside of the Tardis.
Later on, the Doctor and Emma are speaking privately, and we find out that the real reason the Doctor came here was not because of the ghost, but because he wanted to ask Emma what Clara really is. But Emma says that Clara’s just a perfectly ordinary girl — very pretty, very clever, more scared than she lets on. The Doctor doubtfully asks, “That’s it, is it?” and Emma replies, “Why, is that not enough?”
We finally get some story advancement here, with the Doctor trying to have Emma read Clara. He seems rather annoyed that there is nothing more to Clara. It is also interesting that at some point this episode, the Doctor admits to Clara that she is the biggest mystery worth solving (but doesn’t elaborate too much on that).
Then they have to deal with what to do with Hiller. They can’t take her home, because history says she went missing. The Doctor specifies that this is one of those fixed points in time that can’t be changed. He then reveals that Hiller is the Professor and Emma’s great-great-great-great granddaughter, and that’s why their psychic link was so powerful and able to reopen the wormhole. The Professor asks the Doctor what he and Emma are supposed to do now. The Doctor tells them to hold hands, and keep holding hands, and never let go — that’s the secret. He then has an epiphany — there are actually TWO creatures, and this is not a ghost story, but a love story! As he says this, he realizes his arm is around Clara, and he quickly takes it away and apologizes. He gets Emma to open the wormhole again, and goes back to the pocket dimension to bring the creature through to be with its companion. Clara crazily flies the Tardis into the pocket dimension (I still don’t know how she can fly the Tardis), and the episode ends with the Doctor saying, “Get ready to jump.”
My thoughts on the episode: Another mediocre episode. They tried to make us care about the relationship between Emma and the Professor, but they didn’t do a very good job of it. The ghost story was a bit creepy, but I felt it was kind of a cop out that it wasn’t really a ghost. Interesting alternative, however. I’m glad that the writers are continuing to acknowledge the mystery of the impossible girl, but once again, I’m ready to make some headway on this. Essentially, this whole episode was a waste of time just so that the Doctor could ask Emma what Clara is, to which he didn’t get the answer he was hoping for, not even one hint to help him solve the mystery. This is not only disappointing to the Doctor, but to us viewers as well. Again, hoping for some sort of progress next week.
I have to agree with the wife here, it was a relatively uneventful episode. While I understood this wasn’t truly going to be a ghost story, I felt the story of the episode is lacking. The love story was rather bland for the two other characters in the story. To use 45 minutes of Doctor Who to advance the overarching plot very little was a little bit lackluster. I have a feeling there is more going on this season than we are aware of so far, but I would like to really delve into the overarching plot, and get a little bit away from the “one off” episodes. I can’t quite put my finger on why I haven’t been satisfied with this season so far, but I am sure part of it has to do with the lack of the “grand scheme” being played out more. Hopefully next week as we delve into the TARDIS, we will get some more plot going!