It was a dark and stormy night. Well, it was! The year is 1974, the scene is the spooky and haunted Caliburn House where Professor Alec Palmer and gifted empathic psychic Emma Grayling are researching the supernatural goings-on. Palmer’s got loads of equipment to measure what’s happening while Emma summons the ghost. The equipment reads activity, Palmer captures the apparition with his camera, and Emma feels the spirit whom she says is dead. After the melee has stopped, there’s a loud knocking at the door. It’s the Doctor and Clara who’ve come looking for a ghost.
The Doctor implies he’s from the Ministry of Defence to check on their work. He’s really there to find out what’s going on. Palmer tells him the house is over 400 years old, but the spirit has been showing up for much longer; at least since the 17th century. Clara notices the apparition’s pose never changes and Palmer says no one knows why. Emma says she’s calling out to her for help.
Clara and the Doctor go off alone down dark corridors lit only by a candelabra they’re holding. In the shadows we briefly see something scurrying about and it’s not the ghost. When they get to the music room the Doctor finds a cold spot and marks it with a chalk circle on the floor. They hear knocking, the candles go out, and it gets very cold throughout the house. They go back to where the equipment is. It’s going crazy and some kind of dimensional hole opens up briefly. Then the words, “Help me” are written on the wall.
The Doctor asks Professor Palmer, a war hero, how he ended up in a haunted house looking for ghosts. Palmer tells him it’s because he’s killed and caused others to have gotten killed. You can see the understanding in the Doctor’s face when Palmer tells him that living on after so many around him have died tends to have a haunting effect. The Doctor knows far better than Palmer, or anyone, what it’s like to live on after so many around him have passed.
The Doctor and Clara go back to the TARDIS to travel very far back and very far forward in time while remaining on the same spot. He dusts off the orange spacesuit seen before in “The Waters of Mars” and a few other episodes. The Doctor has a theory and he’s using Palmer’s camera to snap pictures in the same place throughout the entire life of the Earth. When they return to 1974 he creates a slide show of the pictures he’s taken every few million years over the course of Earth’s entire existence and shows the ghost is actually a woman trapped elsewhere.
This woman is, or will be in a few hundred years, a pioneer of time travel on Earth named Hila Tacorian. She’s gotten trapped in a pocket universe where time runs more slowly than it does in our own. A second there is a hundred thousand years here, hence her pose never seeming to change. The Doctor tells Emma she’s like a beacon guiding the woman back to our universe. They don’t know what Hila’s running from, but there’s a blurry image of some kind of creature in one of the photographs.
The Doctor has a plan to save Hila with Emma’s help. Clara wants to know why he can’t just fly the TARDIS in to save her, but he says because it’s a collapsing pocket universe the entropy would deplete the power in about 3 minutes. He sets up what he calls a “psycho-chronograph” using a subset of the Eye of Harmony (the Time Lords’ legendary source of power), a blue crystal from Metebelis III to amplify Emma’s abilities, and some rope tied to a harness the Doctor is wearing.
Emma summons Hila while wearing the crystal and the dimensional rift opens. The Doctor jumps through and finds himself in a spooky forest on a rapidly decaying hunk of rock. Something skitters about just out of sight which really scares the Doctor, but he finds Hila and they run. Emma calls out to them to guide him back to the dimensional rift and her thoughts create an echo of Caliburn House in the pocket universe where the Doctor and Hila try to hide from the creature.
They find the rift in the house and Hila goes through first, then the rift collapses because of the strain on Emma. This causes the “echo house” to disappear and the Doctor again finds himself in the spooky forest. It’s definitely an emergency as the TARDIS’ long-silent cloister bell begins to ring and that only happens when things get really bad.
As Emma tries again to open the rift, Clara runs to the TARDIS. She has an interesting conversation with the TARDIS’ “Voice Visual Interface” and convinces it to let her in so they can travel to the pocket universe even though it’s at great cost to the blue box’s own existence. Clara gets her chance to fly the TARDIS at last!
The Doctor is speaking to the shadowy creature, wondering why it doesn’t just eat him. He realizes it needs him to cross into our own universe. The creature reveals himself, knocking the Doctor to the ground, but the TARDIS flies by in the nick of time and pulls the Doctor back into our universe. Everyone’s safe.
Alone, Emma tells the Doctor she knows he didn’t arrive because of the ghost, but because of her. He wants her to tell him about Clara, but all she says is she’s a normal girl who’s more scared than she lets on. No secrets revealed about Ms. Oswald this time.
Hila and Emma learn from the Doctor that their psychic connection is because they’re related. Hila is Emma’s great, great, great, great, great grandaughter…and Palmer’s. No big surprise about the two becoming a couple at this point, though.
Everything seems resolved when the Doctor realizes something about the shadowy figures showing up in each universe. The creatures are companions and they’re simply trying to reunite with each other. As the Doctor says, “This is not a ghost story. It’s a love story!” He gets Emma to open the rift again, jumps into the pocket universe again, finds the creature again, and Clara pilots the TARDIS to nab them…again.
NOW, everyone is happy!
This episode was full of good, old-fashioned haunted house chills and plenty of the trademark banter found in every episode. Having the “monsters” actually be a pair of lost lovers was a nice twist and helps to highlight the series’ ongoing message that things should not be judged by appearances alone.
Hila as a lost time traveler and how she became caught in a pocket universe wasn’t explained at all. She was more a convenient plot device and I would’ve liked more exposition on how she found herself in that situation and what became of time travel research on Earth. I suppose there’s really not enough time to satisfy all curiosities, but since Hila was the center of the story a little more about her would’ve been nice.
The TARDIS has finally warmed up to Clara by now, perhaps only because it was necessary to save the Doctor, but they’ve come to an arrangement nonetheless. As I mentioned in an earlier review, the locking/unlocking of the TARDIS doors are now apparently controlled by the box herself rather than a standard key. I like this arrangement because it makes a lot more sense for a sentient device to control its access and, well, it’s very convenient.
Overall a pretty good episode with few weak points. The scares were in abundance as one would expect from a haunted house tale. The distinctly different themes of each episode along with the promotional posters really do make them seem more like mini movies. That’s a good thing from where I sit.
If you’d like to read up on some trivia regarding the episode that clarifies the many references made throughout, check out the BBC’s excellent article on “Hide” entitled “The Fourth Dimension.”
Now for all the quotes worth quoting:Doctor: Hello. I’m looking for a ghost. Palmer: And you are? Clara: Ghostbusters! Doctor: I’m the Doctor. Palmer: Doctor what? Doctor: If you like. Doctor: Oh bliss. Nice action on the toggle switch. You know, I do love a toggle switch. Actually, I like the word ‘toggle.’ Nice noun, excellent verb. Palmer: This is my house, Doctor, and it belongs to me. Clara: This is actually your house? Palmer: It is. Clara: Sorry. You went to the bank and said, “You know that old, gigantic house on the moors? The one that dossers are too scared to doss in, the one that birds are too scared to fly over,” and then you said, “I’d like to buy it, please, with my money.” Palmer: Yes, I did, actually. Clara: That’s incredibly brave. Doctor: The most compassionate people you will ever meet, empathics, and the loneliest. I mean, exposing themselves to all those hidden feelings, all that guilt, pain, and sorrow and… Clara: Doctor. Doctor: Yes? Clara: Shh. Doctor: You coming? Clara: What? Doctor: To find the ghost. Clara: Why would I want to do that? Doctor: Because you want to. C’mon. Clara: I dispute that assertion. Doctor: Do you feel anything? Clara: No. Doctor: Your pants are so on fire. Clara: Okay. What is that? Doctor: It’s a, uh, it’s a very loud noise. It’s a very loud, very angry noise. Clara: Who’s making it? Doctor: I don’t know. Are you making it? Clara: Whiskey is the 11th most disgusting thing ever invented. Palmer: What do you think she is? Doctor: Not what I thought she’d be. Palmer: What did you think she’d be? Doctor: Fun. Clara: I’ve got this weird feeling it’s looking at me. Doesn’t like me. Doctor: The TARDIS is like a cat, a bit slow to trust, but you’ll get there in the end. Clara: So, where are we going? Doctor: Nowhere, we’re staying right here. Right here on this exact spot if I can work out how to do it. Clara: So, when are we going? Doctor: That is good! That is top-notch! Clara: And the answer is? Doctor: We’re going always. Clara: “We’re going always.” Doctor: Totally! Clara: That’s not actually a sentence. Doctor: Well, it’s got a verb in it. Clara: When are we? Doctor: About 6 billion years ago. It’s a…Tuesday I think. Clara: We’re all ghosts to you. We must be nothing. Doctor: No. No. You’re not that. Clara: Then what are we? What can we possibly be? Doctor: You are the only mystery worth solving. Doctor: We need some sturdy rope and a blue crystal from Metebelis III. Plus some Kendal Mint Cake. Emma: What does it do? Doctor: It amplifies your natural abilities like a microphone or a pooper scooper. Doctor: Listen. All I need to do is dive into another dimension, find the time traveler and help her escape the monster, get home before the entire dimension collapses, and Bob’s your uncle. Emma: Doctor, will it hurt? Doctor: No. Well, yes. Probably a bit. Well, quite a lot. I don’t know it might be agony. To be perfectly honest, I’d be interested to find out. Hila: Who are you? Doctor: Collapsing universe, you and me dead, two minutes, no time, complete sentences, abandon planet. Clara: What’s this now? TARDIS: The TARDIS voice-visual interface. I’m programmed to select the image of a person you esteem. Of several billion such images in my database this one best meets the criterion. Clara: Oh! Oh, you are a cow. I knew it! Doctor: No, you can’t have met, but she can be your great, great, great, great, great grandaughter. Yours too, of course. Well you guessed that already, didn’t you? Oh…apparently not. Doctor: How do sharks make babies? Clara: Carefully. Doctor: No. No, no, no. Happily. Clara: Sharks don’t actually smile. They’ve got lots and lots of teeth. They’re quite eaty. Doctor: Exactly, but birds do it, bees do it, even educated fleas do it. (Quoting Cole Porter’s song “Let’s Do It, Let’s Fall In Love.”)