If you haven’t seen this episode yet, just STOP. There are SPOILERS, sweetie!
I have to say, going in I was very much looking forward to this episode. It looked like a fun ghosty romp, complete with creepy mansion and unexplained knocking and the whole deal, and I was not disappointed.
They did a fantastic job with the time period, and I was able to tell right off the bat it was set in the 1970s. Even the way they filmed it (lighting, etc) reminded me of shows from that era.
The nod to the slightly-older-professor calling the younger-female-companion his “assistant” was a nice touch. There have been little waves at Doctor Who history in each episode thus far and this one made me smile. It was almost like the Doctor was feeling nostalgic, taking a trip down memory lane and playing with all of the toggles along the way.
Another throwback to the past was using a “subset of the Eye of Harmony.” This is (I think) the first time the Eye of Harmony has been referenced in the “new” Doctor Who cannon, though Rose Tyler looked into the “heart of the TARDIS” at the end of new series one. Interesting that it’s able to provide a power source, when the Doctor seems to need to constantly refuel at time rifts. Perhaps this is just the TARDIS’s little internal Eye, but maybe this is a hint of something bigger on the way.
I’m curious about something specific to this episode, though– as they discover who the ghostly image is, and then as the Doctor goes to meet said “ghost” in the pocket universe… why doesn’t the Doctor show up as part of the local ghost story? If people were catching glimpses of Hila Tacorien, a pioneering time traveler, then why didn’t they also catch glimpses of the Doctor when he was in the pocket universe saving her? Possibly this is explained by the Doctor’s comment that “blood calls to blood,” and Hila was most connected to her ancestors… though again, people throughout history were able to see the ghost.
At the end, the Doctor admits he hasn’t been there for the “ghost” but for Emma, the psychic assistant. He’s trying to solve the mystery of Clara’s existence, and it’s interesting that Emma doesn’t notice anything unusual about Clara… though she does warn Clara about the Doctor. Perhaps this is because Emma is more attuned to people’s feelings. Clara’s emotions are true to their situation, and her “mystery” isn’t connected to those emotions. The Doctor, on the other hand, is old enough to have a long vein of difficult emotions that he must balance against any given circumstance, not to mention the fact that he is probably still grieving over Amy and Rory. Think about how the Tenth Doctor spent all of his time with Martha being distant, grieving the loss of Rose. They are, after all, the same man inside.
This was a proper, scary-fun Doctor Who adventure, and I really enjoyed it. At first I was a little disappointed that the monster wasn’t a “bad guy” but as I’ve thought about it since, it’s kind of nice that they turned the trope around a bit and didn’t give us simply another Weeping Angel or Silence. The shadowy figure in the dark along with the “ghost” were nice and frightening, but I appreciated having a sort of closure for them. I also really liked that we never got a full-on look at anything, that the glimpses of the ghost and monster were brief, or in photos, or in shadows. Psychological horror works so much better than shock and gore, in my opinion.
I’m still not at a place where I want to speculate on Clara’s identity… though that may be a post for another day. I have a few ideas, just nothing much to go on at this point, but she’s definitely interesting.
And I am SO looking forward to the next few episodes!