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Doctor Who - Series 7B

The Doctor and Clara arrive in Caliburn House, where Alex Palmer and Emma Grayling are ghost hunting.

With Hide the shape of Series 7B becomes clearer. If The Rings of Akhaten is the Hartnell homage (grandfather, Susan reference, emphasis on exploration and what Russell T Davies called “Zogs on planet Zog are having trouble with the Zog-monster” arguably for the first time since The Web Planet); and Troughton’s was Cold War (Ice Warriors, base under siege and the HADS); here we have the Pertwee pastiche.

Our heroes are rattling around a country house in the 1970s, and it features a blue Metebelis crystal. Dougray Scott’s Professor Alec Palmer is a Third Doctor proxy, a man of science using gadgetry to debunk the supernatural, with Emma Grayling (Jessica Raine) his Liz Shaw. In a nice twist the Doctor himself is the interfering man from the Ministry, a staple of so many Third Doctor tales. In a lovely meta reference, Palmer’s espionage background in World War II we now know is similar to Jon Pertwee’s experience.

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Neil Cross has crafted a great story here, for once the forty-five minute running time feels enough to do the plot justice. The ghost was always going to be a parallel dimension bleeding through, or Curse of the Black Spot-style ‘broken switch’ reveal, but unlike that story, the ‘monster’ here keeps things very interesting right to the end, and is genuinely creepy.

In many ways a ghost story is perfect for Doctor Who, because it can be reasonably scary by showing very little. Sound effects and barely-seen shapes won’t trouble the teatime-scheduling too much, but at the same time create a terrifically menacing atmosphere. The final reveal of The Crooked Man might have been deemed too scary earlier in the episode, but his true nature cleverly makes it a witty shot, goofy rather than a horrific one.

The Doctor’s mispronunciation of Metebelis Three is very jarring at first, and threatens to take the viewer out of the story. But there’s fine tradition of the Doctor’s cavalier attitude to pronunciation of  Pertwee-era planets from Tom Baker changing the way Gallifrey is pronounced to Sylvester McCoy’s take on Spiridon in Remembrance of the Daleks.

The mini-arc Cross began in The Rings of Akhaten about the TARDIS disliking Clara has a really nice and unexpected pay-off. Not everything has to be part of the wider mystery.

“Ignorance is… um, what’s the opposite of bliss?”
“Carlisle?”
“Yes! Yes, ignorance is Carlisle.”

Not one, but two references to Cumbria this week. That’s four in as many weeks. It’s also four in fifty years. What’s it all leading to? Almost certainly nothing. (I have now written a separate blog on this, A Doctor Who Fan’s Guide to Cumbria).

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Purchase Doctor Who Series 7 Part 2 from Amazon:

Doctor Who – Series 7 Part 2 [DVD]

On Blu-Ray:

Doctor Who – Series 7 Part 2 [Blu-ray]

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