No takesies backsies, tonight’s Doctor Who was really fun. The kind of fun that we haven’t seen in awhile — in that it was light, eerie, and (I hate this word but I’m still going to say it) whimsical, without a lesson in morality or any real gravity to bog the thing down. Will we remember this story or its creepy, spider-like villain years down the line? Probably not. But I was definitely caught up in it moment by moment, and Matt Smith— who just turned a great, soulful performance in “Rings of Akhaten” — got to show some of his best comedy chops as he gleefully took on this Ghostbusters adventure.
If there is any lasting affect from this week’s episode, it will come from the reveal that the Doctor wasn’t actually chasing the ghost-that-wasn’t, he was chasing the psychic empath assistant (who he called “companion”, aw) so that she might read Clara’s feelings. Oh Doctor, you sneaky mom. Luckily Clara never caught on, but it can’t be too long before she figures out just how deeply he cares about her origins.
So to start, it was quite literally a dark and stormy night. Dougray Scott, who disappeared for years but is now EVERYWHERE this weekend as Hemlock Grove just started on Netflix, was hanging out with a bookish Emily Mortimer type in a haunted mansion back in ’74. We know it was 1974 because they immediately said a recorder that it was night four of their attempt, November 25, 1974, at 11:04PM. Also they had just received an interference in their old fashioned ghost-hunting radio equipment, that I was thinking was the TARDIS. I mean, it was the TARDIS, right?
They went through with it anyway, because the bookish Emily Mortimer type, Emma, said that the ghost they were chasing was “So lonely.” Lonely and apparently very powerful, as her spirit was shown zipping through the house Evil Dead-style, until it was too much, and a creepy-as-f**k white figure ran right into Emma’s face, physically winding her. “She’s… dead,” Emma said in hysterics, until an ominous knock at the door ruined the moment. Was it the ghost? Had she been brought to life in physical form? Of course not, it was just an enthusiastic Doctor and Clara. “Boo!” the Doctor exclaimed, clearly giddy at the whole haunted house prospect. Clara made a Ghostbusters joke but duh, it’s 1974, no one knows what you’re talking about. Roll credits.
I must say, the Doctor’s one-liners and rampant enthusiasm were probably my favorite part of this episode. He just barged into this house with the enthusiasm of a school girl given an unlimited allowance at Forever 21, and started rattling off The Professor’s long list of achievements — “The Ministry of Un-Gentlemanly Warfare,” which specialized in wartime espionage, being the most interesting. But the Doctor — posing as military intelligence — loved him, and all of his antiquated equipment. (But wouldn’t all equipment look antiquated to the Doctor? Anyway.)
“I like the word ‘toggle’, the Doctor mused, as he examined the Professor’s equipment. “Nice noun, excellent verb.” All seemed to be in tip-top shape, so the Doctor was ready to meet. His. Ghost! But the Professor wasn’t happy — this was his house and his ghost, and no Doctor could take that away from him, understood? “Um, no, not really, sorry!” the Doctor replied. So ghost hunting they would go.
This particular ghost, the “Witch of the Well” has apparently been around for hundreds upon hundreds of years. Her appearances were marked by a mysterious knocking, “As if the devil himself demanded entry,” and she just, for the love of God, would not stop screaming. Clara instantly noticed that something was off — mainly, that in every photo (and there were many) the ghost was in the exact same position. She never changed. And apparently, she (the ghost, not Clara) now knew that Emma the Empath was there — and she was saying, “Help Me.” This all
None of this sat well with Clara, who isn’t one to go wandering off in a haunted house (read: She’s not Amy Pond). So when the Doctor tried to convince her to investigate the house while Emma and the Professor did their thing, he had to resort to drastic measures. Mainly, cute faces and dares. “I’m giving you a face,” the Doctor said. “Can you see me? Look at my face.” Clara would do it under one condition — if it was a dare. A triple dog dare. “I dare you,” he said. “No takesies-backsies.”
So they went to the center of the house — the music room — while Emma and the Professor acted out their romantic subplot that was meant to serve as a metaphor for the Doctor and Clara’s relationship. “Experience makes liars out of us all,” the Professor said, talking about the Doctor but also, himself. Did this mean that the Professor would also lie about his feelings towards Emma? He didn’t answer that particular question, but the romantic tension in the room was palpable.
Speaking of possibly romantic scenarios, the Doctor and Clara were now alone in the most swoon-worthy of settings — a haunted music room, by candlelight. Both of them quickly felt a cold, dark presence… and Clara, for one, was not happy. Was this because the lost spirit’s ghost had empathically connected to Clara as well? I’m not sure, but the dreadful knocking sound referenced earlier was enough to shake me out of wondering about the question. Calm down ghost, we get it!
But as scary as it was, it wasn’t enough for the Clara to be okay with the Doctor holding her hand. Except, wait, no — HE WASN’T. So they ran back to the main room with the Professor and Emma, where a giant DISH Hopper-like thing was floating through the air with ghostly interference. Emma suddenly saw the image of a forest through a darkened doorway, as well as the white image of the spirit looking very lost. “Help me!” she screamed, right as the Doctor snapped a picture. She also wrote it on the wall, for dramatic emphasis.
Everyone was spooked, and Clara went off to comfort Emma and chat about boys, while the boys (boy and Time Lord) discussed the Professor’s darkness and death-filled history over the developing photos in the darkroom. “We think people are feeling the way we want them to feel, when they’re special to us,” Emma said of her feelings toward the Professor, who, for the record, still totally likes her. Also, her statement could totally apply to some of the Doctor’s past companions (cough cough Martha).
However, the most interesting thing Emma said was regarding the Doctor and Clara’s relationship. Clara insisted that there was nothing going on (though, was it just me, or did it look like she might have wanted there to be?) and Emma said, good. “Don’t trust him,” she said. “There’s a sliver of ice in his heart.” Woah woah woah, lady. We know our Doctor has a tragic history and that all of the empathy in the world wouldn’t be able to cover it, but I’m not quite sure that “ice in his heart” is the diagnosis I would give. Should Clara fall for him? Probably not, given the obvious fact that the Doctor always peaces out when his companions age. But should she trusthim? Absolutely! The Doctor does whatever he can for his companions, though it sometimes goes very, very badly. Maybe that’s what Emma was referring to. Anywho.
At this point, things got weird. The Doctor and Clara ran back outside, seemingly abandoning their mission to re-board the TARDIS. Clara remarked that the TARDIS seemed to be staring at her, to which the Doctor replied — “The TARDIS is like a cat. A bit slow to trust. You’ll get there in the end!” So basically, the TARDIS pees on the Doctor’s bed during thunderstorms, knocks over every glass of water and/or wine in its line of vision, screams for no reason every morning at 5AM, sits on top of his laptop, and turns toilet paper into its own personal confetti. That, Doctor, is like a cat.
But the TARDIS let Clara in of course, on an epic journey through time — or as the Doctor calls it, always — just in the same exact spot in front of the house, throughout eternity. They make several stops ranging from the Big Bang to the Jurassic era to the Victorian era to the End of Days. This all made Clara very, very sad — and, keeping Emma’s words in mind, she was disturbed by the fact that the Doctor could observe the death of an entire species with no discernible reaction.
“What’s wrong?” the Doctor asked. “Did the TARDIS say something to you?” No, Clara explained, as the Doctor’s face turned full-on adorable (this is his “I don’t f**king understand you but I WANT to face, which is one of my favorites). More like, “To you I haven’t even been born yet, and to you I’ve been dead a hundred billion years. Is my body out there somewhere — in the ground?” she replied. I empathize (word of the episode) with Clara — it’s all really heavy stuff. But the Doctor can’t focus on things like that, or it would kill him. It’s too much. He just doesn’t get it. But when Clara said “we’re all ghosts to you… we must be nothing,” he perked up. “No,” he said with a sense of gravity. “You’re not that. You are the only mystery worth solving.” Boom. Poignant stuff.
Back to modern times they went, where Emma the Empath immediately empathed Clara’s muddled feelings — she couldn’t shake the feeling that “everything ends.” Not everything, Emma empathed. “Not love.” Or fear, apparently — the Doctor put on a little slideshow with the pictures he took throughout eternity, and all of them featured the Witch of the Well. But that, explained the Doctor, did not make her a tormented ghost. In fact, she was merely trapped in a pocket universe where time runs more slowly (like “The Girl Who Waited”). A second to her was roughly 100,000 years for us, hence her all-encompassing presence in the history books.
And this non-ghost was facing a huge dilemma — the time traveler “Hila” was stuck in a world that would collapse in, oh, a few minutes. (She’d only been there for three, so it makes sense.) Her only hope was Emma, the Empathic Lantern that would guide her home. Well her and the Doctor, who would make the journey to the pocket universe — which contained an arachnid-esque monster — to pull her out.
In order to do this all the Doctor had to was put a giant blue crystal-thingy on Emma’s head (it would increase her abilities, “like a pooper scooper”) to open up the wormhole to the pocket universe, then jump in himself using an incredibly long rope. (“Geronimo!”) The pocket universe was slightly creepy — a giant, enchanted-looking forrest permeated by a blue mist. It was also apparently rather small, as the Doctor and Hila ran into each other fairly quickly. They ran back into the portal — while the yet-unseen creature chased them — where Hila was quickly snatched up. The Doctor? Not so much. He got stuck.
Clara started freaking out, and Emma wasn’t helping — opening up that wormhole had weakened her, and she didn’t want to try it again. So Clara ran out to the TARDIS — and something magical happened. The TARDIS came to life as a hologram to talk to Clara, only she acted like a total bitch — literally appearing as a hologram of Clara. She had pored through all of the millions of options in her database, and, “This one best meets your criterion.” To which REAL Clara responded — “You cow!” Seriously. The TARDIS is kind of a bitch now, guys.
Clara begged the TARDIS to enter the pocket universe to save the Doctor, and Ms. TARDIS was initially very hesitant. But off they went, and in good time — the Doctor was by himself in the dark forest, not having a very good time. “I am the Doctor, and I am afraid” he said to the still unseen beast that stalked him. The the beast — who was absolutely heinous — finally showed up, just in time for the TARDIS to rescue him, and for Emma to mentally rescue the TARDIS. Got all that?
Good. The next day, Emma asked the Doctor why the Doctor had come to visit — she knew it was to see her. “Clara — what is she?” he asked. “She’s a perfectly ordinary girl,” Emma replied. “Pretty, very clever… more scared than she lets on.” This apparently did not appease the Doctor, who wanted more concrete answers. “Why?” Emma asked. “Is that not enough?” Good question — if Clara’s insolvable mystery truly is, will he be willing to look past it and enjoy her not as the Impossible Girl, but as a regular human?
Emma also fit in a chat with Hila the lost time traveler, as both ladies felt as if they’d met before. This was impossible, but as the Doctor said, “she can be your “Great-great-great-great-great-granddaughter.” Woah! “Yours too, of course,” he added, staring at the Professor. As River Song would say — SPOILERS!
Since the Professor and Emma’s relationship past present and future was just given away by the Doctor, the Professor asked what they should do next. “Hold hands,” he said. “Keep doing that and don’t let go. That’s the secret.” With this, a bell went off — earlier when something was holding Clara’s hand, it must have been the monster from the pocket dimension trying to reach out to a monster in our own, or something. This part didn’t really work for me, but it led us to the wonderful line “Every lonely monster needs a companion,” so I’m okay with it. Get it? The monster is him! Oh, metaphors.
So in the end, the Doctor reuited the two monsters, helped unite two adorable non-monsters, and got… well, not at all closer to the mystery that is Clara. Still, what a fun week! Shout out your thoughts in the comments!
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