What To Expect: Hide
Guest contributor Gustaff on what to expect from the upcoming ghost story.
So the Doctor and his companion are going to be involved in a ghost story. Everyone, at some point in their lives, have scared or been scared by someone telling a good old fashioned ghost tale. The objective: Scare the pants off of everyone! So let’s gather up everything we know about ghost stories and see what lies ahead in Hide.
The most famous story surrounding this format in Doctor Who is likely Ghost Light. Others include The Unquiet Dead by Mark Gatiss and A Christmas Carol by Steven Moffat, but I don’t know if you’d count his take on the Charles Dickens classic. The only other ones I can think of would be Paul McGann’s fantastic The Chimes of Midnight, together with Sylvester McCoy’s eerie House of Blue Fire and magnificent Master which both based their formats around the haunted house theme. Special mention goes to the House of Blue Fire. If you’re not a fan of audios, then make an exception! From the above, it is somewhat obvious that ghost stories aren’t as common in Doctor Who as say Dalek stories. The reason for this is because the ghost always turns out to be an alien. So will Hide be able to bring something that rivals the most complicated ghost story in Doctor Who or the most timey-wimey one?
Ghost Stories can generally take on any format and still manage to incorporate the ghost-factor, but traditionally, they tend to fall into one of three categories, namely: Haunting, Spirituality and Reminiscence. The Unquiet Dead focused on spirituality by exploring Charles Dickens’ skepticism in spirituality and the supernatural, while Ghost Light followed the haunting path with a ‘ghost’ seeking to ‘catalogue’ everything on the planet. As I said before, usually these types of stories tend to fall into one of the aforementioned, but not always. We know from the synopsis that the Doctor is teaming up with a psychic, so they may very well be a Phony Psychic and just like in The Unquiet Dead, there may even be a Spooky Séance.
What are we looking at? An Avenge Me type of spectre, a Power of Love poltergeist, someone Barred from the Afterlife? Barred from the Afterlife means ‘someone’ has some Unfinished Business. If the ghosts are creatures brought back unwillingly, then we’re dealing with an Unwanted Revival. If they come back willing, then it’s Back from the Dead. Does the ghost know they’re dead or do we need to call in the Ghost Whisperer? There are all kinds of ghosts, but this being Doctor Who, the ones we’re most likely to see are aliens using the belief in ghosts to their advantage. No! Wait. Where have I heard that before?
Usually the ghost sticks around for some reason or wants something…unless of course it doesn’t know it’s dead, then it becomes a case of I Am What?. One type of storytelling involves the ghost just randomly killing people, scaring whoever happens to be in their house or trying to force certain individuals away from the setting to cover up some scheme that they’re already up to and close to completing. The last latter is often used in stories where the ghosts aren’t actually ghosts, but janitors or…aliens in this instance. If this is the case, expect Cryptic Conversations. This is beginning to sound a lot like Ghost Light, isn’t it?
A Haunted House obviously. There might be Whispering Ghosts in the background that you mistake for part of the audio track. Keep an eye on the goose bumps on your arms. They’ll let you know which is which.
As is tradition in a ghost story, or any type of genre-themed narrative for that matter, there are several clichés that are carried over from time to time. Some of them work, some of them bore. Some are played straight, others are subverted. Let’s see what they are…
First off, you can expect wherever the Doctor and company are spending the night to have a really menacing heading implying that it’s a good idea for you to stay away. Someplace like Mass Murder Creek or Death Valley. In this case, it’s Caliburn House. Cali – ‘burn’. As in a character named Cali might’ve burned there. Jip. Nothing incongruous or discouraging about that title. It’s also a safe bet that when our heroes are in it really deep, even the weather will turn against them. Snow storms, hail – acid rain! You name it. Hey it’s a ghost story set next to a moor; why not throw in some thunder and lightning or an eerie mist for that matter? We have the budget.
You can also make a wager that at some stage the decision to split up will be made. It’s tradition. Or it’s supposed to be. Unless one of the characters is of course Genre Savvy, someone will come up with the idea thinking it’s a good one. In which case, we can all assume that nobody in the episode has seen an episode of Scooby-Doo before. Oh and sorry. Just in case you’re reading this and don’t know what Genre Savvy means, it’s when a character in a story isn’t aware that they are in a story, but are familiar with stories similar to the situation they’re in and knows what works and what doesn’t. Okay, back to the clichés. If Neil Cross is playing around with the genre a little, you might hear things like “You look like you’ve just seen a ghost” or “I see dead people” somewhere in the episode. If he’s out to really entertain us, expect the other characters to reply: “Yes. I see them too.”
There might be some kind of unbeliever insisting that nothing supernatural is going on and someone convinced that there is. The former will deny everything. If that’s the case, expect the latter to suffer from a case of apophenia. To those of you who don’t know what this word means: It’s the inclination to see connections that aren’t there.
Moving on, a Ghost in a Mirror isn’t a bad bet either. Personally, I don’t know why ghosts in films are so concerned about their facial features. Maybe it’s because they always look so…pale. (Bad joke I know) If they do appear; then they will be silently watching someone or blatantly scaring a brown streak down their pants. We should also hope that K-9 or some other dog guest stars for this story as dogs always seem to be barking at haunted houses in movies or at some invisible evils lucking outside. So if K-9 stays away, keep your eyes open for another canine barking at something that no one else can see.
The Doctor and company should also be very suspicious of children with imaginary friends because those things are just trouble. You can’t trust them. Avoid them if you can. Furthermore, be thankful that we have the Eleventh Doctor and not the Third or Fifth Doctor leading the pack as Authority Figures are frequently pretty useless in these stories. Luckily the Psychic Paper has proven that the Doctor is safe…at least for now anyway.
And there you have it. As you’ll have gathered, there are loads of things to do in ghost stories and now you’re prepared to watch one. Check out the episode and see what matched up and what didn’t. Did they stick to the format or did they become a little Genre Savvy? Also, thank you everyone for all your positive feedback on the ‘What to Expect’ articles. People seemed to really enjoy them. Unfortunately this will be the last one, but I am fighting doing a ‘What to Expect: Multi-Doctor Stories’ later this year. Anyway, enjoy the article and try not to get ‘spooked’ by the episode.