Series 7, Episode 10
The Doctor and Clara visit a haunted house called Caliburn House. If you’re looking for a haunted house, then it has a lot that you would expect. Creaking floorboards, eerie distorted echoey screaming, mirrors cracking, unknown banging, writing on the walls appearing and disappearing before your eyes, cold spots. Plus the house is situated next to some spooky woods and there is a lot of lightning, thunder and rain.
All that may be why the owner of the house in 1974 Professor Alec Palmer (Dougray Scott) chose to buy it. It sounds like he was intrigued by living in a haunted house. He later reveals that the ghost actually predates the house itself, with parish records going back to the Middle Ages about it. So someone decided to build their house on somewhere long rumoured to be haunted? Well it can’t be denied that there is a market for it.
The ghost of the house has been known by many names over the centuries. The Caliburn Ghast, the Wraith of the Lady, the Maiden In The Dark and the Witch Of The Well. Professor Alec Palmer, a former spy, has been investigating the presence of the spirit. He has enlisted the help of a psychic named Emma Grayling (Jessica Raine) to try and make contact. The Doctor and Clara arrive to join in the investigation. They walk through the mansion, the Doctor carrying a candelabra. At one point Clara asks the Doctor to stop holding her hand… but he isn’t holding her hand at all. We also see some sort of weird spiny creature creeping in the shadows of the house. The temperature begins to drop, mist forms around a chalk circle, condensation on windows turns to ice, and a mirror cracks. Then a vortex appears where we see the ghost in a misty forest saying “Help me!” and this is written on the walls before disappearing.
The Doctor decides they need to delve deeper, and takes Clara back to the TARDIS, where we get some more great exchanges between the two.
Clara: “Where are we going?”
The 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?”
The Doctor likes that Clara has figured this out so quickly. He doesn’t so much like her opinion on his orange spacesuit though.
The Doctor: ” I think it brings out my eyes.”
Clara: “Makes my eyes hurt.”
In any case the Doctor has decided to get snapshots of the location throughout time, from prehistory to post apocalypse. Watching the entire life of Earth compressed into just a few minutes upsets Clara, and it goes further for her that the Doctor isn’t bothered by it. She tells the Doctor that humans must just be ghosts to him, but he replies that humans are the only mystery worth solving.
The Doctor and Clara return to the house, and he reveals that the ghost isn’t a ghost after all. She’s a time traveller named Hila Tukarian and is stranded in a pocket universe where time passes more slowly and is trying to get out back to our universe. But they need to get her out soon as the pocket universe is collapsing. The Doctor gives Emma a device which will enhance her psychic powers, and gets her to open the portal to the pocket universe. The bit of the universe we see is a floating island with the misty forest, and we get a sequence with the Doctor and Hila lost in the woods and being pursued by the same sort of creature seen earlier in Caliburn House. This is perhaps the most scary part of the episode, particularly when it looks like the Doctor may be trapped in the dying pocket universe, though obviously he gets out with the help of Emma’s psychic power and Clara using the TARDIS to rescue him against both his advice and that of the TARDIS herself.
In the end we find out that Hila is actually a descendant of Emma’s, which is why their psychic bond was so strong. There has been hints throughout the episode that Emma and Alec had feelings for one another, and it seems that they do get together eventually. In quite a sweet twist the Doctor realises there was another love story here, that of the two monsters. The monster in the pocket universe, which we see looks like a grotesque wooden carving, was in fact not a threat and was just trying to escape the universe himself to get back to the female monster which was in the shadows of the house. Both of them were mostly hiding and trying to find each other. The Doctor finds time (well, it’s what he does) to rescue the monster from the pocket universe and reunite the two.
This episode also had a fair few arc plot points. The Doctor only came to the place to find Emma, not the ghost, and he came to find her to ask if she sensed anything strange about Clara. Emma tells him Clara is just a normal girl. If anything, she thinks Clara is the one who should be wary and warns her not to trust the Doctor saying he has a “sliver of ice in his heart”. We then get it reiterated that the TARDIS appears to dislike or at least mistrust Clara. Clara being Clara gets a funny one liner in about it. When the TARDIS locks her out she says “Let me in, you grumpy old cow!”. Clara also mentions that she believes whiskey to be the eleventh most disgusting thing ever invented. So after chapter eleven of Amy’s novel and the fact that the current incarnation of the Doctor is the eleventh… Something is definitely going on.
This was a good episode, one of the best of the seventh series, it’s in my top 3 after Asylum of The Daleks and The Angels Take Manhattan. We had some very rounded guest characters and the haunted house tropes were used effectively. It told a good one-off story and expanded on the arc plot.