Caliburn House is haunted - but who exactly is the terrifying Caliburn Ghast, and what is it running from? The Doctor and Clara travel to 1974 to uncover the house's secret, but behind her back, The Doctor begins to unravel more of Clara's mystery... spoilers, of course, beyond the cut!
This was definitely a marked improvement from Neil Cross after The Rings of Akhaten - the script was much tighter, and even though it was rather rushed at the end (I think the way that the two 'Phantoms of the Hex' were reunited, just ending the episode with that half done, seemed a touch slapdash), it was a pretty good story. I quite like that, unlike Rings, the story's resolution was based on at least some kind of actual science, with the pocket universe, yet still had some emotional reaonance from the reveal that Emma and Hila were descendants, and the secondary reveal that there were two 'phantoms' lost in their own love story. It mirrored the whole thing rather nicely. Aside from the relative simplicity of the actual A plot, the B plot of The Doctor and Clara coming to loggerheads for the first time, and the display of Clara's friendship/trust (despite Emma's warnings) for the Doctor by rescuing him from the pocket universe, was a really nice element - pushing the Clara mystery forward ever so slightly. Emma can't find anything wrong with Clara from her perspective, but if the trailer for Journey to the Centre of The TARDIS is anything is to go by, there'll be some fireworks between The Doctor and Clara pretty soon...
Star of the show tonight though has to have been Jaime Payne's stunning direction. I feel like every week the show gets better and better, visually, but Payne's work sold the haunted house vibe of the first half stunningly well. The beautiful lightning-lit exteriors, the jump cuts, the tension and the feel were very well handled throughout. Especially the 'monsters' - never showing much until the very end, and even then...
... eeew. Nasty, but great, prosthetic work there!
The small cast (5 people? Surely that's got to be the smallest cast for an episode in quite a while!) performed wonderfully - standouts have to go to Jessica Raine's Emma (can't wait to see her as Verity Lambert), who sold the pain of being an Empath, as well as her feelings for Palmer, rather well, and Jenna Louise was once again hitting it out of the ballpark as Clara. Even though Hide was the first episode she filmed (and it ever so slightly shows - I don't think the confidence of her performances in either The Bells of Saint John or Cold War were quite there yet here), all the foundations of her great performance so far as Clara were there - the scene in the TARDIS where she confronts the Doctor about Time Travel, especially as she watched the future of earth play out on the display screen, was brilliantly done. It's all in the eyes for JLC, and she sells that moment perfectly.
My only real complaint - and it's been a growing complaint recently, especially Series 7 - is that the sound mix for the episode was absolutely shocking. It didn't help that much of the cast were spending most of the episode whispering, but I found myself struggling to hear exact lines of dialogue, either because the voice mix was down so low it became incomprehensible, or because some overtly loud snippet of Murray Gold's soundtrack was suddenly blaring over it. A lot of people have complained about the sound mix in Who in the past, it seems, but tonight was the first time I really struggled with it. It took me out of the story, trying to struggle to hear lines, which was a real shame because atmosphere was everything in this episode. Like Cold War, this would've felt fantastic back in the autumn 2012 run of episodes, rather than going out at 6.45 on a splendidly bright British evening in spring.
But overall, a decent, creepy slice of Doctor Who. Whilst not particularly amazing, it wasn't particularly bad - a nice, cosy, visually rich, run of the mill episode. Huzzah!