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OK, let’s start:
There’s a storm outside a stately home. Inside, Professor Palmer and his assistant Emma Grayling discuss an experiment. They both seem very nervous. There’s a huge array of equipment on the table, some of it looks home-made.
However, the experiment, when it starts, seems to be more of a extra-terrestrial phenomenon. Emma, who appears to be psychic calls out, to try and help someone home, and then there’s… well it looks a lot like a ghost.
Just as Emma recovers, there’s a knock at the door, and it’s the Doctor and Clara.
The Doctor baffles all and sundry with his patter, examines the equipment and exposes a few of the Professor’s secrets, then demands to see the ghost. It turns out this is the Professor’s house and Emma is an empathic psychic.
The ghost they saw earlier is the Caliburn Ghast, or the witch of the well, a spirit whose appearances have been recorded for hundreds of years. Emma is there with her empathic powers in order to allow her to appear in photographs.
So, off the Doctor and Clara go to search for the ghost. It’s a ghost story, why wouldn’t they? They wander into the music room, wisecracking, and it’s there that things start to happen. There’s a cold spot. Clara isn’t happy. Things go boom. The candles go out. The house becomes cold. Someone is holding Clara’s hand.
Meanwhile, the Professor, in discussing the Doctor, explains to Emma that “experience makes liars of us all.” This is relevant, because clearly these two have yet to realize they’re in love. But that’ll have to wait, because, as Emma points out “she is coming!”
And so she does. There’s a spinning disc in the air, Emma is once again possessed and the words “help me” appear on the wall. Time for a cup of tea while the Doctor and Professor develop pictures of the apparition.
Clara suggests to Emma that the Professor has feelings for her, but she doesn’t seem quite convinced. During the conversation, Emma warns Clara that there’s a sliver of ice in the Doctor’s heart, and that she shouldn’t trust him.
Off to the TARDIS, for a quick trip to always. They remain on the spot, but visit the local area over a period of millions of years, and the Doctor takes photos. This exercise seems to upset Clara, who for the first time realizes that the Doctor is effectively eternal, which brings her own mortality to the fore, and she realizes that to him, dotting in and out of time, she is not only yet to be born, but also long dead. She’s a ghost. Everyone is. What use are they to him?
The Doctor, while unprepared, says simply this: “you are the only mystery worth solving,” and with that, they are back in Caliburn House, looking at slides of… wait, she’s Hila Tekorian! A pioneering time traveler! She has crash-landed in a pocket universe. A tiny, temporary balloon universe, tangential to our own. And she’s running from a beast.
Oh, and Emma’s the one that can bring her back to her rightful universe, with a little bit of help from a blue crystal from Metebelis 3. If you’ve never seen the Third Doctor story Planet of the Spiders, this possibly won’t mean much, but seasoned Whovians will have done proper joyclaps at that moment.
While the Doctor arranges everything, there’s a tender moment between Emma and the Professor. It’s nice. It seems the TARDIS can’t go and fetch Hila, it would burn her out, so the Doctor has to sort of psychically abseil into the balloon universe, while Emma keeps a doorway open, at no small physical discomfort to herself.
The spinning disc is back! It’s a wormhole, a reality well, and the Doctor is going in. On the other side, some spooky woods on a crumbling plateau, and that beast. And Hila Tekorian! They run, but it’s hard to find their way and Emma is in a lot of pain. Time is running out in every conceivable way.
Then they’re in somehow in an alternative version of the mansion, but so is the beast. The Doctor sends Hila through, but that’s when Emma’s strength gives out. She collapses, the wormhole collapses and the Doctor’s chances of getting back collapse. He’s back in the spooky woods, and guess what? So is the beast. And there’s a noise that sounds a lot like the cloister bell.
Emma is spent, she’s terrified. Time for the Professor to inspire her to have one last go, and while she’s getting herself together, Clara runs off to the TARDIS, only to be locked out, and faced with a hologram Clara, and a snippy one at that.
Emma opens the wormhole again, Clara is let into the TARDIS, and Operation Doctor-Fetch has begun. The Doctor, meanwhile, is getting a little rattled by all the spookiness in the spooky woods. And just as the beast knocks him down, and Emma screams like her spine is being removed with a spoon, Clara and the TARDIS arrive and save the day.
Later, when Emma has recovered, the Doctor reveals that he wants her to tell him who Clara really is, why she is so very impossible. But she’s just a normal girl.
I tell you who isn’t normal though, Hila Tokarian, who turns out to be a descendant of… Emma and the Professor! And while love is in the air, the Doctor has a sudden moment of clarity. The beast isn’t scary, it’s lonely! It had to try and piggyback through the wormhole, because there’s another beast, in the mansion. Time to go back, play fetch and commence matchmaking!
Next: Journey To The Centre of the TARDIS.
See more posts by Fraser McAlpine
Fraser has been writing and broadcasting about music and popular culture for over 15 years, first at the Top of the Pops website, and most recently for the NME, Guardian and MSN. He also wrote BBC Radio 1's Chart Blog and reviews albums for BBC Radio 2.
He is Anglophenia's current resident Brit, blogging about British slang and running around the Mall taking snaps of the crowd at the Royal Wedding, as well as reigniting a childhood passion for classic Doctor Who and cramming as much music in as he can manage.
Fraser invites you to join him on Twitter: @csi_popmusic