Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Ghost Light

Doctor Who Thing@DoctorWhoThing Ah, you're doing Ghost Light, one of the very best bits of Who! 

Season 26 is an extremely strong run for me; Battlefield gets slagged, but it's only weak compared to what follows it. 


Doctor Who Thing@DoctorWhoThing agree. Season 26 one of the shows strongest runs. Cartmel had turned the show around. 
Chris@KosmicKris  this is a beautifully shot story - one of my all time favourites. 
Mark Walker@Mark_Walker it's great stuff. 'Atmospheric' is over-used - but it is! 

Okay, so we're in a victorian house, and dinner is being served in the cell in the creepy basement... Great start! 

The staff don't want to be in the house after dark... 

John Nettleton (Revd. Matthews) is always fantastic. 

The sets are absolutely amazing; this is light years better looking than most of the rest of McCoy's era already. Wonderful soundtrack too! None of that painful Keffing about. 

As Ace & the Doctor arrive in the attic...

...the servants of the house leave for the night. 

Ace doesn't like creepy old houses... 

Love the maids coming out of the hidden compartments in the wall. Creepy stuff. 

Gwendoline has been assigned... 


Radioactivity in a Victorian house? Intriguing... 

And now Michael Cochrane! This story's a bit like Black Orchid's evil twin. 

It's like Downton Abbey meets the Addams Family.

The explorer, offended by Ace's shoulders, is in search of Redfers Fenn Cooper, owner of the radioactive cigar case. 

The Revd. Matthews is impatient to meet Josiah Smith but will have to make do with Gwendoline for now. 


The Great Hunter suddenly flips and has the Doctor & Ace at gunpoint. 

Nimrod seems to be an educated Caveman. Has Professor Higgins been at him?

"Chinese Fowling piece" - nice reference to The Talons Of Weng Chiang there! 

The explorer seems sure to shoot the Doctor until he sees his reflection: he's found Redfers at last... 

Redfers, ranting about the "light", is carted off, and Ace & the Doctor make the acquaintance of Neanderthal butler Nimrod. 

The Revd. Matthews mistakes the Doctor for Josiah Smith, the owner of the house. 

Smith's niece Gwendoline takes "Alice" for a dress fitting while the Doctor & Smith debate Darwin. 
Chris@KosmicKris this is everything I love about Marc Platt’s writing: even in a 3 parter, the story has room to breathe. 

Lots of references to Darwin here, obviously a bugbear of the Revd. Matthews'. 

Redfers' tortured screams bring Alice/Ace, now doing a Victor/Victoria, running but Mrs Pritchard pulls her back when the Doctor sees the light. 

The Doctor knows Neanderthal customs, picked up about 101,886 years ago, presumably. 


I'd steer clear of the Doctor if I were Nimrod, he'll be bashing your head in with a rock next.


Whatever's being kept prisoner in the basement is getting fidgety. 
Mark Walker@Mark_Walker poor old Nimrod gets clobbered! 


My money's on the Doctor. He's got form with cavemen. 

Josiah is called away from dinner by an unwelcome phone call from below...

The Doctor's manipulating Ace again; she's been here before. 

She's figured out that the Doctor's tricked her into coming back to the very house she told him was her nightmare.

Great bit from Sylv re: "lost luggage, lost souls" etc. Things the Doctor hates: Burnt toast, lost luggage, unrequited love, tyranny, cruelty, Daleks, not being ginger... 
Chris@KosmicKris this is one of many “bespoke” Who stories for McCoy. I couldn’t see this working with Jon or Pat
Mark Walker@Mark_Walker people slate McCoy, but stories like this show his potential.
Chris@KosmicKris I adore McCoy, some lemons (and which Dr. didn’t!) but a lot of real quality in there as well!

Mark Walker@Mark_Walker totally agree. He was my 'first Doctor' as well.

Josiah Smith is one of those great super-smooth villains like Scaroth

Revd. Matthews is dispatched to Java. 

The show's researchers lucked out finding the genuine period song "That's the Way to the Zoo" for a Darwinian satire.  

"WHITE KIDS FIREBOMBED IT" KLAXON! I never found that line as clunky as others, I have to admit. 

"I'm as human as you." "Yes." Nice touch. 

Josiah offers the Doctor £500 to rid him of the Control creature. "Now that's what I call Victorian value..."

Whatever's trapped in the basement is sending weird lizard men in husks at Ace and shouting "Ratkin!". As you do. 

Don't like cliffhangers that don't properly resolve at the beginning of the next episode. Why was that bluebottle scene there

Nimrod rescues Ace from the lizard men and the imprisoned creature. 
Mark Walker@Mark_Walker While we have the lamp, we're safe - oh shiiiit! 

Josiah continues in his attempts to recruit the Doctor... 

...but he's no longer willing to pay, preferring to rely on the coercive talents of Gwendoline and Mrs. Pritchard. 

The Doctor knows that Gwendoline's father has already been sent to Java. Does he know more?

Josiah's not prepared to take no for an answer, though. 

In the basement, Ace decides you can't make a break out without smashing a giant light egg. 

The Doctor makes use of the distraction to force Josiah down to the basement at geiger-counter-point. 

Nimrod went into a trance when he saw the light... 

Josiah's skeletons are returned to their cupboard. 

"I try and try but I can't understand!" Never got why people bang on about this being too hard to follow. It really, really isn't. 

The script explains exactly what's going on and what's happened in the past. Why do people get confused?  

It's a mistake people make to assume you *should* know what's going on; it's deliberately drawing you in with mysteries.

Doctor Who Thing@DoctorWhoThing viewers have to actually pay attention. Too much for some it would seem, cos it's all in there.



Chris@KosmicKris I feel Listen did nod to Ghostlight in the structure. My own limitation with Ghost Light is I keep thinking how it *might* have been with the Doctor instead of Ace as main protagonist.

Ah, yes, Lungbarrow... possibly an unpopular opinion but I never saw what all the fuss was about Lungbarrow and think what we got (Ghost Light) was much better.

Mrs. Pritchard calls Gwendoline a trollop for listening to the Doctor. Harsh. 

Whatever's in the glowy egg thing disagrees with Josiah's eyes. 

The "Control" voice is hard to understand.

Chris@KosmicKris I love the idea of “Control” - the control of the experiment! More brilliance from Platt

When a mysterious display screen distracts the Doctor and Ace, Josiah gets the drop on them...

...which doesn't go unnoticed by "Control".

The Doctor soon turns the tables...

...but Control seizes the opportunity to unleash the Husks again.

The Doctor & Ace, with Nimrod and their host in tow, escape from Control, but Josiah's feeling a bit husky... 

"It's been a Hard Day's Night!" Wonderful stuff. 

Josiah breaks the lift so that Control can't get up, then retires to the observatory to convalesce. 

The sun is starting to come up, so Josiah needs to crawl under a rock... 

Josiah's face has gone all manky and he's got a nasty cough.

But at least the Reverend Monkey Hands is giving him a good laugh. 

Ace is knackered so the Doctor lets her get some shut eye... 

...while Gwendoline sends Revd. Matthews to Java. 

The Doctor decides to call the cops.

Say what you like about Gabriel Chase, you do get breakfast in bed.

Although, having said that, it does include Kedgeree. Urgh. I'll have the bacon and eggs, though.

Frank Windsor's Inspector MacKenzie is hilarious.  

He's such a grotesque that he's not far off Henry Gordon Jago.

Ace arrives so the Inspector can spit food on her new frock.

While Ace slept, the Doctor's fixed the lift so the Control creature can bring up whatever's sleeping in the ship in the basement.

Awakened at last, Nimrod recounts the legend of the burning one... 

Mark Walker@Mark_Walker Tricky things mammoths!

It's not just the policeman & Nimrod that have woken up; Josiah's bug emporium is on the move...

Nimrod goes to free the great hunter Refers Fenn Cooper; but the Doctor beat him to it hours ago - meaning he's been standing there like a muppet all that time. 

All the insects are coming back to life. Can't stand cockroaches. They give off vibes of dirty evil. 

Ace and the Inspector discover what monkey business has been going on in the observatory... 

The Time-Lord fiddles with time to bring forward this episode's cliffhanger.

"I've lit the blue touch paper and found there's nowhere to retire to!" Wonderful line.

Here come the night shift...

"Stitch this, Dracula!" Frankenstein, more like: Josiah's evolved into the 8th Doctor by the looks of it. 

Fantastic build-up to this cliffhanger...

...as Control arrives, as the herald of light's return.

Love the blinding light, and that we don't actually get to see what it is. 

"Light" is fascinating. Ace calls it an Angel, but it's really just an alien. 

Brilliant performance from John Hallam.

Josiah sets one of his trigger happy night shift to the task, which meets with disaster.

Light's clearly woken up on the wrong side of the bed.

Seems nobody likes Control.

The Doctor threatens Light, who disappears, travelling at the speed of thought.

Josiah advances his plan to hunt the great Crowned Saxe-Coburg...

...and Redfers lures the evolving Control with some precious things.

Light's phone starts getting tonnes of notifications from while he was sleeping & it's driving him round the twist. 

Great nightmarish scene as the blue light and siren infiltrates the wildlife sounds haunting Ace. 

But here's a much more real nightmare in the form of Gwendoline, determined to put her on the Java express. 

Redfers hunours Control in her quest to become a "ladylike", so she can accompany him to meet the Queen, but it all gets a bit too much and she flees into the darkness.

Redfers, of course, is useless. 

"Of course, if she was a real lady, I wouldn't be in her boudoir." 

When Ace catches up with her... 

...she helps fend off Gwendoline...

...but it's the Doctor's revelation that stops Gwendoline in her tracks.

"I wanted to see how it works, so I dismantled it!" Light's a bit of a psycho, really. 


"Who released you from your quarantine cubicle?" Inspector MacKenzie gets on the wrong side of Light.

There's not a duff performance in this. Sharon Duce gives several stellar performances as the various stages of Control. 

"Which former script editor said Earthmen never invite their ancestors to dinner?"

The Doctor brings a family together, and it's not even Saturday teatime. 
Mark Walker@Mark_Walker and bangs on about burnt toast again. He's obsessed!
It *really* winds him up; he's bottling this up for a *long* time.
"I thought you were lost." "Oh, I am. We both are." Brilliant delivery from Sylvia Syms there. 

After some dreadful misfires in seasons 24 & wobbly bits in 25, this is proper Doctor Who again. You could perhaps imagine Ghost Light in the darker run of season 18. 

Josiah finally reveals his crackpot scheme to bump off Queen Victoria.

It's a scheme that hinges on his being Redfers' plus one, but he's decided to take Control.

When Control goes one better and burns the invitation it's deja vu all over again for Ace - that's what she did in the future; burnt the house - this house - to the ground.

Light can't be arsed with a project that never ends & decides to take drastic action to ensure his catalogue's complete. 

"The cream of Scotland Yard!" That's a deliciously dark one-liner.

The Doctor wonders whither the gryphons, basilisks, dragons, bandersnatches, slithy toves and crowned Saxe-Coburgs?

Light isn't keen on evolution either.

"What's the matter, Light, changed your mind?"

"File under Imagination, lack of." Now *that's* a put down. 

Nimrod points out that unless the ship directs its energies into a take-off, it'll blow them all sky-high. 

Why does exploding Josiah's husks affect Josiah now? OK, that bit didn't make sense, you can have that. 


With the tables turned on "unhappy creature" Josiah, Control, Redfers & Nimrod are away at the speed of thought. 

So Redvers, Control and Nimrod are off into space and the Doctor's validating Ace saying she wishes she'd blown the house up. Erm, okay. 

Ghost Light is dense & mysterious, but only confusing if you need to be spoon-fed the answer to a question as soon as it's asked.

Andrew Ellard@ellardent Utterly correct.

It's complete fan myth that this is too impenetrable for the "casual viewers" with which fans are obsessed. You don't have to be a fan of something, just TV literate i.e. have watched any other TV before. It's not being a "casual viewer" to operate from a default of expecting everything laid out on a plate. Ghost Light makes you wait, certainly, and maybe it taxed the *attention span* of some, but it's not hard work. You only have to look at the success of a show like Lost to see audiences can enjoy being confounded to a certain extent. It's more a question of whether an audience enjoys something than understands it, viewers can easily be hooked by a mystery; it's only fans that hide behind the 'incomprehensible' label as an excuse, and sadly the real reason seems to be the obvious one - so-called casual viewers had simply been driven away from the show by what they'd disliked over the previous years and the terrible negativity towards the show from within the BBC itself. It's no harder to understand than any other Who, and arguably you don't have to be as Who-literate to 'get' Ghost Light as you do with many other stories of the 80s.


TTFN! K.
Coming Soon... Time-Flight

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