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Ghost Light

Reviewed by Richard Scheib

I'm starting to formulate the opinion that, in fact, the Sylvester McCoy reign as the Doctor is far worse than anything Colin Baker descended to. While I have nothing against McCoy, the script editing on the three seasons has been decidedly substandard and they have turned in a good number more stinkers per decent episodes than any other season. Some of the worst stories are Time and the Rani, The Happiness Patrol and now Ghost Light have emerged.

Yes, Ghost Light is a stinker. I have yet to make any real sense of the story - maybe I will have to wait for the novelisation. There is much running about an old Victorian mansion, which is really a steam-powered spaceship (the Doctor manages to block a steam-leak by shoving a board over the outside of the hole at one point!!) with various characters who have the worse case of acne this side of Andrew Poulsen, some rambling about Darwinism, a glowing character in a cloak who has come to categorise all life on Earth and eventually decides to destroy it, and a couple of people in cheap rubber insect masks. In one of the worst endings I've ever seen in the series, the Doctor manages to convince Light (who has the looniest world-destruction plot I've ever encountered - he decides to destroy all life on earth because it has evolved (how does he think it came to be in the first place?) leaving him somewhat pissed off that his glorified butterfly collection is no longer complete), to self-destruct by arguing reductionism - that Light himself changes every time he thinks or moves. I quite liked the pun wherein primordial soup becomes the soup of the day, but another joke wherein an anti-Darwinist preacher is reduced to a gibbering ape, complete with banana, really defies credibility.

Anachronisms abound - the setting is the 1880's and yet modern firearms are bandied. Arthur Conan-Doyle's name is dropped, despite the fact that this was only the time he was just starting to publish. But most anachronistic of all is the Darwinism - Darwin was only a naturalist, not a geneticist, life was not traced back to pre-vital chemicals until the 1950's.

Reviewed by Andrew Poulsen

Well, again I loved this story, although having only seen it once I think a couple more screenings are going to have to been taken in before I will fully understand what's going on. It moves past at the speed of light! (Little pun there!)

The story opens with a very dark, sinister setting, and this continues through to the final moments of the story. The maids are rushing out of the house dead on time, making you wonder what the hell is going on here.

Platt's script seems to have been written as a four-parter and condensed from there. Interestingly enough, we never see the inside of the TARDIS in this story, a carry-over from last season perhaps, when we only saw the TARDIS console in The Greatest Show in the Galaxy. Another new item introduced in this story is the new TARDIS key, which was redesigned for Season 25 but was never seen on screen - in fact, they cut out all references to it!

As I have pointed out previously, I watch Doctor Who because I enjoy a fun story, not to pull it to pieces, so I won't give you a long list of all the things that I think were continuity incorrect. I'll leave it for everyone else to do next issue. On my grounds, Ghost Light was a fast-paced, enjoyable story, although at the end I was left wondering about several things. Mostly to do with what the hell happened to Light? The characters here were brilliant, the place is populated with an entire cast that would be much better off in an asylum (as Ace states at one point). What with the typical big game hunter, the mother and daughter that don't realise they are, the grossly disgusting master of the house, Control, who wants to become a Victorian lady, and Nimrod, the excellent (and highly advanced) Neanderthal you really start to wonder about Marc Platt's sanity! Nimrod has some very good scenes with the Doctor, and would have to be one of the best characters I've seen in a little while. As the Doctor himself states, "He's the finest specimen I've seen this side of the last ice age!"

Many people have said that this story is reminiscent of the ITV series Sapphire and Steel, and I would have to agree with this opinion. So, final opinion - excellent story. Well scripted, well acted, very enjoyable. But then, I loved The Happiness Patrol...!

This item appeared in TSV 16 (December 1989).

Index nodes: Ghost Light