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Ghost Light

Review by Paul Scoones

This is the second best story of the season, but it's still damn good. I've only watched it twice, and I rather suspect I shall have to double that before I fully understand what it's all about. It's the best all-studio story I've seen on Doctor Who for a very long time, and the plot equals Warrior's Gate in its complexity. Watching it for the first time, I couldn't be sure whether it was a good story or not - I was too busy trying to understand it. The thing moves at a lightening pace, and when it comes on television, first-time viewers will need a quick eye and a sharp mind. Everything is explained - there are no plot flaws, but there is not one point in the story where the characters stop to work out what is going on. A bit like a murder mystery, you have to piece together all the clues yourself. It is a exceedingly clever story - but it will fail for anyone who watches it only once - so does that make Ghost Light good or bad television? I've yet to make up my mind on that one.

The story is the ultimate in claustrophobic - the characters are all cooped up in the Victorian mansion, and so weird are they that I know after about five minutes there, I'd be screaming to be let out! The best bits of the story are in my view where Ace lets her past slip out, and we begin to see the Doctor's companion in a slightly darker light. If the story has any faults, it's that it tends to go a little overboard in the use of the concept of evolution, much as Logopolis did with entropy. As might be expected from a cast as distinguished as the one in Ghost Light, all the players turned out excellent performances, but the best has to be Carl Forgoine's portrayal of the Neanderthal butler, Nimrod.

There's a lot I feel I still haven't picked up from Ghost Light - with repeated viewing I'm sure I shall fully grasp it's hidden nuances. I was delighted however to learn that the Doctor knows of The Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams - see if you can pick out how he reveals this!

This item appeared in TSV 17 (January 1990).

Index nodes: Ghost Light