Number : Season 26, serial 2 of 4
Which One : Ace revisits an old house from her childhood.
Cast : The Doctor : Sylvester McCoy
Ace : Sophie Aldred
Josiah Samuel Smith : Ian Hogg
Redvers Fenn-Cooper : Michael Cochrane
Nimrod : Carl Forgione
Control : Sharon Duce
Rev Ernest Matthews : John Nettleton
Gwendoline : Katharine Schlesinger
Inspector Mackenzie : Frank Windsor
Mrs Grose : Brenda Kempner
Mrs Pritchard : Sylvia Syms
Light : John Hallam
Written By : Mark Platt
Produced By : JNT
First UK Broadcast : 4 – 18 October 1989.
Length : 3 x 25 minute episodes.
Plot : The Doctor takes Ace back, to a traumatic event in her childhood. A Victorian-period house – in Perivale, called Gabriel Chase. Ace firebombed and destroyed the house, many years ago. The duo arrive at the turn of the century, to witness events unfolding – in the house’s past.
Whats good : It starts as a Poirot story, with lots of odd characters present. It also develops Ace a bit further, by uncovering a little bit more of her past.
Whats bad : It’s a muddled, overacted and complex mess.
Review With Spoilers : Ghost Light is the second serial of the final 26th season. It was notable, as the last ever serial produced in the classic series; although Survival, was the last actual serial – ever broadcast.
Unfortunately, Ghost Light isn’t – in itself notable. It is a poor, muddled mess of a story. It begins with promise, as a Poirot-style murder-mystery story. It has a number of oddball characters, present – in Gabriel House. Leaving the Doctor – as Poirot, to work out their motives and intentions.
It then turns into a sci-fi number. With a spaceship in the basement, guarded by two weird dehydrated fly creatures and the appearance of an all powerful angel entity – called “Light”; who threatens Earth.
The main problem with Ghost Light, is that none of these elements sit together, very well. The early promise of the Poirot-style serial, gives way to a less interesting disjointed sci-fi piece.
“It was all falling down, last time I saw it in 1983. You tricked me! This is Perivale…..!” Ace
‘Light’ appears so late in the story, that we have no time to get to know this new character – or their motivations. Light just seems slotted into the final act, as a plot device – to create a bit of tension.
Light is more like a poor imitation of the much superior; Black Guardian, from the Key To Time and Black Guardian Trilogy stories.
The only plus on offer here, is we get a bit more character development for companion Ace. As the house; Gabriel Chase, forms a pivotal part of Ace’s early-life growing up, many years – after she and the Doctor visit.
So muddled is this story, that whilst shooting it, the producers had to regularly contact the writer for background and explanations. Even the hardcore Who contingent needed a number of rewatches, to try and understand – all of what was going on here.
This was partly due to a number of explanatory scenes, excised from the script; prior to shooting – for timing and pacing reasons.
A very good example as to why Doctor Who got cancelled; promising but too clever for its own good, badly put together and sadly, running out of steam.
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