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Ghost Light (TV story)

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Ghost Light
LightAlight
Novelised as: Ghost Light
Script release: Ghost Light
Doctor: Seventh Doctor
Companion(s): Ace
Main enemy: Light
Josiah Samuel Smith
Main setting: Gabriel Chase, London, 1883
Key crew
Writer: Marc Platt
Director: Alan Wareing
Producer: John Nathan-Turner
Release details
Story number: 153
Number of episodes: 3
Season/series: Season 26
Premiere broadcast: 4 October - 18 October 1989
Premiere network: BBC1
Format: 3x25-minute episodes
Production code: 7Q
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Survival Dimensions in Time
Memorable moment

Ghost Light was the second story in Season 26 of Doctor Who. Although two stories followed its broadcast, it was the last story of the classic series to be produced and the last to feature significant recording at BBC Television Centre.

Synopsis Edit

London 1983: an old house mysteriously burns to the ground. One hundred years earlier, the Seventh Doctor and Ace arrive at a sinister mansion in the rural hamlet of Perivale. Horrors old and new await the Doctor amongst the peculiar residents of Gabriel Chase, but it is Ace who must confront her own worst nightmares when she discovers that her past and the house's future are inextricably linked....

Plot Edit

Part 1 Edit

The Seventh Doctor brings Ace to Gabriel Chase, an old house that she burnt down in her home town of Perivale near London. The year is 1883 and the house is presided over by the mysterious Josiah Samuel Smith.

It is a most mysterious place, where the serving women brandish guns and the butler is a Neanderthal named Nimrod. Other occupants include Gwendoline, the daughter of the original owners of the house, who have now disappeared, the calculating housekeeper Lady Pritchard, the explorer Redvers Fenn-Cooper, who has seen something which has driven him insane, and the Reverend Ernest Matthews, an opponent of the theory of evolution which Smith has done much to spread.

Ghostlight part1
Fenn-Cooper has been driven mad by Light.

The TARDIS arrives at Gabriel Chase. It turns out that Ace visited the house in 1983 and felt an evil presence. The Doctor's curiosity drives him to seek the answers. Something is also alive and evolving in the cellar beneath the house and when Ace investigates she finds two animated and dangerous husks.

Part 2 Edit

In rescuing Ace, the Doctor releases an evolving creature trapped in the cellar, known as Control. The party moves to ground level. Control remains trapped in the cellar for the moment. The cellar is really a vast, stone spaceship. The Doctor works his way through the stuffed animals in Gabriel Chase and finds a human in suspended animation, Inspector Mackenzie, who came to the house two years earlier in search of the owners. The Doctor revives him, and together they seek to unlock the mysteries of Gabriel Chase.

The husks which attacked Ace were the remains of Smith, an alien who has been evolving into forms approximating a human and casting off his old husks as an insect would. For his pains, Smith transforms Matthews into an ape and places him in a display case. The Doctor helps Control release the trapped creature from the cellar, a being known as Light, who takes the form of an angel.

Part 3 Edit

Ghostlight part2
Josiah turns into a husk.

Thousands of years in the past, an alien spaceship came to Earth to catalogue all life on the planet. After completing its task and collecting samples (including Nimrod) the leader, Light, went into slumber. By 1881 the ship had returned to Earth.

While Control remained imprisoned on the ship to serve as the "control" subject of the scientific investigation, events transpired such that Smith, the "survey agent", mutinied against Light, keeping him in hibernation on the ship. Smith began evolving into the era's dominant life-form — a Victorian gentleman — and also took over the house. By 1883 Smith had lured and captured the explorer Fenn-Cooper within his den. Utilising Fenn-Cooper's association with Queen Victoria, he plans to get close to her so he can assassinate her and take control of the British Empire to make it a better place.

Light is displeased by all the change on the planet while he was asleep. While Light tries to make sense of it all, Smith tries to keep his plan intact, but events are beyond his control. Angry that his catalogue is now missing the correct information, Light childishly decides to destroy all organic life to stop evolution after taking apart one of the maids to understand how humans work. He turns Gwendoline and her missing mother, revealed to be Mrs Pritchard, to stone in a bid to stop the speed of evolution. Inspector Mackenzie meets a sticky end and is turned into a primordial soup to serve at dinner. As Control tries to "evolve" into a lady and Ace tries to come to grips with her feelings about the house, the Doctor tries to keep the upper hand in all the events that have been set in motion.

Ghostlight part3
Light wakes up.

The Doctor finally convinces Light of the futility of opposing evolution, which causes him to overload and dissipate into the surrounding house. It was this presence that Ace sensed and which caused her to burn the house down in 1983. Also, Control's complete evolution into a lady derails Smith's plan as Fenn-Cooper, having freed himself from Smith's brainwashing, chooses to side with her. In the end, with Smith the new Control creature imprisoned on the ship, Control, Fenn-Cooper and Nimrod set off in the alien ship to explore the universe.

The Doctor asks Ace if she has any regrets about burning the house now; Ace tells him she wishes she blew it up instead. The Doctor only smiles and says, "Wicked".

Cast Edit

Crew Edit

References Edit

  • The Doctor calls Ace "Eliza" - a reference to My Fair Lady - while trying to get her to behave in line with the prevailing Victorian mores. This is echoed in Ace helping Control to fulfil her desire to be a proper lady, including elocution lessons (the primary means of training in My Fair Lady).
  • The Doctor asks who was it that said Earthmen never invite their ancestors round to dinner, a reference to The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.
  • Redvers tells the Doctor that he is hunting the crowned Saxe-Coburg — the Queen of England.
  • Josiah offers a banana to Matthews, who begins to turn into a monkey.
  • The Doctor quotes the phrase "up the wooden hill to Bedfordshire" when he is encouraged to go to bed.
  • While dining with Josiah, the Doctor hums the tune of "Rule, Britannia!".
  • A painting of Queen Victoria hangs in Gabriel Chase.
  • Mrs Grose gives Ace scrambled egg, hot buttered toast, kedgeree, kidney, sausage and bacon for breakfast.
  • The song Gwendolyne was playing on the piano has the chorus...
"That's the way to the zoo, that's the way to the zoo.
The monkey house is nearly full, but there's room enough for you
Take a bus to Regent's Park, make haste before it shuts,
For next week I will come and bring you such a lot of nuts!"

Story notes Edit

  • This story had working titles of The Bestiary and Life-Cycle. (Marc Platt also briefly jokingly referred to the story as Not The Bestiary when John Nathan-Turner, disliking the title The Bestiary, asked him to change it.)
  • As revealed in the production notes for the DVD release, the story was renamed Das Haus der tausend Schrecken (translation: 'The House of the Thousand Frights/Horrors') in German.
  • Ghost Light was the last serial of the original series ever produced. The last recorded sequence was the final scene between Mrs Pritchard and Gwendoline where, before the eyes of a horrified Nimrod, Light turns them to stone so they will never change again. It was not, however, the last to be screened — both The Curse of Fenric and Survival, produced beforehand, followed it in transmission order.
  • Michael Cochrane (Redvers Fenn-Cooper) is credited as 'Redvers' in Radio Times for Part One.
  • John Nettleton (Reverend Ernest Matthews) is credited as 'Rev. Matthews' in Radio Times for Part Two.
  • Frank Windsor (Inspector Mackenzie) is credited as 'Mackenzie' in Radio Times.
  • The story evolved out of an earlier, rejected script entitled Lungbarrow. It was to be set on Gallifrey in the Doctor's ancestral home and deal with the Doctor's past, but producer John Nathan-Turner felt it revealed too much of the Doctor's origins. It was reworked to make evolution and the idea of an ancient house central to the story. Marc Platt used elements of his original idea for his Virgin New Adventures novel Lungbarrow.

Ratings Edit

  • Part 1 - 4.2 million viewers
  • Part 2 - 4.0 million viewers
  • Part 3 - 4.0 million viewers

Myths Edit

  • Few of the cast could make sense of the storyline. This is true, as confirmed by cast interviews included with the DVD release of the story.

Filming locations Edit

Production errors Edit

If you'd like to talk about narrative problems with this story — like plot holes and things that seem to contradict other stories — please go to this episode's discontinuity discussion.
  • When the Doctor tests Redvers for radiation, a cameraman's reflection can be seen in the door of the open cabinet that Redvers is looking into.
  • Katharine Schlesinger's name was spelt incorrectly as 'Katherine Schlesinger' for the broadcast of Parts 1 and 2 and for the whole serial in Radio Times. (This on-screen misspelling has been corrected for the BBC Video and DVD releases.)
  • When Ace pushes the maid into the room and slams the door behind her in episode 3, there is a bad case of wobbly wall syndrome. The wall proves equally unstable a few scenes later, when Gwendoline and the maid break out.

Continuity Edit

DVD, VHS and home audio release Edit

DVD releases

7q-dvd
Ghostlightna
  • This story was released as Doctor Who: Ghost Light.
  • It was released:
  • Content:
    • Light in Dark Places Documentary - A look back at the making of the story.
    • Deleted/Extended Scenes
    • Shooting Ghost - A unique look at the studio recording process.
    • Writer's Question Time - Marc Platt answers questions at a 1990 Doctor Who convention.
    • 5.1 Mix
    • Music-only Option
    • Photo Gallery
    • Production Subtitles
    • Easter Eggs-
      • On the main menu move down to Episode Selection and press the left arrow to reveal a hidden Doctor Who logo. Press select and you'll get the unexpurgated version of the song that Gwendoline is heard playing in the story.
      • On the Special Features menu move down to Writer's Question Time and press the left arrow to reveal a hidden Doctor Who logo. Press select and you'll get the continuity announcements from the original BBC broadcast. Also included with the continuity announcements is the original version of Part One's end credits, which mistakenly spelt Katharine Schlesinger's name as Katherine.
    • Commentary: Sophie Aldred, Andrew Cartmel, Marc Platt, and Mark Ayres

VHS releases

7q-video

Audio Releases

  • The musical soundtrack of this story was released by Silva Screen in 1993.

Script book Edit

  • In July 1993, Titan Books published the scripts for the serial as part of its Doctor Who: The Scripts line of books.

External links Edit


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