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Ghost Light was the second serial of 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

The Doctor brings Ace to Gabriel Chase, an old house that she once burnt down in her hometown of Perivale. However, trying to get Ace to accept her guilt is not the real reason the Doctor came here; a mysterious and highly mentally unstable being slays below them.

Plot Edit

Part one Edit

The Seventh Doctor brings the TARDIS and Ace to a room which seems to be a cross between a nursery and an old laboratory. As Ace examines the artefacts in the room, wondering where they are, the Doctor simply tells her, "It's a surprise." Ace expresses her concern that this might be a haunted house, saying that after one she'd been in before she would never go into another.

They decide to explore the Victorian house which reminds Ace of a museum. A clock reads after midnight. On the floor lies a metal snuff box with the initials RFC embossed on it. The Doctor scans it and finds that it is radioactive. A man shows up and soon mentions "atrocities that are rumoured about this house". He says he came here to find the explorer Redvers Fenn-Cooper and the box is the first evidence he was here. Before Ace can stop him, he pockets the radioactive box. He means to save Fenn-Cooper from "the clutches of that braggart Josiah Samuel Smith".

The Doctor and Ace follow the man as he explores another room of the old house. Suddenly the man picks up and aims an elephant rifle at them as he starts describing Redvers Fenn-Cooper's adventures, insisting he must find him. As the Doctor dodges out of the way, the curtain behind him slips open and the man sees his own reflection in the window. He lowers his gun in recognition, saying, "Redvers, I've found you!"

A woman in black, two others in 1800's maid's garb, and a hunched butler enter. The woman in black says, "Fenn-Cooper, we were worried about you," then roughly twists his arm up behind his back and marches him out. The butler, Nimrod, explains that the man is unbalanced and is under their care at the house. He then says his master, Mr Smith, asks if they would join his other guest in the drawing room.

There they meet Smith's ward, Gwendoline conversing with the Reverend Ernest Matthews. Matthews assumes the Doctor is actually Josiah Smith and begins criticising his ethics and far reaching support of the newly popular theory of evolution. After the girls leave together the actual Josiah Smith comes in wearing dark glasses and dims the lights. He then welcomes Matthews and the Doctor to the old house which is called Gabriel Chase.

Soon Fenn-Cooper can be heard screaming and everyone converges at his door. The Doctor makes his way in to see a bright light pouring from the snuff box, but Nimrod forces him back out of the room again. The guests are told to leave him to the house staff.

The Reverend Ernest Matthews finally gets his long awaited meeting with Josiah Smith and immediately carries on with his criticisms. Smith has the matron chloroform him.

Back in the drawing room, Ace and the Doctor observe that Nimrod is a Neanderthal. Then Ace becomes agitated at hearing that they are in the house called Gabriel Chase, shouting "You tricked me!" as she turns and runs off. The Doctor catches up with her and they relay that this was the haunted house she entered (will enter) in her home town of Perivale near London. She had gone in on a dare in 1983 at the age of 13 and felt an evil presence. As Ace tells the story, she becomes agitated and again runs off.

Josiah Smith receives a telephone call that shocks him to the core. He then offers the Doctor money to help him but he refuses.

In the meantime, Ace finds her way to a small elevator which takes her deep below the house to a large stone chamber with alien technology apparent in its simple lit panels. A threatening voice speaks to her, then two alien bipeds close in on her.

Part two Edit

The Doctor finds Gwendoline opening drawers containing specimen cases of beetles. She opens a final drawer which contains a man, saying that it's one of her "favourites" and that it's from Java. She then tells the Doctor that the reverend Earnest Mathews will be leaving for Java soon and that Uncle Josiah sent her father there after he saw what was in the cellar. 

In the cellar the two aliens creatures are dragging Ace toward a door. Nimrod appears and comes to her rescue, brandishing a lantern while Ace takes up a stick and fights them off.

The Doctor, starting to worry about Ace, begins looking around, but the house matron, suddenly overly-friendly tells him that Ace has gone to bed. Gwendoline offers to show him. The Doctor moves past them to find Ace and all the uniformed maids suddenly raise revolvers and aim at him.

Ace continues to swing her stick at the threatening aliens. Central to the cellar room is a large oval light divided into many segments. Brandishing her stick she threatens "Let us go or I'll smash it!" This brings about a change of heart in Nimrod who says she is profaning the temple of light and grabs her stick, crying "The sleeping one must not be woken!" But as they struggle they strike the oval light and steam bursts from it.

An alarm goes off in the house and in the surprise the Doctor grabs one of the guns then grabs Josiah Smith, ordering him down the elevator. The Doctor and Smith arrive in the chaotic cellar and Smith cries that his work in his observatory could be ruined.

Back in the house Gwendolyn starts crying, asking why her father went to Java and left her and wondering where her mother is.

The Doctor patches the steam leak in the cellar, stabilising the situation. He then identifies Ace's alien attackers as previous incarnations of Josiah Smith, kind of like an insect which casts off its outer husk as it grows. These "husks" however are fully animate and bear little resemblance to humans.

A screen comes up showing DNA and Ace realises they are actually in a stone spaceship. The Doctor says the owner will be displeased when it awakes, but Smith responds that he is the owner. The Doctor retorts that Smith is just part of the cargo. Smith regains the gun and orders the Doctor to stabilise the fluctuating energy before it blows up this part of England. In vying for control, the Doctor reopens the steam patch.

Whatever is behind the door starts to come out and the others all run for the elevator. On the way up Smith's appearance starts to change. The Doctor says he is evolving again. On the main floor the maids come to help him from the lift. He orders them, "It's first light, secure the house!" The matron tells them to take Smith to the upper observatory. The Doctor tells Ace they won't see them again until nightfall.

Josiah Smith awakens reverend Matthews from his chloroform-induced sleep, and while Matthews goes straight back to chastising evolutionary theory, Smith feeds him a banana and it is revealed that Matthews' arms have grown long ape-like hair. Gwendolyn, having seen that it is daylight outside, checks on her uncle Josiah and finds him still mid-transformation, looking sickly. He drops another dose of chloroform onto a handkerchief and Gwendolyn administers it to the metamorphosing Matthews.

Meanwhile, the Doctor opens the drawer with the man inside and wakes him.

Ace awakens in a bed as a maid opens the curtains. She is not one of the uniformed non-speaking gun-wielding maids, but a pleasant servant bringing Ace breakfast. But she tells her it is after five and will be getting dark soon, "And no one in their right mind stays in this house after dark."

The man in the drawer turns out to be a police Inspector Mackenzie from Scotland Yard sent to investigate the disappearance of George Pritchard (Gwendolyn's father) in 1881, two years previous, and is dead set on conducting his investigation.

The Doctor is aware that there were two beings in the stone spaceship below the house - one asleep, the master of the ship; and one imprisoned, which was able to get through the door as he rescued Ace and the others. Josiah Smith has been keeping them subdued and using the ship's resources, fearing the ship's master. The explorer Redvers Fenn-Cooper saw it and lost his mind. And the neanderthal butler Nimrod worships it, but what is it?

In the meantime, Ace and inspector Mackenzie make their way to a room where they find Josiah Smith, the matron, Gwendolyn and the half-ape reverend Matthews all seated and all inanimate, and covered with sheets like furniture in a vacant house.

The Doctor, wanting to move things along, turns the clock ahead so it strikes midnight and panels open in the wall revealing the uniformed maids, who then move silently into the room. Upstairs, the seated figures become animate and Gwendolyn attacks Ace. The matron knocks Mackenzie down and he is held by the previous husk of Smith. The new Smith enters the room and has them all go downstairs. 

The Doctor talks about someone known as Control, one of the beings on the ship who has finally been set free. Out of the lift steps a shrouded figure. The Doctor says, "Thank you for trusting me, Control." A woman reveals her face and says that what they are desiring will be found in the darkness of the lift. Smith rushes to secure the doors but is electrocuted when he touches it. The Doctor calls, "Light" and the doors fly open as a bright light envelopes them all.  

Part three Edit

The Doctor helps Control release the trapped creature from the cellar, a being known as Light, who takes the form of an angel-like being.

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.

The year is 1883. 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 Lady 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.

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 the fictional character Eliza Doolittle from Pygmalion - 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 Pygmalion).
  • This story references Arthur Conan Doyle and suggests that his novel, The Lost World, might have been inspired by Redvers' claim to have discovered a place in the jungle where dinosaurs still live.
  • 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. This is a reference to the House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, to which Queen Victoria's husband, Prince Albert, belonged. Their grandson George V would change the name to The House of Windsor in 1917, due to anti-German sentiment at the time.
  • 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 Gwendoline is playing on the piano is "That's the Way to the Zoo", composed by J.F. Mitchell around 1881. The chorus is as follows:
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,
Next Monday 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.
  • Radio Times credits John Nettleton (Reverend Ernest Matthews) as "Rev. Ernest Matthews" for part one, and as "Rev. Matthews" for part two.
  • Frank Windsor (Inspector Mackenzie) is credited as "Mackenzie" in Radio Times.
  • A line from The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is referenced by the Doctor. Its creator, Douglas Adams, was a script editor and writer for the series, penning both TV: The Pirate Planet and TV: City of Death, as well as the unaired TV: Shada.
  • A sound effect was inadvertently omitted from the scene of Control entering the lift and the Doctor, Ace and Inspector Mackenzie in the hallway in part two. The sound of the lift mechanism engaging with a clunk and the lift descending should have been added in between the Doctor suddenly raising his voice and saying “It's very clever, climbing up the lift shaft. But I had hoped the Control creature might bring something with it. And for that, it will need the lift!”, and the Doctor and Ace heading for the drawing room. (PROSE: Ghost Light)
  • Although Ghost Light would no doubt have greatly benefited from an extended BBC Video release, as was done with The Curse of Fenric in 1991, such a project was made impossible by the master 625 line PAL colour videotapes containing the extra recorded footage being erased for reuse shortly after the story was broadcast.
  • 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 one - 4.2 million viewers
  • Part two - 4.0 million viewers
  • Part three - 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.)
  • The final scene filmed was the ending bit with the Doctor and Ace. (While that was the final scene in the episode the final scene filmed was when Light turns Mrs Pritchard and Gwendoline to stone.)

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 and Ace emerge into the corridor from the upper observatory in part one, Sophie Aldred is wearing a ring, one of her own which she had forgotten to remove before recording. Fortunately, Aldred noticed and removed the ring in time for the close-up of Ace reaching out to touch Fenn-Cooper's snuffbox.
  • 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.
  • At the end of the scene in part one when Mrs Grose leaves Gabriel Chase, a tiny sliver of the actual studio floor can be seen by Mrs Grose's left (i.e. the viewer's right).
  • Katharine Schlesinger's first name was misspelled as "Katherine" for the broadcast of parts one and two 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 part three, 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 Edit

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 are the original versions of the end credits for parts one and two, which misspelled Katharine Schlesinger's first name as "Katherine".
  • Commentary: Sophie Aldred, Andrew Cartmel, Marc Platt, and Mark Ayres

Notes:

It was released as issue 96 of Doctor Who DVD Files.

Blu-ray release Edit

This story was released on Blu-ray as part of the Season 26 box set on 27 January 2020.

Contents:

  • Audio Commentary - With Sophie Aldred, Andrew Cartmel, Marc Platt (Writer), and Mark Ayres (Composer).
  • 5.1 Surround Sound Mix
  • Isolated Music Soundtrack - Listen to the superb incidental music score.
  • Info Text
  • Ghost Light: Extended Workprint - Specially assembled for Blu-ray, a brand new three-part extended version of Ghost Light blending the original episodes with lower-quality deleted footage to present an alternative version of the classic story.
  • Light in Dark Places Documentary - A look back at the making of the story.
  • Behind the Sofa - Will our panel be baffled by the goings-on in Gabriel Chase?
  • Deleted & Extended Scenes - Material cut from the finished episodes.
  • Studio Footage - Go behind the scenes of the final classic series recording sessions, with nearly three hours of rare footage from the studio floor, including Katharine Schlesinger's complete performance of That's The Way To The Zoo.
  • Writer's Question Time - Marc Platt answers questions at a 1990 Doctor Who convention.
  • Little Girl Lost - A look at one of the series most fondly-remembered companions; with Sophie Aldred, Andrew Cartmel and Ian Briggs (Writer).
  • BBC1 Trails & Continuities
  • HD Photo Gallery
  • PDF Written Archive

VHS releases Edit

7q-video
This story was released as Doctor Who: Ghost Light.

It was released:

Digital releases Edit

  • The story is available to download through iTunes.

Audio releases Edit

  • 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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