Audio Review: Doctor Who - Ghost Light
IN the dying days of the original run of Doctor Who, the show found itself once again prepared to take the creative risks which defined its success for much of its 26-year run, moving away from the pantomime escapades of recent seasons to present a Doctor caught up in his own masterplans, with a dark side to his personality slowly coming to the fore.
The Time Lord’s seventh incarnation (played on screen by Sylvester McCoy) brings his streetwise companion Ace to the Victorian mansion of Gabriel Chase, where they uncover a macabre scheme by an alien force to catalogue all life on Earth before cleansing it forever. But why does Ace find the house chillingly familiar?
In this adaptation of Marc Platt’s original novelisation, the events seen on screen during the TV serial are expanded upon and developed, presenting a version of the story which offers a tighter focus on his themes and concepts, exploring in greater detail the very nature of evolution.
The reclusive and controversial naturalist Josiah Samuel Smith is shunned by villagers in the sleepy village of Greenford Parva, but the Dean of Mortarhouse College, the Reverend Ernest Matthews, has travelled from Oxford to refute Smith’s blasphemous theories. But not even Rev Matthews’ faith can save him from the terrible secret lurking in the decaying mansion’s cellar…
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The arrival of the TARDIS sets events in motion which will culminate in a life-changing act of vandalism one hundred years hence, as the inherent evil lurking within Gabriel Chase prompts a young Ace to destroy the building in a wanton act of vandalism…
With stories like Ghost Light emerging in the latter part of McCoy’s era, there was fresh hope that the series could reinvent itself for modern audiences looking for intelligent scripting and depth of characterisation. Alas, poor scheduling against Coronation Street was to spell the death toll for classic Who, and the show vanished from our screens until 2005 (apart from the brief flash in the pan of the 1996 TV movie).
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Marc Platt went on to become a successful Who writer, penning various works of original fiction both in book form and as audio plays, and his concepts inspired the return of the Cybermen in David Tennant’s first season.
Ghost Light deserves its reputation as one of the last great stories from Doctor Who’s original run, and this novelisation (read by Josiah Samuel Smith actor Ian Hogg) proves there was still life in the series before its untimely cancellation.