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     DVD Review: Ghost Light    
     Author:  Louis
     Dated:  Monday, July 18 2005 @ 01:39 AM EDT
     Viewed:  2,143 times  
    DW Reviews

    The Sylvester McCoy story Ghost Light were among the last batch of Doctor Who DVDs released in the US (region 1, NTSC). The three episode story comes off as a very confusing tale. Have you ever had a dream in which events and situations are not grounded in any logic, yet in the dream you accept them anyway? This may best sum up this story. At least it seems like the characters accept everything in this story without exception no matter how off-key and bizarre it may be.

    Read more below... (click the "read more" link)



    Ghost Light was originally transmitted on October 4-18, 1989. It was the last story shot (but not the last transmitted) of the series before it's very long hiatus (i.e. cancellation). Written by Mac Platt and directed by Alan Wareing. While watching the story one finds oneself trying to discern just what the story is about. One concludes that the Doctor has taken Ace (Sophie Aldred) to a house that terrified her as a child... or rather will terrify her since they arrive at the house 100 years prior to Ace's visit in 1983. In this Victorian house, they meet up with peculiar characters. What appears to be hunter, a Neanderthal, zombie housemaids, two gentleman on the opposite sides of Darwin's theory of evolution, among others. Doctor doesn't seem all that phased over any of it... including discovering a hibernating police constable in wooden drawer cabinet (not a hibernation pod, but a regular wardrobe drawer) for some years. We finally come to learn that there is a spaceship somewhere, somehow in this house. The owner of the ship is a character named Light (yes, his name is Light). There are two aliens "husks" on board this ship (one may be wearing Omega's helmet from his Davison appearance), these "husk" characters play no real part in story and seem to just dance around and try to look frightening. We finally ascertain that Light was sent to Earth to catalog life on the planet. Light's voice seems to switch from a tenor to a baritone for no reason. Light keeps a woman named "Control" (as in an experiment one has a 'control' example to compare the results with, but it is never really explained throughly in this story). She is in rags for some unexplained reason, but eventually wears proper clothing. Supposedly she is a primitive who eventually evolves (hence the reason her wardrobe improves, but it just doesn't work in the story because there is no reason for her to be in rags to start with). Light is annoyed because life on Earth is constantly evolving and thus he has to update his catalog of life on the planet. He is angered that life evolves and attempts to stop it. Assuming he is some sort of alien from an advanced civilization come to Earth to catalog all life here, one would have to assume that he and his people are aware of evolution, right? Or are we to believe that evolution is unique to planet Earth?? It really makes no sense. So since he is against change so much, he decides to stop life from changing, but that in itself is changing life. Wouldn't destroying all life Earth make him equally annoyed because he would have to toss out all that work cataloging life.

    One character reverts to an ape and then is mysteriously frozen in time. Why? Another 'evoles' into a seemingly younger version of himself. How? Got me. The women servants that seem to be zombies have no sense of purpose or individuality. Well, I won't go any further with this story because it somewhat pointless.

    Now, perhaps in fairness to the writer, Marc Platt, the scripted story for these three episodes were heavily edited. It was hoped that it would span out to a four part story, but never was. It may have made sense for the creators of this story at the time because they already knew the story, but for people watching it for the first time, it comes across as very confused and as a result not very satisfying.

    Fortunately, included on the DVD are bonus features including a question & answer session with the writer, a behind the scenes look at this story, and the audio commentary, which all help to fill the many story holes in this three part adventure. One can appreciate the story much better after learning what is what from the bonus material. Too bad the story itself as shot and edited for these episodes couldn't properly tell the story. Through the bonus material, we learn that the story was originally going to take place on Gallifrey, and perhaps it would have worked better if it had. We also learn from the bonus material that Light is meant to be a "recording angel" -- an angel? Is this a Doctor Who story or a bible tale? He glows throughout the story except for one scene where I assume they forgot to add the glowing effect. Unless he was meant to loose his glow, but again, no clue is given while watching the story. The Doctor seems to be able to make a fist and aim it at this Light character to engage him to vanish (he moves at "the speed of thought"). What is this power that The Doctor mysteriously has now? No explanation is given.

    Set design comes off very well. The casting is good. The actors do a fair job with what they had to work with.. Unfortunately, we don't feel anything for the characters here. The story proceeds forward with very little exposition, if any at all.

    The DVD includes an 5.1 Digital Surround mix option as well as an isolated music score. The usual features are there found on DW DVDs such as photo gallery, commentary, and production notes. It has been digitally mastered for picture and sound. It also contains a peek at the studio recording of the story.

    In closing this odd three episode outing of Doctor Who may have been three episodes too long. The best part of this DVD is the bonus material. It helps you appreciate the story a bit more. I give it a 2 out 5.




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  • DVD Review: Ghost Light | 6 comments | Create New Account
    The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.
    DVD Review: Ghost Light
    Authored by: Omega on Monday, July 18 2005 @ 02:26 PM EDT
    I would have to agree with your review on this story. Having viewed the DVD myself, I do think that some of the extras and the Q&A session did help make sense of this story, all in all it did fall short. I happen to enjoy this story more than a lot of other McCoy stories. This one, Battlefield, and Curse of Fenric are probably my favorite McCoy stories, but as Doctor Who stories in general, I feel they all fall short.

    ---
    "Hero! I should have been a God!"
    DVD Review: Ghost Light
    Authored by: tarashnat on Thursday, November 10 2005 @ 09:56 PM EST
    One of the problems with this story is that it was originally supposed to be a
    story set on Gallifrey similar to what later became a latter day Virgin New
    Adventure 'Lungbarrow', which I expect to get to eventually. What was left of
    the original proposal was the location, a 'haunted' house. Some of the
    necessary exposition got left on the cutting room floor, or was removed from
    the script.

    I like that they were exploring Ace's background in this last season of the
    classic series. This has been done extremely well in the new series with Rose,
    but was a bit too fantastic (as in unbelievable/exotic) in the case of Ace in
    season 26.

    I happen to like season 26 in general. It was the best of McCoy's tenure as the
    Doctor. It was just too little too late to save the series. And having such
    confused stories like Ghost Light didn't help.

    Once I learned what the husks were, it made a bit more sense, but there were
    just too many plot holes to fill to have the average viewer make sense of this
    story.

    Taras
    DVD Review: Ghost Light
    Authored by: Tempis Fugid on Sunday, January 15 2006 @ 08:52 PM EST
    I would have to agree. As of late I've been slowly building my Dr. Who DVD collection. "Back in the day," my PBS station stop carrying Dr. Who by the time Sylvester McCoy was around. So this is an episode I never saw.

    I guess I bought it on blind faith..and if I could do it all over again, I wouldn't have purchased it. I do like non-conventional stories with unique points of view...but this felt like a bunch of random things that never lined up. Too unstructured and not appropriate for Dr. Who. In my opinion, it was writing like this that eventually got the show cancelled. Everyone needed to take a break, retool, and reinvent because somewhere along the line (probably near the end of the Collin Baker era) it broke down, and no one bothered to fix it.