Ghost Light

Much like Warriors’ Gate, I think I would have enjoyed Ghost Light more if I had a better idea of what was happening! I did get the gist of it, that an alien survey had materialised on Earth to catalogue all of its species, much like the expeditions of the 19th century, and I enjoyed the parallels with the preserved animals around the house. And the “ghost in the basement” idea is nothing new, but it works.

A policeman investigates the disappearance of the house's original occupants.

A policeman investigates the disappearance of the house’s original occupants.

Where things start getting fuzzy is with the other residents and their relationship with ‘Light’, their motivations, and what exactly the ‘husks’ are. I could probably watch Ghost Light twice and still not quite understand it; the flow of information is bitty and muddled. Having just read a plot synopsis, I’m sorry to say that most of it flew over my head. It’s not that it makes no sense, it’s just poorly explained on screen. At one point, the Doctor even claims he can’t keep up with everything that’s going on himself. It is at least quite a clever script with playful use of themes like evolution and preservation, and it wraps it up in the tropes of a horror story.

Husks in the dark. I have no idea.

Husks in the dark. I have no idea.

It’s also quite well made, with moody lighting and haunting music. Ace gets a more prominent role in the plot, referencing a traumatic childhood event that occurred in this house 100 years later (ah, time travel!). Exploring the backstory of the Doctor’s companion is something the modern series does as its core premise these days, but it was more of a rarity back then. It’s a good thing, but it doesn’t have much impact on this story in the end, and Sophie Aldred doesn’t have the acting chops to make it work. Sylvester McCoy continues to impress, however.

'Light', appearing in angelic form, wakes up from his dormant state to sort everything out.

‘Light’, appearing in angelic form, wakes up from his dormant state to sort everything out.

I suppose it’s a credit to Ghost Light that I did enjoy it despite being lost and confused throughout. Some of it is just “weird for weird’s sake”, but there’s some subtle and disturbing horror too (the soup!), as well as some tragic moments. Light being defeated by his fear of change is the perfect Doctor Who ending, really.

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