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An evolution-crazed diorama fan with a Neanderthal butler plots to take over the British Empire from his haunted mansion. And, wait, Ace was an arsonist?!

Perivale, Greater London, houses some dark secrets, many of them in one particular house that Ace had the misfortune of encountering in 1983. But that’s all in the past, well the future, as Doc’s current focus is most definitely on said house’s Victorian period, and its occupants who only come out at night. No, they’re not vampires – that would make far too much sense – they’re just under the control of a rapidly-evolving alien called Smith, who has a Neanderthal for a butler. You know, that ol’ shtick.

Smith has plans, of a sort, and has also ensnared explorer/game hunter Redvers Fenn-Cooper to help him achieve them. Something to do with having lunch with the Queen and then taking over the Empire, yada yada yada. Somehow there’s also a supreme being, imaginatively called Light, kept in suspended animation as well. Light is a fan of the status quo, and much indeed has changed, nay evolved, since he last put a foot outside of his cozy bed. Will Doc manage to overcome both of these Grumpy Gooses or just fudge it all until the final credits roll? Only time I will never get back, can tell.

Here's what we think of C157 Ghost Light

We rate Doctor Who stories on a scale from 0.0 to 5.0. For context, very few are excellent enough to merit a 5.0 in our minds, and we'd take a 0.0 Doctor Who story over a lot of other, non-Whovian stuff out there.

Leon | @ponken

4.2

Jim | @jimmythewho

2.0

Here's what we think of C157 Ghost Light

We rate Doctor Who stories on a scale from 0.0 to 5.0. For context, very few are excellent enough to merit a 5.0 in our minds, and we'd take a 0.0 Doctor Who story over a lot of other, non-Whovian stuff out there.

Leon | @ponken

4.2

Jim | @jimmythewho

2.0

Here's what you think 8 Responses to “C157 Ghost Light”
  1. Kieren Evans | @kjevans2

    Hi folks

    ‘The Cream of Scotland Yard’

    Often cited as one of the most confusing stories, personally I don’t think so but it really does help to be able to rewatch it. Thankfully this isn’t the 60s and 70s when it would have been a one chance or you missed it and we can do so at our leisure from the Blu-ray or other medium of choice. Ghost Light is the final story produced in the classic run, with the final scene shot being Gwendoline and her mother being turned to stone. Seems quite a metaphor. Like a lot of McCoy’s run, this one had a lot of deleted scenes which once again leads to choppy editing. Unfortunately unlike Battlefield and others, these don’t survive in broadcast quality to be reinserted so no special edition this time round.

    The science is nonsensical but the atmosphere is wonderfully creepy and the overall message of change will happen no matter what you try to do to stop it fills the story. Heavy on metaphor, you do have to be in the right mood for this one.

    Oh look Michael Cochrane, last seen in Black Orchid also in a large posh house.

    More backstory for Ace with the story about Manisha (expanded media disagrees on whether she died or not) and Ace burning down the house. This story the first part of an unintentional trilogy on Ace, unintentional as the next story was originally down to open season 26.

    It’s a little messy but I like it 4.0/5 Been sent to Java

    Cheers

    Kieren

  2. Peter Zunitch

    There comes a time when Dr. Who must evolve, becoming more than a children’s science fiction show. This story definitively leaves that increasingly inaccurate description behind for good. Often billed as one of the most confusing stories ever made, the truth is this story grows and changes with every viewing. THIS is what Dr. Who can be, what it should be. It’s a fast-paced, complex mind-bending examination of period, subject and character. Angels here aren’t weeping, but don’t blink because almost every line holds something vital to the story. If there’s a criticism to be made it’s that they did too good of a job packing such massive content into a small package.

    It’s hard to call out any actor as shining because everyone is essentially perfect. Every character is a complete lunatic, with exceptions of Doc, Ace and Nimrod, who are all just brilliant. The sets, props, music, and wardrobe are all flawless. The ultimate kick though is the directing. For the first time in quite a while it’s simply outstanding.

    Perhaps the biggest flaw of this story is when this expedition was undertaken. We as an audience have grown and this would serve so much better in modern Who than it did when it was made. It’s the perfect rewatchable because you’ll never get it all first time around. It continuously changes and grows into something new. Burn it all! 4.8 million years of cataloging and we still can’t distinguish between a stuffed pheasant and a live one.

  3. GP Haynes | @FindingGspots (Insta & YouTube)

    Quite possibly the worst Dr Who story ever. The script is utterly confusing, and it’s by far the most poorly executed story I can remember.

    This was tortuous to watch, with a mismatch of ideas ham-fisted together, in an incomprehensible pile of shite.

    The acting was atrocious all around, with McCoy at an all time low.

    This almost makes the “Greatest Show” look like a masterpiece.

    This is the 2nd time I’ve watched this, and for sure my last.

    You shouldn’t need to refer to references to understand the plot or story line of a TV show.

    Even in this case, it made little difference to my understanding. I really doubt further watching of this is going to increase my enjoyment of it.

    Utter steaming garbage.

    0.1 for Sophie Aldred trying hard, 0.1 for the “ Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” reference in Episode 3, and 0.05 for actually using some live insects

    Rating: 0.25 I can’t even think of a rating system it’s so frikkin’ shite. With 2 to go, it surely can only get better?

    • Peter Zunitch

      G.P.
      Loved the review! Glad to see we are so in sync.

      The way they placed our reviews back to back was hilarious! Well played all around. My hat is off to you sir! (And our hosts as well)

      Seriously though, I really don’t condem anyone who hates this story. I see why and was indeed on your side. Trust me though, it will only take about 5 more watches and you’ll no doubt recognize what I see in it. This time for me it just popped. Lol.

  4. Steven from Canada | @SAndreyechen

    For reference I watched the work print extended cut included on the season 26 bluRay as I had heard it is a bit confusing if you watch the broadcast one.

    The Doctor and Ace arrive… oh never mind I can’t explain the plot of this in 250 words it’s a bit too complicated for that but let’s just say it’s a good one, no a great one.

    This story is a tantalizing Sci Fi mystery set in an sinister Victorian backdrop, with a specific focus on the then contemporary debate over evolution. This story plays with many of the tropes of the time and combines them to form an incredibly captivating story. If you like Talons of Wheng Chang but are turned off by its problematic nature, I recommend this as a suitable alternative, just be prepared to pay a great deal of attention.

    For me this story is perfect, from a strong mystery, an intriguing Sci Fi premise, the Victorian setting and themes of evolution all topped with a creepy atmosphere. Every production element is working in full force to bring this story to life but my sole complaint is that you really need to watch the extended version to really get your head around it.

    Overall this is definitely one of my new favourites and earns 5 “wow I did not realize that women in tuxedos were such a turn on”s out of 5, because you probably wouldn’t let me give it 6.

  5. Kristaps Paddock

    Legendary serial, maligned as incomprehensible, but I LOVE this story. This is the rare case when another episode would have helped, because details and explanations that are present in the novelization didn’t make it into the televised serial. Classic Who’s most complex story, I would have loved it if they’d kept going and given us something like this each season. Also, please take note of the continued throughline of Ace’s backstory, which is an ongoing theme in this season; again, would that they had continued and revealed more about Ace. Note also the evolution of the Doctor into a puppet master, driving his companions to engage their inner demons; a totally new approach for the series, and one that signals the emergence of the modern Who era. Absolute banger. Five Victorian reverends eating bananas while devolving into chimpanzees out of five.

  6. Oli Raven | @FoggyDrWho

    Hi! All those mentions of Perivale begin to matter in this one as The Doc takes Ace, without her consent or (initially) her knowledge, to a stately manor in the 19th century, long before she’d go on to burn it down. Because forcing someone to relive childhood trauma against their will is what good friends do for each other!

    Weirdness ensues, involving… experiments on insects? Heaven only knows. With a rewatch, I still haven’t the FOGGiest – pardon the pun on my Insta name there – what’s going on, but reading about it online afterwards, I understand it’s something to do with evolution.

    While Seven rages against the non-dying of (the) Light in part three, does the actor they got to play him look a little too much like The Third Doctor to anyone else?

    If anything, the dialogue in this is too efficient; if you break it down and analyse it it’s probably a work of genius, but aside from being delightfully atmospheric (and featuring one of the best Doctor-companion combos) it’s not that fun to watch.

    Like with Delta – as another correspondent said about that serial – “the plot must be inferred” except it’s not as much of a fun and breezy rewatch as said South Walian holiday camp adventure.

    The oh-so-clever scriptwriters couldn’t even get a reference to a “crowned Saxe-Coburg” right (Victoria was a Hanoverian) as they disappeared up their own backsides. If Season 27 onwards were going to be more like this, perhaps it’s for the best that they ultimately never happened.

    Overall, I give it 2.3 incinerated mansions, which places it firmly in the basement (rather like those bug monsters) among McCoy’s dozen for me.

    Oli ‘Solly?’ Raven

  7. Izaak (Ms. Monster Adams)

    I’m so far behind with this era! I’ll try to catch up.

    This serial feels like watching five different plays on a rotating stage with overloud random music splattered all over the top of it. I can’t work out if it is over complicated, or overstuffed. An assortment of thoughts:

    – Was the chest of drawers containing the moth collection and the policeman a normal size, or was the bottom drawer like six foot deep?
    – What were Ace and Gwendoline up to behind the dressing curtain thing in episode 1?
    – the maids shuffling out of the wooden doors reminds me of the Cybermen leaving their docking stations in Tomb, Earthshock, Ascension etc.. it’s creepier with humans!

    Much too confused to have any more thoughts, so let’s settle on a 1.3/5

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