In a Victorian house, Mrs Pritchard is serving dinner with a copy of The Times.
Sue: This has a new series feel to it. It’s scary and a bit weird.
Weird it may be, but Gabriel Chase does have its advantages.
Sue: Look at all that lovely panelling. Where did they film this?
Me: Television Centre.
Sue: No way! Are you sure?
The TARDIS materialises in the attic. Sue criticises the Doctor for parking his TARDIS with its door facing a wall, a split second before Ace can do the same.
Sue: Ace is looking very feminine this week. And they must have been somewhere warm recently because she’s got a tan.
Gabriel Chase is full of stuffed animals.
Sue: I bet the monsters turn out to be the stuffed animals and the Doctor is attacked by an emu. Am I right?
The Doctor and Ace stumble across an insane big game hunter. The Doctor uses a device to measure how radioactive the poor fellow is.
Redvers: Damn tsetse flies.
I laugh out loud at this. Obviously.
Sue: I don’t get that.
Oh dear. If she doesn’t get that, Ghost Light doesn’t stand a chance.
Down in the cellar, a Neanderthal named Nimrod is checking on a strange creature in a cell.
Sue: I’m confused.
Sue: What’s Gollum doing in the basement? And who’s he? And him? What is going on? Is this supposed to make sense?
Me: Just go with it, love.
Sue: I’ll concentrate on the set design. It’s gorgeous. Are you sure this wasn’t filmed in a real house?
The Doctor and Ace meet Reverend Matthews in the drawing room.
Sue: It’s the Victorian Noddy Holder.
Josiah Smith arrives. Josiah is so cool, he wears sunglasses at night.
Sue: They are Victorian rock stars. That’s it, isn’t it? That’s why they don’t get on. He’s David Bowie and he’s Noddy Holder.
When all hell breaks loose upstairs, Mrs Pritchard has to drag Ace away by her hair.
Sue: Ooh, what a bitch! She’s like that nasty housekeeper from Downton Abbey. Only worse.
Sue notices that Mrs Pritchard is played by a famous actress. When I mention Sylvia Sims, she tells me that the name rings a bell. A very tiny bell. A very tiny bell that’s been muted.
Sue: I haven’t got the faintest idea what’s going on, but I want to find out. It’s very intriguing and it’s very atmospheric. And wood. There’s lots and lots of wood.
When she’s not staring at the wood, she’s chuckling at the script. Sadly, this means that this particular blog entry has been a nightmare. It also demonstrates why we won’t be blogging the new series any time soon. For example:
Josiah: I hope you have a taste for calves’ brains, Doctor.
Sue: That was a good line.
Matthews: Infernal telephonic machines
Sue: That was very funny.
The Doctor: I know a nice little restaurant in the Khyber Pass.
Sue: Ha! Brilliant.
Ace isn’t thrilled when she learns that Gabriel Chase is in Perivale.
Sue: So what? Perivale can’t be that bad, can it? It isn’t Croydon for a start.
The Doctor has taken Ace back to a haunted house which she visited in her youth.
Sue: Hang on a minute… Should the Doctor really be doing this?
The Doctor tells us that we all have a universe of our own terrors to face.
Sue: That was definitely their best scene together. I’m watching a proper drama again. This isn’t kid’s TV any more. And Ace looks good in a tux.
Ace makes a run for it.
Sue: Why doesn’t Ace run back to the TARDIS and lock herself in? Why is she taking a lift down to the cellar? Why would she do that? Having said that, this is bloody good. It’s exciting.
Ace finds herself in a stone spaceship, where she is soon threatened by a menagerie of monsters dressed in dinner suits.
Sue: Ace won’t scream. She definitely won’t scream. Not Ace. She won’t.
Sue: Told you.
And then Sue sighed. Very deeply.
Sue: I haven’t got a clue what that was about but I really enjoyed it. The script is very funny, the acting is very good, the direction is great, the lighting is perfect and the sets are wonderful. If they are sets. In fact, it was all going so well until those daft monsters turned up.
Me: You haven’t mentioned the music yet.
Incidentally, we are watching the 5.1 mix of Ghost Light. This has two benefits: 1) Sue loves 5.1 surround sound mixes and 2) You can actually hear the dialogue.
Sue: Well, it’s not Keff, that’s for sure. Otherwise I’d have noticed it. Is it Mark?
Me: It is.
Sue: Good. I really enjoyed the song.
Sue: Do you know what’s really strange? I don’t mind Sylvester winking at me any more. I still can’t stand this version of the theme music, though.
Nimrod keeps the monstrous husks at bay with a lantern.
Sue: Okay, this is getting a bit weird now.
The creature known as Control is freaking out.
Control: Stop ratkin!
Sue: I can’t understand a word that thing is saying. Is it important?
Me: Not even Mark Ayres can mix this dialogue so it makes sense.
Sue: This is what happens when you don’t carry any Nitro with you. There must be room in your DJ for one can, surely?
When the Doctor and Josiah arrive in the cellar, Josiah suddenly gains the upper hand.
Josiah: You’re so smug and self-satisfied, Doctor.
Sue: Is it the Master?
I pause the DVD.
Me: Seriously? Is that the best you’ve got? We’re ten minutes into Part Two and you’ve hardly said a word.
Sue: That’s because I’m really enjoying it. Having said that, if I wasn’t enjoying it, I wouldn’t be able to get a word in edgeways. It’s moving very fast.
It’s true. Unless I stop the DVD after every single line of dialogue, getting anything coherent out of Sue is practically impossible. For example, I’m looking at the notes I made for this episode, but I can’t for the life of me work out what’s she’s actually referring to at this point. It could be anything. Sorry.
Sue: I’m really confused now.
Sue: What does that mean?
Sue: Okay, this is ****ing mad.
Sue: That is very funny but WHAT THE ****?
Ah, that’s definitely her reaction to Reverend Matthews turning into an ape.
Sue: I’m completely lost but I’ve decided to go with it. I can’t fault the performances or the direction, and even if it doesn’t make any sense at this point, it’s very entertaining. I want to find out what it’s all about.
A little later, after Detective Mackenzie is found asleep in a drawer, Sue thinks she has it all figured out. I pause the DVD so she can explain it to me:
Sue: Right, I’ve got it. It’s just like that Bruce Willis movie.
Me: What, Die Hard?
Sue: No, the one where the boy sees dead people all the time and…
If you haven’t seen The Sixth Sense, a) well done you and b) you might want to skim the next couple of lines.
Sue: …Bruce Willis is dead the whole time. That’s what’s happening here. They’re all dead, but they think they’re still alive. It’s like purgatory or something like that.
Me: Some people have described Ghost Light as purgatory, so you might be onto something.
Ace has changed in something more comfortable.
The Doctor: I like the dress.
Sue: It was nice of him to notice. Doctors don’t normally do that. They have a very special bond, these two.
Me: Yeah, it was very sweet of him to trick her into visiting the one place she never wanted to come back to. He’s lovely.
Sue: It’s like he’s testing her. You can definitely see Ace’s influence on Rose and Amy Pond. I’m used to this kind of companion.
Nimrod has a flashback.
Nimrod: At the season when the ice floods swamp the pasture lands, we herded the mammoths sunwards to find new grazing.
Mackenzie: Tricky things, mammoths.
Sue: Great line.
The Doctor: It’s very, very old. Perhaps even older.
Sue: That’s a good line.
Ace: Where’s Nimrod?
The Doctor: Gone to see a man about a god.
Sue: What a great line.
Gabriel Chase is infested with moths and creepy crawlies.
Sue: Okay, I’ve definitely got it, now. This isn’t a real house. It’s a time travelling zoo. They are travelling backwards in time and that’s why all the dead animals are coming back to life and that’s why the ghosts think they exist, when they don’t. It’s not that hard to work out when you put your mind to it.
Down in the cellar, Control is up to something.
Control: Light angry, burning angry, but not at poor Control. Control going showing Light way up. Then Control on way up too!
Sue: Actually, maybe I’m wrong. I can’t get my head around this at all.
Me: Stop guessing, then.
Sue: I hope this makes sense in the end. That’s all I’m saying.
When Ace and Inspector Mackenzie explore the attic, they find Mrs Pritchard and Gwendoline under some sheets.
Ace: They’re just toys. They’re just Josiah’s toys.
Sue: Oh… I get it. They’re robots.
Me: Stop guessing!
And then they find a display cabinet which contains a Homo Victorianus Ineptus.
Sue: Eh? But… but… why? Eh?
Another version of Josiah emerges from behind a screen.
The episode ends with Light in an elevator.
Sue: Okay, I give up. I’m lost. This doesn’t make sense. It’s bloody good, though.
Let there be Light.
Sue: Oh look, it’s Kosh.
It’s amazing, isn’t it? Sue can remember episodes of Babylon 5 from 20 years ago, but she can’t remember episodes of Doctor Who from last week.
The Doctor: I wouldn’t want to confuse you.
Sue: Too late for that, mate.
Light wants to know what the hell is going on as well.
Sue: It’s Kosh meets Liberace. Look at him stretching his fingers. He can’t wait to play the piano again.
The Doctor disperses Light by gurning at it.
Sue: I liked that. I really believed that the Doctor was in trouble there.
Sweet Jesus. I’m a McCoy fan and even I can’t watch that scene without the aid of a cushion.
Sue: This Light person must be very powerful. The Doctor looks worried. That’s not like him.
Control begins to involve into…
Sue: Is that Petula Clark?
And then Ace has a flashback to 1983. Yes, 1983. Not 1978 or 1977 or 1984. It’s 1983. Please, I beg you, this blog isn’t a forum for you to discuss your pet theories about UNIT dating, or even Heartbeat dating, which is ****ing niche, even for me. Okay? Thanks. Sorry. Where were we? Oh, yes, Ace is having a flashback to 1983.
Sue: Has someone dropped acid in her tea?
When normality is restored.
Sue: That was excellent. Proper drama for a change.
Me: It’s proper drama if you’ve just taken some LSD!
Control is moving up in the world.
Sue: Oh, I know who she is now!
Me: A control in an experiment?
Sue: No, the woman from Lucky Jim, that drama about the card player.
Me: Lucky Break.
EDIT: I’m as bad as she is. The programme was called Big Deal. KILL ME NOW!
Sue: Yes. She played his wife. She’s very good.
And then Sue settles down for a bit. Until she learns that Josiah wants to assassinate Queen Victoria.
Sue: EH? Where the hell did that come from? Isn’t this confusing enough as it is? What the ****?
Light dismantles a maid show to see how she works.
Sue: Okay, so they’re not robots, then?
Sue gets to the root of the problem:
Sue: Who’s in charge? Which one is the bad guy? Is it Kosh, David Bowie or the Lucky Break woman? I can’t work it out and it’s driving me mad.
Control has evolved into a Victorian ladylike.
Sue: It’s My Fair Lady meets The Breakfast Club.
Sue sits slack-jawed throughout dinner. Which is good, I guess. The next time she has anything to say is when Ace almost gets her head blown off five minutes later.
Sue: Shit! I really thought they’d killed Ace!
Nimrod, Control and Redvers depart for pastures new, along with their devolving mascot, Josiah. Sue doesn’t think the premise has enough legs to go to a series.
Light can’t handle the stress, so he disappears in a clap of thunder.
Sue: He was very good. I like the way he started off sounding like Tinkerbell but then he got angrier and angrier as it went on. I can’t criticise the acting at all.
The episode ends with the Doctor asking Ace if she has any regrets about burning down the house in 1983. Ace says she doesn’t even like Talking Heads. Sorry, I couldn’t resist.
Ace: Yes. I wish I’d blown it up instead.
Sue: Great line.
The Doctor: Wicked.
Sue: That was ****ing mental. I’m sorry but I don’t know what else to say.
At least she said it with a smile.
Me: Any questions?
Me: On second thoughts, give it a score first. Then we can discuss the bits you don’t understand.
Sue: It would be quicker if we discussed the bits I do understand.
Sue: I can’t believe I’m going to say this, but it should have been four parts. It was a bit rushed at the end and that’s probably why it doesn’t make any sense. However, I did get the general gist of it, and it really drew me in. The only fault was with the script – there was far too much going on – but it was very clever at the same time. Yes, it was an odd one. But I really, really liked it.
Sue: Is that too high?
Me: Not at all. It’s my favourite Doctor Who story. Probably. It’s definitely in my Top 3. There, I’ve said it.
Sue: You didn’t act like it was your favourite story.
Me: I didn’t want to influence you.
Sue: I can’t give it a 10. Sorry. I would if it made sense.
Me: That’s fine. I’m happy with the 8.
Sue: I’d like to watch it again. I bet it makes more sense the second time.
I reach for the remote.
Sue: Not now, you idiot. In about ten years time.
We compromise and watch the behind the scenes documentary on the DVD instead. Andrew Cartmel tries to explain the plot. And fails.
Sue: At the end of the day, I’m not that bothered. It’s like Lost – it doesn’t make any sense but I enjoyed the ride. Let’s just leave it at that.