Doctor Who: Ghost Light

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  • London, 1983. An old house mysteriously burns to the ground. One hundred years earlier, the Doctor (Sylvester McCoy) and Ace arrive at a sinister mansion, where they discover that Ace’s past and the house’s future are inextricably linked. (Episodes 1-3, 71 mins) Format: DVD MOVIE Genre: TELEVISION Rating: NR Age: 794051221827 UPC: 794051221827 Manufacturer No: 

London, 1983. An old house mysteriously burns to the ground. One hundred years earlier, the Doctor (Sylvester McCoy) and Ace arrive at a sinister mansion, where they discover that Ace’s past and the house’s future are inextricably linked. (Episodes 1-3, 71 mins)DVD Features:
Audio Commentary
Deleted Scenes
Extended takes
Music Only Track
Production Notes
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Doctor Who: Ghost Light

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  1. What can I say? This HAS to be the all-time low point of the entire 35 year run of Doctor Who! (And I’m taking into consideration that ALL of the McCoy era is utter rubbish!) Here we have a plot which is breathtakingly incomprehensible (and believe me, it still doesn’t make any sense even after repeated viewings!), atrocious acting, and characters which are pure cardboard. Don’t even get me started about the over-the-top music and the terrible special effects. Perhaps worse of all is this episode’s focus on Ace’s continuing “personal discovery”, which is given great dramatic emphasis, but which has absolutely no payoff! I appeal to you to save your hard-earned money for some Pertwee or Baker (Tom OR Colin) episodes!!!
    Rating: 1 / 5

  2. The restoration team, as always, managed to work wonders to make this story presentable… Shot with poor quality cameras that weren’t designed to handle low-light situations (hence the graininess), it’s remarkable we got what we did.

    But here’s the problem: I’ve been a WHO fan sicne 1978, at the tender age of 6. Along comes 1989. “Ghost Light” is the first story ever that I opted to watch at a later date because it was so uninvolved and unengaging. I don’t know why, especially as I managed to survive season 24 without any permanent brain damage and that season was terrible through and through. And how that seasons 25 and 26 were geared toward a mid/late-teen audience rather than the 6 year olds the previous one had tried to court. Of course, “Time and the Rani” is a fun enough romp (though being drunk on a nice cool lager helps considerably), but that review for another day…

    So, along comes 1998. I sit down to watch the episode I had taped 9 years earlier. I thought it’d be a good idea to finally say “I’m a dateless geek who’s seen them all!”

    And sure enough, I became a dateless geek that’s seen them all… I somehow managed to sit through it. I think I needed a drink beforehand and I surely did need to down a gallon of Long Island Iced Tea afterward; that always cheers me up… when trying to watch a rendition of chickenscratch scripting, I think alcohol also helps to make even the most schizophrenic writing style that much more coherent… This story isn’t just lacking in the engaging category, the writing itself is either convoluted, sloppy, or both. Let’s just say “both” and the extra features allude to this inference as well…

    I will say this story LOOKS incredibly good (since when does the BBC screw up a period piece anyway? Even the original Doctor Who story, set during the time of the caveman, looked genuine…).

    The music is also exceptionally good. Indeed, I bought the standalone soundtrack when it was released in the early 1990s. It’s very atmospheric and creepy and worthy on its own. Unfortunately, it can’t make second-rate writing come across any better…

    This story also cemented the notion (at the time) that the series (sarcastically by annoyed fans) needed to be renamed “Ace Who”, given its focus on Ace rather than the Doctor. (it’s also ironic to point out that while late-80s Doctor Who is often criticized for giving the companion too much needless background info and development – and it was often needless, the new BBC series (2005) has taken a lot from this era and expanded greatly on it; with people calling it sensational and successful and a triumphant return. Okey doke, having just said that it’s time for me to mix a cocktail of my favorite hard liquors and drink ’til I drop: Brandy, Whisky, Vodka, Drambuie, Tia Maria, Cointreau and Grand Marnier. (thank you #6 for those choices!) And if I can stomach watching “Ghost Light”, you’ll then understand it WILL take a gallon to get me to drop…

    But I digress. *hic* There are some rather nice extras on this disc. Especially a great commentary by cast and composer, even with the *hic* writer. There’s some insight here, but it’s not the best commentary ever…

    But if you think the ‘deleted scenes’ section will *hic* reveal any resolutions to this joke of a plot that makes “Silver Nemesis” seem like Royal Shakespeare by comparison, don’t count on it. *hic*

    But while the storyline is about as coherent as *hic* an infant attempting to learn English, there are some nice lines – one in particular regarding humanity comes from the Doctor itself. But the trouble is, set pieces and *hic* occasional lines of drool-worthy dialogue can’t *hic* make up for a storyline that’s a little too fresh from the cow pasture… (hmm, drunk and retching on foul odors, how much worse can this get?)

    Also, don’t think that the documentary “Light in Dark Places” will be helpful; our mystery writer (it’s a mystery that he became a writer) didn’t show up for this one to explain it… 🙁 And, like the 75 minute story itself, this doco is also a bit too long.

    This release is obviously for those fans who’ll buy every release just for the sake of saying “I have them all, nyah nyah nyah-nyah-nyah” (like myself) or for the true fans of this story, of which there are many on both sides of the *hic* pond…

    There, I think I’m *hic* sober again…

    It’s also been said that repeated viewings can help make sense of this, ahem, DISASTER. This unfortunately goes back to the other point; who in their right mind could truly sit through this even more than once unless they were drawn in by its superficial elements and atypical, bizarre feel (ditto for the new Doctor Who series…)?

    Get it on sale if you can, though the 20% off isn’t what I’d call terrible. For repeat viewings, for showing your friends as an example of fine quality Doctor Who (or, let’s face it, even showing your worst enemies in an attempt to turn them into pillars of salt), this particular story isn’t worth the money – but if you’re a completist or a reeeeeeeeeeeeal fan of this story, it’s worth every penny and then some. As for me, I wouldn’t likely even spend a penny on it, but then would I even think of confusing you with British slang? 🙂

    (one little note: You’re more likely to enjoy my little review than you are when trying to watch the story, whose plot revolves around Ace, some one-liners featuring the Doctor, and some bafflegab regarding evolution… it’s just another form of sci-fi… and unlike most sci-fi, it’s badly written out. (and as a Christian myself, I could care less if evolution is real, if it’s part of God’s plan, or if it’s a load of bunk. Helping other people freely, in good faith, is why I am one.))
    Rating: 2 / 5

  3. …which isn’t saying much. I used to hate McCoy a long time ago and considered him to be the weakest of all the Doctors. He may still be but I don’t hold him accountable. Stories like this prove the point. Ghostlight is atmospheric. But that’s about all it has going for it. In the DVD extras, even the CAST admitted they didn’t know what was going on. You kind of get the gist of the story but it is needlessly convoluted most of the time. Perhaps the biggest criminal involved here is the idiot who provided the music for the episode. The McCoy era’s production team’s biggest mistake was always their uncanny ability to lose dialogue under the incidental music. It was never a problem in any other Doctor’s era, why was it during McCoy’s? Everything was fine in scenes set in a studio when there was no music playing and you could hear the dialogue perfectly well, even through McCoy’s sometimes THICK Scottish brogue. But all of a sudden, they turn the the mics down, the voices get lower, and crucial plot information is suddenly lost beneath incidental music. Even worse was shows like Fenric where they shot the entire thing on location and it was even TOUGHER to hear the dialogue. A sad time for the show as it was over run with unprofessional production people. Many people like this era. I think they simply don’t know any better. McCoy and company thought they were just hitting their stride around this time and maybe they were but no one bothered to get them better sound people so it’s probably for the best that it ended. Especially now that we have a new, well done series with Eccleston. Still if you were going to get a McCoy episode. This was better than his first season anyway.
    Rating: 2 / 5

  4. Admittedly, I have not bought, or will not buy, Ghost Light on DVD. I did own the VHS at one point, but have since donated it on to a friend, just to get it out of my collection. You see, it was taking up far too much valuable space which could be used for other more worthy Doctor Who titles, preferably from the first six Doctors. In a sense, this colossal waste of space could be considered addition by subtraction. Fortunately, the aforementioned friend still considers me a friend. He didn’t even charge me to take it off my hands. Ghost Light ranks right up there with The Happiness Patrol (notice how I refrained from calling it Crappiness Patrol) as the absolute worst Doctor Who ever. That is, until series three of the new series, but that’s for another review. We’ll simply refer to this as the armpit of the classic series. Light needing to wipe out the human race because its evolution was making his encyclopedia outdated. What trash! If that isn’t the dumbest storyline … Why not do a story about a villain killing people who refuse to be happy … Oh wait … That’s already been tried … Who wrote during the McCoy era? And little annoying Ace, the worst companion ever, sulks when not blowing things up. She’s so miserable that you gotta wonder how she managed to escape being offed in The Happiness Patrol. I never thought another companion could make me long for Melanie Bush.

    I’m ready for the negative votes from McCoy apologists, so bring them on. This story reinforces the fact that the McCoy era destroyed classic Doctor Who.
    Rating: 1 / 5

  5. Dont let those one star reviews fool you. What is so great about Doctor Who is that each new actor gives his own “expression” to the main title role. Each new Doctor has his own quirks, his own shadows, his own mystery about him. Think about it, there have been eight Doctors and that is wonderful.

    While Tom Baker was a great Doctor, for example, he was only one of many Doctors. I have to give Sylvester McCoy a standing ovation. While I loved the Colin Baker stories, all of them, and I hated to see him end before he could truly shine, S MyCoy gives a new additive and a new dimension to the role of the Doctor.

    The Doctor by now has returned to his mystery. Just who is the Doctor? Just what is the Doctor? Yes we think we know where he comes from, we think we know why he left his world. But do we? Do we indeed? That’s what’s so great about Sylvester. He’s awesome as the Doctor. He’s funny and yet he can be almost terrifying at the same time. Think, for example, how comical he acts at first in the Greatest Show in the Galaxy, and yet suddenly he shows that he knows just what is happening and why.

    Ghost Light is a wonderful additive to any and all Doctor Who collections. The story is rich, it is advanced. The story is haunting and so fast pace at times. While I dont agree with the Evolution lauding of the storyline (as a Christian I am a Creationist), as a fiction story, I love how it is produced in the story.
    Rating: 5 / 5

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