Philip Hinchcliffe Presents
The Ghosts of Gralstead
Finish reunite Baker, Jamieson and Hinchcliffe the midst of Victorian
melodrama, bidding to recapture Doctor Who’s 1970s gothic horror glory
years, with Marc Platt bravely taking up the place in the quartet
previously occupied by Robert Holmes.
extent, The Ghosts of Gralstead succeeds in this endeavour. Having
apparently rediscovered his joy for the role, Tom Baker commands
attention as The Doctor, very much the definite article once more.
Louise Jameson is, however, every bit his equal, with the two performing
as an evenly-matched team. It’s heartening to know that the passage of
time has been kind to their working relationship.
adventure begins with The Doctor continuing in his attempts to “educate
the savage” in the ways of civilised society. But Leela treads her own
path, frequently disobeying the Time Lord’s instructions when she considers
it necessary for his own good. It’s not long before the duo become
involved in a convoluted set of circumstances, surrounding a mysterious,
alien artefact with the power to resurrect from the dead, and a
long-running feud over its ownership.
As a six-parter
there’s plenty of time for leisurely story development and it’s a
pleasure to spend that time in the company of a TARDIS team who clearly
enjoy each other’s company. The nature of the story, Victoriana with a
liberal dose of the Grand Guignol, allows plenty of room for some of the
broader performances within. It’s a story populated with several
memorable characters, which may be just as well given the length of the
story, and some of the detours along the way.
The cast provide strong
performances throughout, with Carolyn Seymour vamping it up in fine
style as the evil Mordrega and Martin Hutson and Gethin Anthony
performing well as the feuding brothers, Cedric and Edward Scrivener.
Ivanno Jeremiah provides a creditable love interest for Leela, as Abasi;
kindred hunting spirits.
doesn’t skimp on grotesquery and at times may not be for the faint of
heart or queasy of stomach. At its heart, after all, is an alien being
who adheres to a particularly unpleasant dietary plan as a means of
story on the basis of its duration: a longer running time allows for
more gradual development. However I did wonder whether there might have
been one sub-plot too many here, and that the story would have been no
less entertaining with a bit of a trim.
Who finally gets the chance to meet Scratchman…apparently. Aiming for
another dose of Victoriana but missing and arriving instead at the
height of Gloriana, the Doctor and Leela land in an Elizabethan England
cast in the shadow of an imminent Spanish invasion. Religious fervour
runs high, with perilous consequences for those accused of following the
wrong religion, or being identified with witchcraft.
Doctor and Leela make an immediate impact, helping an escapee priest
and preventing the drowning of a suspected witch. It soon becomes
apparent that there’s far more to the increased hysteria than religious
zealotry, as first Leela and then The Doctor become aware of barely
glimpsed, wickedly cackling sinister imps exerting a sinister influence.
This mostly invisible army of creatures are led by the devil-like Old
One, hell-bent on world domination.
strongly-cast adventure sees Baker and Jameson raising their game, with
particular mention to Jamie Newall as the fanatical William Redcliffe,
and Philip Bretherton as Vituperon (the Old One). Tom Baker’s Doctor is
never better than when reacting against those in authority or power,
and the Doctor’s encounters with the evil Vituperon are a particular
better-paced of the adventures on offer. The ending did feel slightly
rushed though, with a TARDIS-sized slab of technobabble to save the day.
rediscovery of the alchemy that powered Doctor Who to prominence in the
Hinchcliffe years. It’s clear that Philip Hinchcliffe knew what he was
doing back then (at a remarkably young age), and Baker and Jameson are
on top form throughout. There’s also a generous slice of extra
material, in the form of contributions from the cast on these adventures
and Doctor Who in general. The real treat though is to hear from Tom
Baker, Louise Jameson and Philip Hinchcliffe, discussing in detail their
work on these new adventures, and reminiscing about working together on
the programme all those years ago.
Overall another splendid contribution from Big Finish to the worlds of Doctor Who.
BLOGTOR RATING 8/10