First Broadcast October 4th, 1989 @ 6.35pm (4.2m viewers)
‘Ghost Light’. A Seventh Doctor story from what would be Sylvester McCoy’s final season in the role. In fact, this was the final Doctor Who story to enter production before the show simply failed to return in 1990. It is a superb piece of drama. Deliberately dark. Gothic. Creepy. It is one of few examples of Doctor Who doing a proper haunted house story. But more than that, it is a story which analyses the relationship between the Doctor and his companion unlike any other.
“Heaven help anyone who’s still here after dark.”
Something lurks in the cellar, behind a locked door. Whatever it is it also reads ‘The Times’. Throughout the episode, there is a chilling sense of the unnerving. The Victorian era is the perfect environment for the tale, not least because of the fascination for taxidermy and developing interest in the evolution of the natural world. But there’s also an explorer who’s mind is broken. A Neanderthal butler. Creepy maids. A peculiar head of the household. All the elements that make ‘Ghost Light’ the perfect viewing for a dark autumnal evening. Unlike most Doctor Who stories during the 1980’s the studio lighting is very low, adding to the atmosphere skilfully generated and which puts the viewer ill at ease. Not just the viewer but the Doctor’s companion Ace.
Memorable Moment (Spoiler Warning)
“You tricked me. This is Perivale!”
The relationship between the Doctor and Ace is one of the greatest pieces of writing in the programme’s history. From ‘Dragonfire’ through to ‘Survival’, Ace’s journey is deeply emotional and sees a personal development and maturation rarely afforded to other companions. It is revealed that a young Ace growing up in Perivale visited a haunted house. In a manipulative turn of events, the Doctor has brought her back to that very same house. The scene between the two characters is stunning and the script can be read below. It is gripping and chilling, superbly performed by McCoy and Aldred, and reveals aspects of the Doctor’s character and Ace’s backstory. This may have been the final Doctor Who story of it’s original run but even at the end, the show was somehow producing some of it’s best stuff.
Ace : “It’s true isn’t it. This is the house I told you about.”
The Doctor : “You were thirteen. You climbed over the wall for a dare.”
Ace : “That’s your surprise isn’t it? Bringing me back here.”
The Doctor : “Remind me what it was that you sensed when you entered this deserted house. An aura of intense evil?”
Ace : “Don’t you have things you hate?”
The Doctor : “I can’t stand burnt toast. I loath bus stations. Terrible places. Full of lost luggage and lost souls.”
Ace : “I told you I never wanted to come back here again.”
The Doctor : “And then there’s unrequited love. And tyranny. And cruelty.”
Ace : “Too right.”
The Doctor : “We all have a universe of our own terrors to face.”
Ace : “I face mine on my own terms”.
The Doctor : “But don’t you want to know what happened here?”
Ace : “No”.
The Doctor : “You’ve learnt something, you didn’t recognise when you were thirteen.
Ace : “Like what?”
The Doctor : “The nature of the horror you sensed here”.
Ace : “It’s alien”.
The Doctor – Sylvester McCoy
Ace – Sophie Aldred
Control – Sharon Duce
Gwendoline – Katharine Schlesinger
Inspector Mackenzie – Frank Windsor
Josiah – Ian Hogg
Light – John Hallam
Mrs Grose – Brenda Kempner
Mrs Pritchard – Sylvia Syms
Nimrod – Carl Forgione
Redvers Fenn-Cooper – Michael Cochrane
Reverend Ernest Matthews – John Nettleton
Director – Alan Wareing
Producer – John Nathan-Turner
Writer – Marc Platt
Also First Aired On This Day…
- Planet of Evil: Part Two
- Meglos: Part Two
- The Trial of the Time Lord (Mindwarp): Part Five
- The Sarah Jane Adventures: Sky: Episode Two
- Kill the Moon