This is a difficult entry to write, because I’m not sure I fully understand the story I’ve just watched. It was a mish-mash of various ideas – a ghost story, Victorian themes of empire and evolution, Neanderthal butlers, hidden spaceships and insectoid monsters, all wrapped up in a mystery with Ace’s past at the centre. I was waiting for the glorious moment where it all tied together. I waited, and I waited, and then I just got bored.
I couldn’t figure out what was going on, and it didn’t help that I couldn’t understand everything the insectoid things from Part Two were saying. The same went for Control before she was freed. There was a complete lack of clarity, and I ended up barely understanding the implications of the events that unfolded. The picture quality on the DVD was another hindrance – so fuzzy and grainy, it was like watching a story from the early 70s where the master copies had been destroyed.
I guess your reaction to this story is also partially down to what type of Who you like and dislike. I’m always slightly wary whenever there’s a supernatural or gothic element – give me a straightforward tale of UNIT blowing shit up any day of the week. I also need my Who to be grounded in science and to include thorough explanations, and Ghost Light is most certainly not one of those stories.
I liked Nimrod the Neanderthal butler, but the rest of the guest cast left me cold. I think my biggest stumbling block was not fully understanding who Josiah was, or his role in the whole thing, at least not until right at the very end. A lot of things became clearer once I’d read a synopsis afterwards, but that’s not an ideal way to experience a story.
It’s a big disappointment, as I’d heard good things about this story, and about its writer, Marc Platt, who I’m aware went on to play a big role in setting the tone of the New Adventures. Perhaps it’s a story that improves on repeated viewing, once you know more about Light, Josiah, Control and how their set-up affects what happens in the spooky old house. But that doesn’t make for satisfying episodic viewing as part of a marathon. For the first time in a long time, I didn’t actually enjoy watching this. That’s very rare indeed.