When I started watching old Doctor Who on DVD, Tracy (she who is my wife) at first wasn’t even interested in watching them, much less choosing them, but she eventually got drawn in and became as big a fan as I. Now, with only a handful of stories left to choose from before we’re caught up to everything currently available on DVD, you might think we would be able to agree on the order in which to watch the remaining stories. You might think so, but you’d be wrong.

We went to the store yesterday with the intention of buying two, one of my choice and one of hers. My choice was to have been The Monster of Peladon (Third Doctor) because we just finished watching The Curse of Peladon, but do to some last minute negotiations which I need not go into here (you’re welcome), we bought Planet of Evil (Fourth Doctor), Timelash (Sixth Doctor) and Ghost Light (Seventh Doctor). Ghost Light was Tracy’s choice because Bob once said something along the lines of if we can figure out what it’s about to let him know. Her plan is to figure out what it’s about and let Bob know.

I told her that wasn’t exactly an endorsement and actually more of a joke, but she was undeterred. Because I often can’t quite follow what’s going on in old Doctor Whos until after I’ve seen them and read the “Who’s Next” treatment, I decided to read the guide first, SPOILERS be damned. Consequently, I am much less confused after watching one episode than she is. Incidentally, the episode guide RAVES about this one.

Tracy and I use two very different methods of choosing our Whos. I tend to choose them based on the monsters or first/last appearances of Doctors, companions or other characters, but she reads the episode descriptions on the back of the cases in the store and goes with her gut. In this case, we both read the description and both thought it sounded very interesting.

Tracy and I are both big fans of Dark Shadows, an until yesterday I thought “The Evil of the Daleks” (based on the one surviving episode I have seen) was the Doctor Who storyline most like Dark Shadows. It probably is the most gothic (Daleks notwithstanding) and the most like the early black and white episodes of Dark Shadows, but Ghost Light is more closely related to Dark Shadows’ later years, when the gothic soap opera became more science fictiony.

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I own "Ghost Light," which I bought used, and have tried watching it four times. I've been all the way through it but it just fails to keep my attention. It's certainly one of those Doctor Who serials that would have benefited from being edited to half of its transmission length. "Ghost Light" is not Doctor McCoy's best story. It's not Ace's best story. It's just not a good story. Sorry.
Cavalier said:
I own "Ghost Light," which I bought used, and have tried watching it four times. I've been all the way through it but it just fails to keep my attention. It's certainly one of those Doctor Who serials that would have benefited from being edited to half of its transmission length.

See, I'm one of those who always thought that it suffered from excessive editing. I suspect that the scenes we need to fill in the blanks and make it make sense were excised from the script or wound up on the cutting room floor.
Don’t expect me to play devil’s advocate for this one! I read the synopsis in my episode guide before watching it, but two episodes in, I’m only slightly less confused than Tracy. I think Darin is right, though, that it did suffer from excessive editing. According to one of the special features, it was originally to have been set on Gallifrey! Also, according to my episode guide, it was the last episode produced (although not the last broadcast), making it in that respect (and in that respect only!) like the Beatles’ Abbey Road. Nevertheless, I do see the germ of a good idea in there (the evolution angle) mixed up with the execution of another good idea (the gothic setting). The time period was right but the approach was wrong for this particular story.

I really like the serial nature of the original black and white episodes, but when the switch was made to color I think the show would have been better served had the format switched to hour-long self-contained episodes, more like Star Trek. This move would have made for tighter plots with less “running up and down corridors” in the middle bits. Either that, or one continuous soap opera-style narrative, Like Dark Shadows except science fiction.

I’ll be back with my final thoughts on the conclusion tomorrow.
The third and final episode degenerated into a bad episode of Scooby Doo (either that or "Clue"). Tracy is bound and determined to watch this one again. I tried to share insights gleaned from the episode guide, but she's keen to figure it out for herself.
After that, throw Mulholland Drive in and have Tracy figure that one out. Holly and I had quite the discussion about that film after seeing it this weekend.
Ooh, a challenge! Tracy loves challenges.

In the meantime, you may want to read this.
Holly understood the dream-stuff right away...I was going for a more mystical-parallel universe thing (too many comics), but the dream idea stemming from guilt and sadness makes a lot more sense. I love that Lynch refuses to explain his films...it's fun to talk about them and try to figure them out and, through that, learn a lot about ourselves and our friends. Eraserhead, though...man...
Neither of us has seen Mulholland Drive (and I didn't read that link I posted), but it sounds interesting. You've got me intrigued, but after we finish up watching Angel, we plan to move on to Lost next.
In my own little world, I divide Doctor who fandom into three factions: me, you guys, and the writers of the episode guide I use, Who’s Next: An Unofficial and Unauthorized Guide to Doctor Who. I have observed that most often, your opinions of a given story are in line with the episode guide, and furthermore, quite often the episodes I like the most you like the least and vice versa. Explain this, then. What follows is from the Who’s Next treatment of “Ghost Light”.

“ Ghost Light is an emphatic repudiation of any suggestion that the series had run out of steam. It’s a story that couldn’t be told in any other series, combining science, history, philosophy and fantasy in a way that only Who can — and yet it breaks new ground, the finished product unlike anything the series had attempted before. The script is clever, densely packed with gags, and references, and is brought to life by an astonishing cast. Confined to one house, this is the most all-round successful production of the McCoy era, with excellent sets and costumes. At the centre of a story about change versus stasis, there’s the developing relationship between the Doctor an Ace. McCoy and Aldred are never better than here, rarely slipping into the weaker regions of their respective acting abilities, and with a constructive tension between them as the Doctor challenges Ace’s fears and encourages her to grow up. Smart, funny, subtle and exiting.”

Did they see the same episodes we did?
I have a vague memory of reading an interview with the author in which he said that the story started out as one about the Doctor confronting a fear from his past - I think involving a burned-down house - but as he worked it came to seem more logical that it should be Ace's fear. That would explain how there could have been an intention to set the story on Gallifrey.

I think I've only seen the second half of the story, and that once. Ace is supposed to have burned the house down in her own time. It turns out she had sensed the residue that the evil Light left behind when he was destroyed. The events of the story get her over this part of her past.

My recollection is the Doctor is portrayed as if he's supposed to be manipulating events (as often in the era), but he doesn't come across as doing so effectively, or with sufficient regard for the well-being of some of the innocent characters. I could believe the why behind some of the story's events wasn't properly worked out, but perhaps I'm just not sufficiently familiar with it.

As I recall, some force in the house, which the villain is aware of or responsible for, devolves the clergyman into an ape-man and the policeman into primordial soup. The insane guy is affected in a positive way, getting over his madness. At the climax the caveman servant evolves forwards while the villain is reduced to incompetence, possibly again as an effect of this force. The villain's goal has something to do with Light's ship. It would be consistent with the other elements of the story if his goal was to evolve himself forwards, but I don't remember a line of dialogue to that effect.

"Everybody" (supposedly) is in awe of both GHOST LIGHT and THE CURSE OF FENRIC, but while I understood GL more each time I saw it, I still felt it should have been 4 parts, while FENRIC-- somehow-- gets WORSE each time I watch it!

 

My faves from this season were BATTLEFIELD (which, again, seems like it could have used a little more running time), and SURVIVAL, the one where Ace finally "grows up".  I still can't stand her debut story, and never would have imagined from that, that I'd come to like her as MUCH as I do by the time of SURVIVAL.  Which makes it really hurt that they yanked the show off the air right at that point.  (Something it shares with the 90th episode of WKRP.)

Watched this again last night, let's see what I can add...

 

1)According to Cartmel, they wanted this to be a four-parter, but weren't allowed to make it one, so they had to edit it down to three. Alas, they appear to hav eleft out all the bits that made sense.

 

2)Sophie Aldred  wears that suit well in this, doesn't she? Of course, she looks good in the dress later, too.She does have some good bits, particularly when she realizes where the Doctor has brought her. "You tricked me! This is Perivale!"

 

3)Light sort of reminds me of Gorgan the Friendly Angel from that one Star Trek with all those unappealing children in it.

 

4)It's funny - I don't think I had seen much Dark Shadows when I first saw this, but watching it this morning I was struck by how much it reminde dme of some of the later DS episodes I've seen. Geez, that show went to hell when it went to color.

 

5)Apparently the filming of the fight scene between Ace and Gwendoline was watched most assiduously by the male cast and crew, for some reason.

 

6)Some fun quotes:

  • "That wouldn't be a Chinese fowling piece, would it, by any chance?"  A call-back to "Talons of Weng-Chiang".
  • "He's a Neanderthal, isn't he?" 
  • "I can't stand burned toast. I loathe bus stations, full of lost souls and lost luggage."
  • "He knows as much about its secrets as a hamburger know about the Amazon Desert."
  • "Cholesterol City." "No, Perivale Village."
  • "Where's Nimrod?" "Gone to see a man about a god."
  • "Even I can't play this many games at once!"
  • "I wanted to see how it works, so I dismantled it."
  • "Hate freeness, it bites."

 

7)Cliffhangers:

  • Part One: Something says "ratkin" to Ace!
  • Part Two: "Light!"
  • Part Three: "Wicked."  Apparently that scene at the end was the last scene McCoy and Aldred filmed together for the show.

 

Overall:

Some good moments, and some good performances, particularly from McCoy and Aldred, but in the end, still kind of a muddle.

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