Ghost Light part 2

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  • #14882
    Craig @craig
    Emperor

    Ace has discovered the secret basement. Aided by Nimrod, her attempt to escape sets off an alarm, leading to her rescue but also the release of whatever is in the cell. Josiah, who keeps human specimens along with the bugs and butterflies in his collection, is revealed to be in some form of continuing evolution, and the episode features some quite creepy “body horror” moments involving Josiah and Rev Matthews.

    I have to admit that’s about the best summing up I can do as it’s either plotted in an incredibly complex and intricate way that rewards on second or third viewing, or it’s just all over the place and doesn’t really make much sense. I await the denouement next week before making judgement.

    #14990
    HTPBDET @htpbdet

    ACE:                 Professor. Josiah’s lucifugous.
    DOCTOR:       Yes. He doesn’t like light, either.
    ACE:                What about the spaceship in the cellar? It’s knackered, isn’t it?
    DOCTOR:       Yes. I fixed it. Uncle Josiah knows as much about it’s secrets as a hamburger knows about the Amazon desert.
    ACE:               Sounds a bit like you and the Tardis.

    One of the things I was interested in about this exercise was whether, watching one episode a week , the plot and characters of Ghostlight would be clear in the memory, because on original broadcast I remembered that it was, during the McCoy period, often difficult to keep track of them. This was not a problem that I had even encountered pre-Colin Baker, but it certainly was a problem during his era and then again, on and off, during Mccoy’s time.
    Interestingly, even though I now know the plot and the characters, somehow the watching of these episodes still sees me unsure about who is who (so to speak) and what is going on. With you, @craig!
    Mainly, I think that is down to bad direction and bad sound and the occasional bit of bad supporting cast acting. It is certainly the case with this episode two.
    When I read the script, it seems chilling, mysterious and quite thrilling; but on watching, it is both too bright and too dark (lighting) and the set pieces (the fights, the confrontations, the reveals) are too clunky and pantomimish. It’s the execution, not the ideas, which let this down.
    And yet…it still holds the interest – and mainly this is down to the determination of McCoy and the brio that Sophie Aldred’s Ace constantly displays.
    There are some humourous Gilbert and Sullivan references, both to The Mikado and Princess Ida, which are appropriate and give a real sense of period to the proceedings. Indeed, there is a lot of good narrative humour here – Inspector Mackenzie is a particular joy.
                  DOCTOR:                             I’m busy, Inspector.

    MACKENZIE:                    And I have my investigation to complete.
    DOCTOR:                             Still not found the mustard? Since I awoke you, you have consumed three English breakfasts, two elevenses and one four-course meal. Why don’t you go and get Mrs Grose to make you some afternoon tea.
    MACKENZIE:                   She’s hiding facts from me, and so are you, and if you don’t tell me where the rest of the household is, I shall arrest you for obstructing my enquires.

    And, certainly, by the end of this episode, the plot has thickened to its ripest point. It is difficult to know what the hell is going on but there is a sense that the Doctor is quite clear about it and knows what he has to do. McCoy at his enigmatic and manipulative best.
    Interesting that MCoy uses the gun-like device so calmly and that he insists Ace use it too – somehow with McCoy’s brooding and determined Doctor, this does not seem out of place.
    Ace is very fetching in her new dress and it is interesting how clothes make no dent on the spirit of Ace – Aldred plays the character with a clear through line regardless of what she is dressed in. That’s a skill.
    Who will the creature in the basement be? What/Who is Control? What is the Light? Why was Ace scared by the house when she first visited? How are there two Josiahs?
    And was that the head of that silly creature from Arc of Infinity  (No, I don’t mean Colin Baker) standing with Mr Flyhead and being mean to Ace at the start of the episode?
    So many questions providing a reason to tune in next week. The only issue is remembering them…

    #14996
    Anonymous @

    @htpbdet – I thought this bit of dialogue was worth quoting:

    ACEWhere’s Nimrod?

    THE DOCTOR: Gone to see a man about a god.

    he he.

    @craig – I found this part to be a bit of a mess, myself.  I was intrigued by the first part but this one?  What is going on?

    Although, I’m liking Sylvester McCoy’s Doctor, quite a lot.  He’s funny (NIMROD: Can you summon it, then? [the burning light] THE DOCTOR: Let’s just say, I’ve made a deal with its agent.‘), he’s imperious, he’s impetuous (does he really not know what he’s unleashing at the end, and is just happy for a bit of anarchy?), and I liked the moment when he’s talking to the bug on his hand, explaining about foraging but that it will evolve from that.

     

    #14999
    HTPBDET @htpbdet

    @Shazzbot

    Yes, that section with the cockroach is lovely.

    You are right – it is a witty script!

    #15001
    Anonymous @

    @htpbdet – I’ve not had any Sylvester McCoy experiences other than this Ghostlight episode these past two weekends, and watching / reading the clips people have posted on this forum of McCoy in various interviews / at various fan conventions.

    But I am already rating his characterisation of the Doctor very highly.  He’s just so eminently ‘watchable’ in some way.  From these two parts of Ghostlight alone, he was helped by a witty script, to be sure; but he manages to make even banal moments enjoyable.  You said so much in your Sylvester McCoy blog which is far more erudite than I could manage.

    But as the stereotypical ‘ignorant punter’ in this instance, my first instinct is to say, I wish I could have experienced McCoy’s Doctor more, and, at the time of original broadcast.  And I’m surprised that you have omitted that ‘M’ from your moniker.  Perhaps it’s not pertinent here, but on the Faces of the Doctor thread perhaps, you’ll let us know why you don’t consider McCoy part of your personal pantheon of Doctors?

    #15005
    chickenelly @chickenelly

    Just caught up with episode two.  Glad to know even the most ardent BG Who fans are finding it difficult to understand what’s going on and not just me.  This might have been a story which could have benefited from a bit more exposition, possibly over another episode or so.

    I picked up on the ‘Turn of the Screw’ reference last week but this episode has a few more.  Rocky Horror popped into my mind, as did a bit of Edgar Allen Poe.  You could also draw a comparison with the Crimson Horror and the Lazarus Experiment.

    In terms of McCoy’s characterisation, I’m not sure – I’ve just not seen enough of him.  For the little he’s been in the episode, he’s shaping up well but I’ve still not got a handle on it yet.

     

    #15009
    stevethewhistle @steve-thorp

    I reckon that I will have to watch this and the previous episode with the subtitles turned on. I know that my hearing is not so good these days, but I AM watching with the sound routed through a Hi-Fi.

    Everything seems over-rushed, and I wonder if they have tried to squeeze three or four episodes’ worth of material into two.

    At this point in the series, there is wide scope for BonkersTheories but, hopefully, all will be revealed in the final episode.

    Does the reference “gone to Java” mean that they have devolved to Java Man?

    I thought that one of the husks was a Silurian, but how can lizards evolve into mammals?

    Is the evolution of Josiah (who, I assume, is named after the relative of Charles Darwin, Josiah Wedgwood) fuelled by the devolution of the others?

    The cellar does have the feel of another time machine, I feel, so, is the bright light related to time travel?

    BTW

    I recently watched the DVD of The Happiness Patrol, which, so far, I prefer to Ghost Light, although my opinion may change after watching the final episode.

    #15013
    Anonymous @

    The first half of this episode in the basement is rather frenetic, probably too much so. I think @htpbdet has a point that this story (like all the McCoy period) was badly served by the execution. But I’d argue that Ghost Light is a sure sign that things were getting better. Compare this to Dragonfire, say, and I’d argue that it’s distinctly possible that if Cartmel and co had got another series that they’d have pulled the show back from the brink entirely.

    As others have said, McCoy is brilliant in this story. For me, this and Fenric are his finest hour. And this episode has the 7th Doctor firing on all cylinders. This is the Doctor as arch manipulator — seen in the most literal sense when he moves the hands on the hall clock because time is just not moving fast enough for his liking. He strides with real purpose, compared to the freeform wandering of many other Doctors. He knows what the endgame and probably knows how to get there as well.

    I think as @steve-thorp says, Ghost Light has its ‘difficult’ reputation because it more or less totally eschews exposition. (Possibly because under late McCoy, the Doctor has now eschewed his traditional role of explaining stuff to us via Ace.) I believe the documentary about the making of the show said that this is largely because the story lost an episode and so a lot has had to be condensed into three episodes. And this is quite a dense and textured story as it is.

    A quick word about the villains. Josiah, Gwendoline and Mrs Pritchard are a great and pretty sinister trio, I think. (btw. @htpbdet, there are two Josiahs because he is evolving in a lizard-like way. He is born again every day and sheds his old husk like a snake — although he seems to be able to retain some rudimentary control over them.)

    Other greats bits of Victoriana — as @steve-thorp says, Josiah Wedgewood, but also the Elephant Man in Control’s appearance surely. Also is Inspector Mackenzie a reference to Raffles and his own police nemesis?

    #15610
    Bluesqueakpip @bluesqueakpip

    I’d agree that the direction was terrible – it’s pedestrian and not well lit. If you handed this script to someone like Adam Smith, you’d get something shadowy and mysterious – and probably with a lot of lens flare 🙂

    But this is rather like a filmed stage play; much of the mystery is coming from the actors. You do get the strong impression that the McCoy Doctor has a fairly good idea of what’s going on – but also that he knows that, as he says, he’s lit the blue touch paper and doesn’t have anywhere to run to.

    My memory of watching this the first time is that I had absolutely no idea what was going on, but was confident that I’d eventually find out. In the meantime, I was along for the ride. Bit like Steven Moffat, really. 😀

    Yes, Josiah is evolving and leaving his ‘husks’ behind – but his ‘husks’ seem to have some level of consciousness (or possibly they’re still connected to him in some way). And I remember the shock when we discovered that Gwendoline was also controlled by Josiah; she too is now frightened of the light.

    I agree that having to cut down to three episodes from the four written didn’t exactly help; the feeling we’re left with in this episode is that the writer threw everything into the story but the kitchen sink (which is offscreen). That said, the ideas are quite dense. Evolution, devolution, a Neanderthal who’s thinking his way through the problem and a human who’s relying on dogma. Josiah thinks he’s in charge; the Doctor thinks he’s in charge. But are they both fooling themselves?

    Tune in next week.

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