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10:33 pm: Doctor Who: Ghost Light

I still don't quite understand "Ghost Light", but somehow it manages to induce in me the type of not understanding that makes me think I'm not smart enough, rather than making me think that it's an incoherent mess (passim). Its main villain is a taxonomist who, angry at evolution making his catalogue of species obsolete, decides to eliminate all life on Earth instead (please don't try this, taxonomic biologists of my acquaintance). Another character, a reverend who is offended by the Darwinian theories of evolution, is turned into a chimpanzee. Apart from the standard science fiction nonsense of that sort of thing, there is one key scientific oddity: the plot appears to assume that Earth is somehow special or unique in having evolution, rather than that that's a thing you'd expect to be happening on any of the many Doctor Who worlds we know about that have complex life forms - the power of the idea after all is its universal applicability to all known life - not that it has happened in some instances. But then, not enough information was actually given to us in the story to make that a flaw - we have no idea who sent the ship, who the crew were, whether Earth was their first job, or what.

It it atmospheric, spooky, but doesn't ever drag. It is nicely shot by Alan Wareing - who directed "Greatest Show", which was similarly pacy. I did a scene count of episode 2 - counting brief exteriors, there are 38 scenes in a 23 minute episode (excluding credits), with lots of one or two-second shots and cutaways. If I were being really picky, I'd say that the action scenes in the basement didn't quite work - it felt like scene changes rather than different angles, and that the Doctor spent far too much of the time in the story looking for Ace (and then finding and getting separated and looking for her again, and then that again).

It is a fantastic story for Ace, again dealing with the theme of confrontation of fears, and providing some more backstory to her. After a long run of companions who were rarely given any good material, it's incredible to see this development continuing. And I suppose my question as to what a butcher Ace would be like is answered here - as she dresses up as a very dapper "young gentleman" for half the story. I'd have perhaps preferred the episode 1 cliffhanger to be "you lied to me - this is Perivale!" but I don't think the show is confident enough yet to make character moments like that be cliffhangers. We'll see if it manages that later on.


In summary: Even once I figured out certain basic things, I still don't understand it 1. I like it anyway.

1. I suppose "why are these possibly villainous people continuing to tolerate the presence of the Doctor and his companion?" is not an unusual plot hole in a Doctor Who story, but it seemed more obvious in this one

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