Thu, 2 October 2008
Ghost Light was the second story of Season 26 of Doctor Who. Two stories followed it when broadcast, although it was the last story of the classic series to be produced. It was the last story filmed at the BBC studios in London.
The Doctor brings Ace to Gabriel Chase, an old house that she once burnt down in her home town of Perivale. The year is 1883 and the house is presided over by Josiah Samuel Smith, who turns out to be the evolved form of an alien brought to Earth in a stone spaceship that is now in the basement. Others present include the explorer Redvers Fenn-Cooper, who has been driven mad by what he has seen there, and Nimrod, Smith's Neanderthal manservant.
Smith intends to use Fenn-Cooper's unwitting help in a plot to kill Queen Victoria and restore the British Empire to its former glory. His plans are hampered by Control, a female alien whose life-cycle is in balance with his own. Ace inadvertently causes the release of the spaceship's true owner - a powerful alien being known as Light.
Light originally came to Earth to compile a catalogue of its species but, on discovering that his catalogue has now been made obsolete by evolution, he decides to destroy all life on the planet. He disintegrates when the Doctor convinces him that evolution is irresistible and that he himself is constantly changing.
Control has meanwhile evolved into a lady and Smith has reverted to an earlier, primitive form. They leave in the spaceship, along with Nimrod and Fenn-Cooper, heading for new adventure.
The Doctor brings Ace to Gabriel Chase, an old house that she once burnt down in her home town of Perivale near London. The year is 1883 and the house is presided over by the mysterious Josiah Samuel Smith. It is a most mysterious place, where the serving women brandish guns and the butler is a Neanderthal named Nimrod. Other occupants include Gwendoline, the daughter of the original owners of the house who have now disappeared, the calculating housekeeper Lady Pritchard, the explorer Redvers Fenn-Cooper, who has seen something which has driven him insane, and the Reverend Ernest Matthews, opponent of the theory of evolution which Smith has done much to spread.
The TARDIS arrives at Gabriel Chase. It turns out that Ace had visited the house in 1983, and had felt an evil presence, and the Doctor's curiosity drives him to seek the answers. Something is also alive and evolving in the cellar beneath the house and when Ace investigates she finds two animated and dangerous husks.
In rescuing Ace, the Doctor releases an evolving creature trapped in the cellar known as Control. The party moves to ground level and Control remains trapped in the cellar for the moment. The cellar is in fact a vast stone spaceship. The Doctor works his way through the stuffed animals in Gabriel Chase and eventually finds a human in suspended animation, an Inspector Mackenzie, who came to the house two years earlier in search of the owners. The Doctor revives him and together they seek to unlock the mysteries of Gabriel Chase.
The husks which attacked Ace were the remains of Smith, an alien who has been evolving into forms approximating a human and casting off his old husks as an insect would. For his pains Smith transforms Matthews into an ape and places him in a display case.
The Doctor helps Control release the trapped creature from the cellar, a being known as Light who takes the form of an angel.
Thousands of years in the past, an alien spaceship came to Earth to catalogue all life on the planet. After completing its task and collecting some samples, which included Nimrod, the leader Light went into slumber. By 1881 the ship had returned to Earth. While Control remained imprisoned on the ship to serve as the "control" subject of the scientific investigation, events transpired such that Smith, the "survey agent", mutinied against Light, keeping him in hibernation on the ship. Smith began evolving into the era's dominant life-form - a Victorian gentleman - and also took over the house. By 1883 Smith managed to lure and capture the explorer Fenn-Cooper within his den. Utilising Fenn-Cooper's association with Queen Victoria, he plans to get close to her so that he can assassinate her and subsequently take control of the British Empire.
Light is displeased by all the change that has occurred on the planet while he was asleep. While Light tries to make sense of all the change, Smith tries to keep his plan intact, but events are moving beyond his control. Light turns Gwendoline and her missing mother, revealed to be Mrs. Pritchard, to stone in a bid to stop the speed of evolution; while Inspector Mackenzie meets a sticky end and is turned into a primordial soup to serve at dinner. As Control tries to "evolve" into a Lady, and Ace tries to come to grips with her feelings about the house, the Doctor himself tries to keep the upper hand in all the events that have been set in motion. The Doctor finally convinces Light of the futility of opposing evolution, which causes him to overload and dissipate into the surrounding house. It was this presence that Ace sensed and which caused her to burn the house down in 1983. Also, Control's complete evolution into a Lady derail's Smith's plan as Fenn-Cooper, having freed himself from Smith's brainwashing, chooses to side with her instead of him. In the end, with Smith now the new Control creature imprisoned on the ship, Control, Fenn-Cooper and Nimrod set off in the alien ship to explore the universe.