Short thoughts on Doctor Who disc by disc (Originally published May 2012)

Ghost Light

Tonight’s Soundtrack: Raymond Scott, “New Year’s Eve in a Haunted House”

People say to me, “Bat,” they say, “Even though “Survival” was the last story of the original run of Doctor Who to be broadcast1, the actual last story to be recorded with Sylvester McCoy as the Doctor2 was “Ghost Light.”

“Gosh,” I inevitably reply, tilting back my bowler hat. “You chewed through those manacles awful quick. And how do you speak in footnotes?”

“Ghost Light” is an ambitious, enigmatic, and controversial story. It’s also an absolute crap place to start a series of short essays on Doctor Who. It’s the end of the show! You build to something weird like this, you don’t lead with it.

Except, of course, they did. Take a look at the where the Doctor ends. Now look again at where he began: a dangerous man with a hidden agenda and a hat. At its heart, the show has always known that questions are better than answers. That the journey is the reward.

That the quest is the quest.3

One last bit: John Higgins (colorist) did this amazing thing in Watchmen #6 where the walls of the prison interview room change from bright yellow to a suicidal grey over the course of the issue and it’s so perfect for the story that you notice it no more than a frog does the slowly heated pot. I’d argue that the dried-blood tint of the headband, the clockwork glints of the paisley, the dusky coat, and the shadowed eyes are the result of the same trick, just done over Seasons 24-26. 

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1 6 December 1989

2 In the original run, and not counting ADR, obvs.

3 I promise to try to stay away from Whovian in-jokes for a while. Hey, I can speak in footnotes, too!


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