Doctor Who-Ghost Light (1989)

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Released 3-Feb-2005

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Science Fiction Main Menu Introduction
Main Menu Audio & Animation
Audio Commentary-Sophie Aldred, Andrew Cartmel, Marc Platt, and Mark Ayres
Isolated Musical Score
Informational Subtitles
Deleted Scenes
Featurette-Writer's Question Time
Featurette-Making Of-Light In Dark Places
Featurette-Making Of-Shooting Ghosts
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1989
Running Time 73:03 (Case: 146)
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (48:42) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Alan Wareing

Roadshow Home Entertainment
Starring Sylvester McCoy
Sophie Aldred
Michael Cochrane
Ian Hogg
Sylvia Syms
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI $34.95 Music Mark Ayres

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Isolated Music Score Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.29:1
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.29:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired
English Audio Commentary
English Information
Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    The Doctor (Sylvester McCoy in this incarnation) and his intrepid companion Ace (Sophie Aldred) have arrived at a stately home in Victorian England. As they arrive, the daytime staff are frantically preparing to leave before day turns to night and light-fearing occupants of the home arise. They're not vampires, as you would probably expect from this kind of set-up, but a household of Victorian archetypes that would seem more at home in an asylum than a stately home. Perhaps the stone spaceship that forms the basement of the house has something to do with it all...

    Seemingly led by the mysterious Josiah Samuel Smith (Ian Hogg), who is busy planning the assassination of Queen Victoria, each of the residents have their own agendas in this gothic character piece. The other residents include Redvers Fenn-Cooper (Michael Cochrane), a big game hunter who rarely realises that he is no longer on safari, Nimrod (Carl Forgione), a Neanderthal who has been trained to be the house butler, Gwendoline (Katharine Schlesinger), Josiah's ward, and Mrs. Pritchard (Sylvia Syms), the head of the house staff. Many residents make themselves known throughout the story, but introducing them would only spoil the mystery of the story.

    Ghost Light is an extraordinary combination of plot threads; a power struggle between aliens, who each require the power of the household to reach their own goals, whilst they come to grips with Darwinic evolution in a gothic Victorian setting. The agendas of each of the main characters form rich subplots that make Ghost Light intriguing viewing and there is a great sense of black humour throughout (there's no death here, but a lot of characters "go to Java"). The short, 3 episode length of the story hardly does it justice. Instead of the frequent corridor running padding that Dr. Who was notorious for, Ghost Light is a densely packed story that really needed more time to unfurl and explain itself.

    Fan opinions of Sylvester McCoy tend to vary more than any of the other Doctors. For my money, he really was as good as the stories he was given. He lived up to the potential of his better stories, but had difficulty carrying the poorer episodes. Tragically, whilst the episodes he was given had varied considerably in quality throughout his tenure, the final classic series had been of a much higher standard than some of his earlier stories and the show was cancelled just as I had started to appreciate him (indeed Ghost Light was the last classic Dr. Who story filmed, though not the last broadcast). A lot of this success had come from basing the episodes around the Doctor's companion Ace and having the Doctor act as a factotum to her character development (a technique again used to great success in the 2005 resurrection of Dr. Who). This gave the Doctor a greater mystique, and, wrapping the story around a human allowed viewers to involve themselves in the story to a far greater degree than had been previously possible. Ghost Light was a prime exponent of this new tact and easily one of the best Sylvester McCoy stories.

    The supporting cast and sets in Ghost Light are some of the best that Dr. Who ever had. At the time of production the BBC had, temporarily, started to move away from producing period pieces. The BBC departments and actors that had great experience and love for producing period pieces leapt on this story as the first opportunity in some time for them to go to town and the results are remarkable for something that was programmed as a low budget children's show at the time.

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Transfer Quality


    The video is presented at a ratio of 1.29:1 and is faithful to its original full frame aspect ratio.

    The video is not very sharp, is quite grainy and suffers from noticeable low level noise and very mild comet trails throughout. The video issues are most apparent around dark colours, and in a few darker scenes (such as that beginning at the 16:05 mark) the light levels are uneven, which shows the artefacts significantly. There is not a lot of depth visible in shadows, and in some cases dark objects and costumes are hard to make out on dark backgrounds (such as Ace's black outfit at 22:26). Whilst the video quality is not of a high standard, the quality is generally even throughout, making its effect somewhat less irritating.

    The poor video quality is likely as a result of the source material being shot reasonably cheaply on video at the time of production and not something that could be readily improved (as has been done on many of the other classic Dr. Who titles released). The picture is not too bad on a smaller screen, but the quality may frustrate anyone watching on a larger high definition display.

    The layer transition on this disc is placed between episodes and appears seamless even when all the episodes are played together.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    There are four audio tracks on this DVD; English, commentary and isolated score in Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (192 Kbps) and English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448 Kbps).

    Both the new surround mix and the original stereo mix are good, but music levels are very high in comparison to the dialogue and effects. Evidently the composer, Mark Ayres, was not impressed with the original mixing as he comments repeatedly on in the audio commentary and behind the scenes featurettes about the loud and occasionally over-the-top levels for the music. The music level is a tad better in the new mix, but still a bit loud

    The 5.1 surround mix is one of the best remixes from a stereo original that I have heard. The surround effects are used quite well and enhance the mood significantly.

    The dialogue is generally quite clear, although the music occasionally overpowers it. This is less of an issue with the surround mix, in part due to the concentration of the dialogue to appropriate channels.

    The isolated score track is one of the better isolated scores I have heard. There is a lot less dead air in this score than most of the other Dr. Who stories that have isolated score tracks. The score is largely over-the-top spooky synth music. It is quite good in small doses, but a little repetitive to warrant listening to in one sitting.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


     A comprehensive range of extras is included, living up to the standard that has become expected from the excellent range of Dr. Who DVD releases.

Main Menu Introduction

    A brief animation of the TARDIS flying through space and time, to a snippet of the timeless theme tune, that leads into the main menu. This features on many of the Dr. Who DVD releases.

Main Menu Audio & Animation

    A fairly standard menu and snippets of the feature with background music.

Audio Commentary - Sophie Aldred (Ace), Andrew Cartmel (Script Editor), Marc Platt (Writer), and Mark Ayres (Composer)

    A mildly entertaining commentary. It does not contain much that could not be found out from the other featurettes and suffers from the "too many cooks" effect in places.

Isolated Musical Score

    An isolated score track in Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (192 Kbps). See "Audio" section for more details.

Informational Subtitles

    One of the subtitle tracks consists of trivia, script excerpts and other assorted tid-bits of information about the episodes. This feature is fantastic and generally proves much more interesting than the audio commentary track.

Deleted Scenes

    18:04 minutes of deleted scenes, introduced and explained with mock Victorian title cards. Many of these scenes go a good way into better explaining many of the subplots, providing further indication that Ghost Light would probably have been better presented as a 4 part story.

Featurette - "Writer's Question Time"

    A writer Q&A from the PanoptiCon Dr. Who convention in October 1990. This covers a lot of interesting stuff, including metamorphosis of the story from being set around the Doctor's fears in a strange house in Gallifrey to a gothic horror piece revolving around Ace, set in a Victorian mansion.

Featurette - "Light In Dark Places"

    A 38:52 thorough making of featurette with input from virtually anyone involved in the show who is still alive.

Featurette - "Shooting Ghosts"

    19:09 minutes of footage taken directly from cameras left rolling on the studio floor. Relatively interesting, but not likely to warrant viewing more than once.


    Stock standard photo gallery feature.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    An identical package, albeit one with different cover art, is available in both Region 1 and Region 2, although Region 1 is NTSC formatted. Choose the local version for its original PAL format.


    One of the more interesting stories from the later days of Dr. Who. It is truly amazing that such original material was being written for a show at the end of its 26th season.

    The video transfer is sub-par, particularly given the high bar set by the restoration team that have brought many of the classic Dr. Who episodes to DVD, but certainly watchable.

    The assortment of extras will not disappoint fans of the show.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Adam Gould (Totally Biolicious!)
Tuesday, August 29, 2006
Review Equipment
DVDLG V8824W, using S-Video output
DisplayLG 80cm 4x3 CRT. Calibrated with THX Optimizer. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderPioneer VSX-D512. Calibrated with Video Essentials/Digital Video Essentials.
AmplificationPioneer VSX-D512
Speakers150W DTX front speakers, and a 100W centre and 2 surrounds, 12 inch PSB Image 6i powered sub

Other Reviews NONE
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Illustrates Nathan-Turner's contempt for the audience - UberAspie