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Ghost Light is the second serial of the 26th season of the British science fiction television series Doctor Who, which was first broadcast in three weekly parts on BBC1 from 4 to 18 October 1989.

153[1]Ghost Light
Doctor Who serial
Ghost Light (Doctor Who).jpg
The Doctor muses about the events of "Ghost Light."
Directed byAlan Wareing
Written byMarc Platt
Script editorAndrew Cartmel
Produced byJohn Nathan-Turner
Incidental music composerMark Ayres
Production code7Q
SeriesSeason 26
Length3 episodes, 25 minutes each
First broadcast4 October 1989 (1989-10-04)
Last broadcast18 October 1989 (1989-10-18)
← Preceded by
Followed by →
The Curse of Fenric
Doctor Who episodes (1963–1989)

The serial is set in a mansion house in Perivale in 1883. In the serial, Josiah Smith (Ian Hogg), a cataloguer of life forms who comes from another planet, seeks to assassinate Queen Victoria and take over the British Empire.



In 1883, the mansion house of Gabriel Chase in Perivale near London is under the control of the mysterious Josiah Samuel Smith, who has subjugated its occupants via brainwashing. The butler is a Neanderthal named Nimrod, while the other occupants include Gwendoline, the daughter of the original owners of the house who have disappeared, and the night housekeeper Mrs Pritchard.

Thousands of years in the past, an alien expedition came to Earth to catalogue all life on the planet. After completing its task and collecting some samples which included Nimrod, a being known as Light, the leader, went into slumber. By 1881, Josiah Smith gained control and kept Light in hibernation and imprisoned the creature known as Control on the ship, which is now the cellar of the house. Smith began evolving into the era's dominant life-form – the Victorian gentleman – and also took over the house. By 1883, Smith, having "evolved" into forms approximating a human and casting off his old husks as an insect would, managed to lure and capture the explorer Redvers 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.

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 Seventh Doctor's curiosity drives him to seek the answers. The Doctor encounters Control, which has now taken on human form, and makes a deal with it. The Doctor helps it release Light. Once awake, 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. 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. Also, Control's complete evolution into a Lady derails 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 taken captive on the ship, Control, Fenn-Cooper and Nimrod set off in the alien ship to explore the universe.

Outside referencesEdit

In the dinner scene, the Doctor asks rhetorically, "Who was it said Earthmen never invite their ancestors round to dinner?" This refers to Douglas Adams'[2] The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy


EpisodeTitleRun timeOriginal air dateUK viewers
(millions) [3]
1"Part One"24:174 October 1989 (1989-10-04)4.2
2"Part Two"24:1811 October 1989 (1989-10-11)4.0
3"Part Three"24:1718 October 1989 (1989-10-18)4.0


Working titles for this story included The Bestiary and Life-Cycle.[citation needed] As revealed in the production notes for the DVD release, the story was renamed Das Haus der tausend Schrecken (The House of a Thousand Frights/Horrors) upon translation into German.

The story evolved out of an earlier, rejected script entitled Lungbarrow. It was to be set on Gallifrey in the Doctor's ancestral home and deal with the Doctor's past, but producer John Nathan-Turner felt that it revealed too much of the Doctor's origins. It was reworked to make both evolution and the idea of an ancient house central to the story. Marc Platt used elements of his original idea for his Virgin New Adventures novel Lungbarrow.[citation needed]


Ghost Light turned out to be the final production of the series' original 26-year run, with the last recorded sequence being the final scene between Mrs Pritchard and Gwendoline. It was not, however, the last to be screened — The Curse of Fenric and Survival, both produced beforehand, followed it in transmission order.

Cast notesEdit

Michael Cochrane and Frank Windsor had both previously appeared in Doctor Who alongside Peter Davison; Cochrane as Charles Cranleigh in Black Orchid in Season 19, while Windsor played Ranulf in The King's Demons in Season 20. Carl Forgione appeared in the final serial of the Jon Pertwee era, Planet of the Spiders.

Commercial releasesEdit

In printEdit

Ghost Light
AuthorMarc Platt
Cover artistAlister Pearson
SeriesDoctor Who book:
Target novelisations
Release number
PublisherTarget Books
Publication date
20 September 1990

A novelisation of this serial, written by Marc Platt, was published by Target Books in September 1990.

In June 2011, an audiobook of the novelisation was released, read by Ian Hogg.

The script of this serial, edited by John McElroy, was published by Titan Books in June 1993. Marc Platt contributed a chapter, written especially for this book, which rectified the omissions from the transmitted story.[4]

Home mediaEdit

Ghost Light was released on VHS in May 1994. A DVD release followed in September 2004, with many extended and deleted scenes included as bonus features. However, unlike the situation with The Curse of Fenric, these scenes no longer existed in broadcast quality as the master 625 line PAL colour videotapes containing the extra footage had been erased for reuse shortly after the story was broadcast, and were thus sourced from VHS copies, some with timecodes burnt-in, i.e. recorded permanently onto the picture. This made an extended edit, as had been prepared for the Curse of Fenric DVD release the previous year, impossible. This serial was also released as part of the Doctor Who DVD Files in Issue 96 on 5 September 2012.

Soundtrack releaseEdit

Doctor Who: Ghost Light
Reissue cover
Soundtrack album by
ReleasedJune 1993 (original)
26 August 2013 (reissue)
LabelSilva Screen
Mark Ayres chronology
Doctor Who: The Greatest Show in the Galaxy
''Doctor Who: Ghost Light''
Shakedown: Return of the Sontarans
Doctor Who soundtrack chronology
Doctor Who: The Greatest Show in the Galaxy
Doctor Who: Ghost Light
Doctor Who - Pyramids of Mars

The soundtrack album for this serial was released on Silva Screen Records in 1993 on CD with a cover adapted from the novelisation cover.[5][6][7] It was reissued on CD with extra tracks on 26 August 2013 with a new cover.[8][9]

Track listingEdit


  1. ^ From the Doctor Who Magazine series overview, in issue 407 (pp26-29). The Discontinuity Guide, which counts the four segments of The Trial of a Time Lord as four separate stories and also counts the unbroadcast serial Shada, lists this story as number 157. Region 1 DVD releases follow The Discontinuity Guide numbering system.
  2. ^ Cornell, Paul; Day, Martin; Topping, Keith (1995). "157 'Ghost Light'". Doctor Who: The Discontinuity Guide. London: Doctor Who Books. pp. 351–2. ISBN 0-426-20442-5.
  3. ^ "Ratings Guide". Doctor Who News. Retrieved 28 May 2017.
  4. ^ Platt, Marc (June 1993). McElroy, John (ed.). Doctor Who - The Scripts: Ghost Light. London: Titan Books. pp. 2, 5. ISBN 1-85286-477-X.
  5. ^ Doctor Who: Ghost Light (CD Booklet). Silva Screen. 1993. FILMCD 133.
  6. ^ Ayres, Mark. "Mark Ayres - Doctor Who Incidental Music". Archived from the original on 15 September 2008. Retrieved 5 October 2008.
  7. ^ "Millennium Effect". Retrieved 5 October 2008.
  8. ^ "Doctor Who: Ghost Light". Doctor Who Music. Retrieved 16 July 2013.
  9. ^ Doctor Who: Ghost Light (CD Booklet). Silva Screen. 2013. SILCD1372.

External linksEdit

Target novelisationEdit