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From TARDIS Index File, the free Doctor Who reference.

"The cream of Scotland Yard!"
―Josiah Samuel Smith
Ghost Light
Series: Doctor Who -
TV Stories
Season Number: Season 26
Story Number: 154
Doctor: Seventh Doctor
Companions: Ace
Enemy: Light
Setting: Earth, Gabriel Chase, 1883
Writer: Marc Platt
Director: Alan Wareing
Broadcast: 4th October - 18th October 1989
Format: 3 25-minute episodes
Previous Story: Battlefield
Following Story: The Curse of Fenric

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.



Part 1

Fenn-Cooper has been driven mad by Light

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.

Part 2

Josiah turns into a husk

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.

Part 3

Light wakes up

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.




  • The Doctor asks who was it that said Earthmen never invite their ancestors round to dinner. (The answer is Douglas Adams)
  • Redvers tells the Doctor that he is hunting the crowned Saxe-Coburg – the Queen of England.
  • Josiah offers a banana to Matthews, who begins to turn into a monkey.

Story Notes

  • This story had working titles of; The Bestiary, Life-Cycle.
  • As revealed in the production notes for the DVD release, the story was renamed Das Haus der tausend Schrecken (The House of the Thousand Frights/Horrors) upon translation into German.
  • Ghost Light was the last serial of the original series ever produced, with the last recorded sequence being the final scene between Mrs Pritchard and Gwendoline. It was not, however, the last to be screened — both The Curse of Fenric and Survival, produced beforehand, followed it in transmission order.
  • 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.


  • Part 1 - 4.2 million viewers
  • Part 2 - 4.0 million viewers
  • Part 3 - 4.0 million viewers


  • Few of the cast could make sense of the storyline. This is true, as confirmed by cast interviews included with the DVD release of the story.

Filming Locations

Discontinuity, Plot Holes, Errors

  • When the Doctor tests Redvers for radiation a cameraman's reflection can be seen in the door of the open cabinet that Redvers is looking into.
  • Why does Josiah think that killing the Queen will mean that he takes over the Empire? (Because he's an alien who doesn't understand how the line of succession works. He's operating under the assumption that he can 'evolve' through natural selection to the top of the food chain.)



DVD, Video, and Other Releases

DVD Releases

Released as Doctor Who: Ghost Light.


NTSC - Warner Video E2218


  • Light in Dark Places Documentary - A look back at the making of the story.
  • Deleted/Extended Scenes
  • Shooting Ghosts - A unique look at the studio recording process.
  • Writer's Question Time - Marc Platt answers questions at a 1990 Doctor Who convention.
  • 5.1 Mix
  • Music-only Option
  • Photo Gallery
  • Production Subtitles
  • Easter Eggs
  • Commentary: Sophie Aldred, Andrew Cartmel, Marc Platt, and Mark Ayres


Video Releases

Released as Doctor Who: Ghost Light.


PAL - BBC Video BBCV5344
NTSC - Warner Video E1318

Audio Releases

  • The musical soundtrack of this story was released by Silva Screen in 1993.


Main article: Ghost Light (novelisation)

Script book

  • In July 1993, Titan Books published the scripts for the serial as part of its Doctor Who: The Scripts line of books.

See also

External Links

  • BBC Episode Guide for Ghost Light
  • The Doctor Who Reference Guide: Detailed Synopsis - Ghost Light
  • A Brief History of Time (Travel): Ghost Light
  • The Locations Guide to Doctor Who - Ghost Light
Season 26
Battlefield  • Ghost Light  • The Curse of Fenric  • Survival

This article uses material from the "Ghost Light" article on the Dr Who wiki at Wikia and is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike License.


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