Magic Bullet Productions

31 Cool Things about “Ghost Light”
(And 19 Stupid Ones)
(But we're not telling you which is which)
(We're expecting you to work that out for yourselves)

By Alan Stevens and Fiona Moore

Previously published in Celestial Toyroom issue 455

1. While undoubtedly interesting, most of the deleted scenes add nothing to the story. Except, unfortunately, for the one which juxtaposes Josiah looking into the microscope with the glowing eyes of the rocking-horse, which makes it clear that the Doctor and Ace are under surveillance, by whom, and how.

2. Even then, it's a confusing scene. Ace picks up a telephone, the Doctor takes it off her, the Reverend Matthews answers, the Doctor speaks into it and hangs up, and Josiah, evidently listening in on the extension, replaces the receiver, makes a remark about Reverend Matthews using the telephone, and then observes the Doctor through the eyes of the rocking-horse. Does Josiah think the Doctor is Reverend Matthews?

3. As it is, the only thing to really indicate that the glowing eyes of the animals are some kind of monitor is that Josiah knows who the Doctor is before he meets him.

4. Considering that, later, Ace will hallucinate the stuffed animals and birds coming to life, one might even assume that the lights are the animals' souls.

5. Still, if you're watching the deleted scenes, listen for the throwaway line where the Doctor admits he's done time in Newgate Prison.

6. Doesn't giving Control copies of The Times violate the whole principle of a Control? Josiah really has no one else to blame for her suddenly evolving into a Victorian.

7. Full marks to the production team for avoiding TV clichés about Neanderthals, and instead going with what was then the most recent scientific consensus.

8. The scientific belief at the time was that Neanderthals might have worshipped cave bears; although there's more doubt about this these days. Nimrod's remarks on the subject are perfectly in line with this.

9. There's no evidence at all that they were pastoralists, though, so the idea that Nimrod's tribe were herding mammoths is pure authorial fancy.

10. And the current scientific consensus is that the Neanderthals interbred with Homo sapiens, meaning that Light is wrong when he says that the Neanderthals “knew when to stop evolving”.

11. Arthur Conan Doyle would not publish The Lost World until 1912, so perhaps he later changed his mind in regard to the accuracy of Redvers' story about the swamp full of giant lizards (or, more probably, decided to steal it).

12. How did a piece of Light get into Redvers Fenn-Cooper's snuffbox?

13. Redvers, the Reverend Matthews and Josiah all impose their respective idiosyncratic worldviews on reality, and all of them are, of course, completely wrong.

14. Ace misinterprets Matthews' remark “perhaps she'll evolve into a young lady”. He intends the insult to be that she hasn't evolved; she takes offense instead at the idea that she's a young lady.

15. The biblical Nimrod was a mighty hunter who lived before the Flood. In Bugs Bunny cartoons, for instance “Fresh Hare”, Bugs uses the term sarcastically of Elmer Fudd's hunting skills, meaning that subsequent generations of biblically-illiterate viewers have taken it instead as a synonym for “idiot”. There, now you know.

16. Ace was 13 in 1983, meaning that she will be 17 sometime in 1987.

17. Since there is no way on Earth that Reverend Matthews' report on Josiah to the Royal Society will be anything but uncomplimentary, and since, as he says, “the condemnation of the Royal Society can be ruinous”, there is no way that Josiah is going to let that threat to his social climbing abide. His plan was thus always to kill off the Reverend.

18. “My roots are in the house; I'm as human as you are.” Everything Josiah says to the Doctor in this line is true, but has a double meaning.

19. The problem with the Husks is that they're supposed to be cast-off versions of Josiah, but there's no real explanation of how it is he transferred from one body to another.

20. “Husks” suggests some kind of skin-shedding, like insects transferring from larval to adult form, but in that case, they would be split down the back and not exactly walking around.

21. This skin-shedding metaphor is also borne out by Josiah's skin trouble in Part Two, and the Doctor's remark, in the script, that “he'll shake it off by evening”.

22. The Husks' final appearance makes a twisted sort of sense, however, in that, although a reptile's not necessarily a more advanced life form than an insect, the Victorians perceived them as such, so Josiah is developing, not according to actual evolutionary biology, but according to popular interpretations of the Great Chain of Being.

23. For those of you not overly familiar with Victorian popular culture: this is the idea that the evolutionary sequence reflects a development of life from more primitive to more complex, and that animals which evolved later are somehow superior to those further back.

24. The Husks also are being telepathically controlled, as it were, by Control. This is because she has now evolved to a higher place in the abovementioned Chain of Being than the reptile.

25. Control's paraphrasing of Poor Tom from King Lear in Part Two can be taken to mean either that the insane are inferior to the sane, or else that the Elizabethans are inferior to the Victorians.

26. The Doctor's “you'll work your way up” speech to the cockroach is, presumably, intended to be facetious, or perhaps he's getting into the spirit of the era.

27. The big question throughout, though, is how this idea of things developing according to cultural rather than actual scientific notions of evolution could work. We have to eventually go back to “magic”.

28. The fact that the policeman has been kept in a drawer for years is not a problem; clearly he's been subjected to some form of hibernation or suspended animation used to preserve specimens.

29. Control and Josiah's powers also seem to include being able to de-evolve humans.

30. Again, though, this happens according to Victorian popular concepts of evolution rather than actual science, since Reverend Matthews turns into a monkey rather than an ape.

31. At that, the writing team missed a trick, in that orangutans are actually native to Java.

32. Ace's question about there being a blacksmith on the village green in Perivale is a reference to the Doctor's line to that effect in “Dragonfire”.

33. The species name Homo erectus would not be coined for another half-century or so; presumably Josiah's use of the term to describe Reverend Matthews is pure coincidence.

34. There's clearly an authorial pun in the works though, as the type specimen for what would later become known as Homo erectus was, at the time, known as “Java Man”.

35. Control is the control, and Josiah is the survey. The problem is that all the puns about being in control and losing control make all this rather confusing.

36. “Why have I naturalised in this form?” Light asks. Assuming that Josiah draws his form from Redvers Fenn-Cooper, and Control from Gwendolyn, Light must be drawn from Reverend Matthews' ideas – hence, he looks like an angel.

37. Trying to disentangle the references indicates that the ship visited Earth in the past, picked up one of the locals, went away, and then came back, rather than that it's been hanging around since Neanderthal times. The question remains, however, of whether the ship can travel in time or not.

38. It's also not clear how the energy of Light's ship can revive insects which have been dead for many years.

39. Or what it has to do with Ace's apparent hallucination of the birds screeching, a siren and a flashing blue light.

40. It is rather nice, the way the peacock tail frames Gwendolyn when she comes to attack Ace.

41. Gwendolyn apparently debags Ace when she falls into the spare room during their struggle – there's a tearing noise, and then you can see Ace's knickers around her ankles.

42. Later, you can see the same knickers on the floor.

43. And a few scenes after that, Redvers remarks “the natives are restless tonight”, when he finds the pair of them locked together on the bed. Of course, it was a much more innocent time in the 1980s.

44. Watch the sequence with the turned-to-stone Gwendolyn and Mrs Pritchard, and you have some idea where the Weeping Angels would later come from.

45. Also, the denouement that the space-ship is in the basement of the house clearly influences “The Lodger”.

46. And again, the idea of them turning into stone can be seen as a kind of riffing on the concept of fossilization, but, if you try and explain it scientifically, you're once more back to “magic”.

47. “File under 'imagination, lack of’”, says the Doctor of the calcified Light. Considering that a good deal of imagination is needed to fill in the gaps in this story, that's rather appropriate.

48. In the script, Josiah calls himself “poor Control” after he is defeated. Presumably this means he is personally de-evolving now that Control has evolved, and thus that one of them must always be de-evolved and the other evolved.

49. There's a parallel here with “Dragonfire”, in that both stories end with a diverse crew of adventurers, brought together by the narrative, heading off and leaving the Doctor and Ace.

50. How well you like this story arguably depends on how great your tolerance for magic-as-science is, or, less charitably, how much of this nonsense you can put up with.

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