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20 December 2014

Will Brooks’ 50 Year Diary - watching Doctor Who one episode a day from the very start...

Day 719: Ghost Light, Episode Two

Dear diary,

Going in to this story, I told myself that I’d steer away from the ‘default’ thing to say about it - that the set design is lovely. It’s something that I’ve trotted out time and time again when the programme is visiting a historical location, and it’s a phrase that I’ve found to be most commonly associated with this story in particular. Indeed, on some DVD feature, somewhere (I’m tempted to say that it’s the look at the proposed Season Twenty-Seven on the DVD for Survival), Andrew Cartmel cites this story as one of the reasons that they’d have continued with lots of Earth-based adventures in the future. It’s hard to not mention the look of this story, though, because it really is beautiful. So yes - one last time for the ‘classic’ series - I’m going to point out what a fantastic job the design departments do when asked to realise a period location.

That entrance hall, for example, with the massive stairwell dominating it, is absolutely stunning - it’s by far the best example of this type of set we’ve ever seen in the programme, and we’ve seen our fair share of ‘country’-style houses over the years (largely in the 1970s…). But beyond that, the spaceship in the basement is rather beautifully realised, too, managing to be simple and somehow just as elegant as all the wood paneling and period detail ‘upstairs’. I loved the spaceship set in Battlefield, too, so I’m wondering if perhaps the programme is just really managing to find its feet again in terms of the ‘look’ for the series.

The gorgeous style in Ghost Light isn’t just confined to the sets, either. Going for the Victorian era means that we’ve got the chance for some lovely Victorian costumes, too. The costumes in Doctor Who often tend to get overlooked when I’m discussing these stories - I often praise (or otherwise) the sets, or the guest cast, or the direction, but the costumes tend to go a little bit unloved by me. This story is probably the perfect time to bring them up, and I love the gorgeous dress that Ace is put in for the remainder of the adventure. I think what works about it is not only how much it suits Sophie Aldred, but how unlike Ace it is. As with the period costume in The Curse of Fenric, it’s a completely different style for the character. At the same time, we’re not abandoning Ace’s past for the sake of a pretty costume - she gets to mess around with clothes before the dress arrives, trying to upset the regular Victorian norms in just the way you’d expect from Ace by now.

I also realised that I’ve never really mentioned the Seventh Doctor’s costume, and he’s been in it for a month or so now! I’m something of a fan of his look - though I prefer the darker jacket that we see in this final year - right down to the jumper! Yes, it’s a bit ridiculous for the Doctor to wander around with question marks all over himself, but it’s almost become enough of an icon in itself as to be quite fashionable in some ways! I think I’d wear one were it given to me (though I’m not sure I’d actually go out and buy it for myself…), and Emma has actually asked for one more than once in the past (Christmas is only a few days away, so she might well have a surprise under the tree this year…).

I’ve little else to actually add to this entry in terms of the story itself, because I’m still piecing everything together as the episode plays out. It doesn’t seem to be as complex as I remember it being, which is probably a good thing, and I’m hoping that it all hangs together in the end because I’m still rather enjoying it! There’s a sense that Ghost Light may be a story where - when you understand everything that’s going on - you can just stick on the TV and watch for the sheer brilliance of how everything gels together. This is Doctor Who being made with a confidence that we’ve rarely seen since the hiatus knocked it for six a few seasons ago, and it’s really rather nice…

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