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Doctor Who: Ghosts of N-Space. Starring Jon Pertwee (BBC Radio Collection) Audio CD – Audiobook, 5 Jun 2000
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Paradise of Death was abominable indeed, but Ghosts of N-Space is excellent (for audio, that is; it couldn't possibly work in any other medium). It's wonderfully atmospheric, contains more than its fair share of historical and cultural allusions, some great lines, and nice plot twists.
Sure, some aspects of the plot and characters are silly, but in the GOOD sense of the word "silly". Despite the depth of some decorative aspects of the production (such as the allusions), Ghosts of N-Space is at heart light entertainment, not meant to be taken too seriously. Just lie back and enjoy the ride.
I am one Doctor Who fan who believes that Ghosts of N-Space represents Doctor Who at its very best.
The rather empty positive to this, is that at least it's not marring an otherwise good story or plot. Straight from the off, we're basically on a six part, three hour, trek through the fundamentals of the Buddhist conception of the afterlife (or, rather, the Buddhist interim stage where souls are purged of their negative emotions and regrets, through suffering, before being reborn to the world to try again). Delivered more subtly, this might have worked, but it really is laid on incredibly thickly.
The supernatural has always been a troublesome story topic for DW anyway. It works well when allowed to effectively be a supernatural menace with some pseudoscientific rationale thrown out and then, effectively, ignored (as with the 'alien' werewolf in Tooth and Claw) and best of all when the Doctor basically hangs a lampshade on it (such as Girl in the Fireplace and his admission his scientific explanation is simply his avoiding having to call it a 'magic door'). But N-Space falls into the same irritating stance as The Daemons, where the Doctor routinely tuts and chides people for believing in Hell, or demons, then goes on to describe what is, in every possible way, the exact same thing.
There's some attempt at innovation, structurally, but it doesn't really come off. In a stroke on Proto Timey Wimeism, Sarah Jane finds a book that describes, pretty much exactly, the next three episodes' worth of adventures for the Doctor. Then the Doctor goes back in time and spends three episodes acting them out, just as described. This is... not terribly exciting or dramatic.
On the plus side, the older Pertwee continues on from Paradise of Death is being a kinder, gentler, more lovable figure and the greatest shame is that he didn't get more of a chance to bring this vision, so to speak, of his Doctor to more, and better, stories. Traditionally, I really strongly dislike the Third Doctor as a character so it means a lot when I say I'd have loved more from Pertwee after this. And, again, the version of the Brigadier appearing here is a no-nonsense, unflappable man of action; courageous, smart and adept at dealing with the most bizarre situations with a no nonsense attitude. He's great. It's a shame it's spoiled by him spending quite so much of his gun battles against gigantic interdimensional fiends and ghostly monks talking to himself to describe what he's shooting at. Oddly, Jeremy is one of the best things in the play. He still seems faintly pointless (you could excise him from the script entirely and it wouldn't change a thing) but he's had a natural evolution from a coward to an unhappy coward - one of those characters who is self-aware and hates their own limitations. It would have been interesting to see where Letts would have brought him next had this strand of plays continued. I suspect his character arc would have been as a kind of posh twit version of Mickey -- inspired to greater heroism by the Doctor and Sarah's examples.
Jon Pertwee was a natural radio actor and I think he excels and revels in this story. His dialogue is spot on as well - Barry Letts did not let him down with his lines. They are classic third Doctor. Many other writers provide generic lines which could be uttered by any of the incarnations but Letts gives us very specific Pertwee patter. Elisabeth Sladen and Nick Courtney slot back into their roles with ease too.
Aside from the creative issues which, as I say, are covered elsewhere in these reviews, I have a download version of the story and the sound is not that great. I'd be tempted to buy the CD if it was re-released at a reasonable price.
The Doctor, Sarah Jane and the Brigadier are drawn to a small island. Sightings of ghosts and other ghastly apparitions have been increasing and the very fabric of time is under threat. Can the Doctor and his trusty companions save mankind and the universe?
I have waited quite a while for this adventure to be available and I'm very glad it's on cd!!
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