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Audio Drama Review
A close encounter with a stray missile leads the Doctor to materialise his TARDIS on a planet that hangs in the dark at the edge of the known universe. A planet so dark that it exists in near-permanent night. A planet that enjoys just a single day’s light once every thousand years… Exactly what happens on the planet in its rare daylight hours – that’s what a geographical survey headed by Senior Tutor Bengel is stationed here to establish. They, the Doctor and Leela are about to discover that when daylight comes, the White Ghosts rise... So don’t be afraid of the dark. The cover of night is a mercy...
This is quite a high-concept story: a party of specially adapted human pioneers on a usually lightless world, a deadly life form that takes full advantage of the situation when a new source of illumination suddenly appears... If such ideas seem out of place in a Fourth Doctor story, bear in mind that Underworld had a similar “edge of the universe” setting, while the fearful foliage encountered by our heroes is not million light years from the vicious vegetable matter in The Seeds of Doom. I was also reminded of the fast-growing Martian tendrils in Pathfinders to Mars – though the ones here are scarier in concept.
Meanwhile, Leela (Louise Jameson) continues her education by reading up on fairy tales such as Jack and the Beanstalk and Little Red Riding Hood – though of course being Leela she takes them rather too literally. That might sound corny or demeaning to the character, but really it isn’t, not in the way that it is handled here by writer Alan Barnes. The themes that emerge are fitting and often decidedly macabre – as indeed are the fables themselves. The macabre may well prove to be a recurring tone this season, if the trailer for the next release, The Crooked Man, is anything to go by...
Though it may at first appear that the writer quickly dispenses with the disagreement that took place between the Doctor and Leela at the end of the previous tale, The King of Sontar, the character arc is reintroduced by the end of this story. Another common factor is the aggressive intervention of the Time Lords, which the Doctor (Tom Baker) is not at all happy about. Where is this heading, I wonder...?
The plot probably contains one turn too many for a story of this duration (two episodes on one CD). The material could easily have sustained at least one additional instalment, which I would happily have sat through. Despite its rushed ending, there is much to recommend in White Ghosts, so there’s no need for you to remain in the dark about it.
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