"Man has been the same, sir, since he stood in the garden of Eden, and he was never ever a chattering gibbering ape."
IN THIS ONE... Reverend Matthews is turned into a monkey. The Doctor awakens the policeman in the cupboard. Control escapes the cellar. Josiah sheds his husk.
REVIEW: Here's how Ghost Light is opposing evolution and creationism. The personified Light is undoubtedly God/creationism, and is often off-handedly equated to Divinity. The light at the end of the tunnel. Redvers seeing its face and going mad. Nimrod's god, the Burning One. A literal reading of Genesis would make Earth an unchanging ecosystem, where all the plants and animals were made whole and have not since changed. The Reverend Matthews is its unknowing advocate, but even he is transformed by other forces in the house, regressed to an ape-like state as Josiah's joke. Josiah and Control, the two main denizens of the house, represent the forces of evolution, though they serve Light each in their own way. That isn't a contradiction. Light has been made prisoner, after all, and both Josiah and Control fear Light, perhaps out of guilt for their evolutionary sins. Though now that Josiah has taken on a new body, one that doesn't fear daylight and doesn't need dark glasses, that he as evolved into a Victorian gentleman, one who might better embrace Darwinism and reject dogma, it'll be worth seeing if Light has less influence over him.
Whether Light/God/Orthodoxy wants to admit it or not, they're living in a changing world. In the house, this manifests as dead bugs coming to life in drawers (and a "bluebottle" policeman too, his prodigious eating as much a symbol of all-consuming humanity pushing us "forward" as a joke about his having slept for two years). But the outside world, too, is changing. The Doctor's eco-message throw-away joke about the Amazon desert is just such a reminder. But it's not just a physical change, it's a social one as well. There's a very good reason to cast the male Josiah against a female Control. The role of women is changing. Ace and Gwendoline in boys' attire was the first shot across the bow, but female Control climbing out of the cellar demanding her "freeness" is outright war against the house's status quo, and so, against society. Ghost Light then becomes a condemnation of the innate fascism of any system that would seek to restrain social evolution in favor of a status quo, one which in this case, has favored one gender over another (and more, the inspector's various racist remarks speak to another flaw of the Empire). While Josiah's plan hasn't been made known yet, we do see him using a picture of Queen Victoria as target practice, the anomalous woman-on-top in this Man's World. And of course, at the center of things, Ace, a thoroughly modern woman who doesn't believe in gender roles.
All of which is theory and doesn't get at the story as a literal Doctor Who story. If I neglect that aspect of it, it's that Ghost Light is so thought-provoking, I can't help but turn the review into a bit of a literary essay. As a story, I like what it's doing too. I feel for Gwendoline's loss of identity, crying over her absent parents in her mother's presence it turns out (so don't tell me this isn't about gender politics, the women here aren't allowed to follow their true selves). McCoy is stellar as the Doctor, restrained, funny, and active. I love the small touches like Ace sleeping away the day, bringing her back to the spooky evening. Mad Redvers keeping himself prisoner though his bonds have already been loosed by the Doctor. And being sent to Java is an amazingly colorful metaphor for getting boxed. Great images.
VERSIONS: Deleted and extended scenes featured on the DVD include a distraught Gwendoline visiting Redvers, and the Doctor leaving that dress for Ace, making his comment about it play differently.
REWATCHABILITY: High - A weird, moody and frequently funny episode that is redolent with meaning. Fascinating.