‘THE GHOSTS OF GRALSTEAD’
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Gralstead with the Doctor and Leela
‘Philip Hinchcliffe Presents’ is an amazing, fantastic box set!
I had this box set when my parents purchased it for me in Christmas, 2014. It’s taken a while for me to listen to these two stories, but it’s been well worth it and is a real treasure for a ‘Doctor Who’ fan.
This box set contains two exciting new adventures starring Tom Baker as the Doctor and Louise Jameson as Leela. Both these stories are by former producer Philip Hinchcliffe. Philip was producer of Tom Baker’s first three seasons as the Doctor from 1974-77. Now he works for Big Finish audio.
The Philip Hinchcliffe era is for many fans ‘the golden era’ of ‘Doctor Who’ during the 1970s. I wasn’t around during the 1970s as I was born in 1989. But I expected the gothic quality of those stories from the Hinchcliffe era to be in this lavish box set. How right I was and how exciting this box set is!
This is a 6-disc CD box set. The two stories are ‘The Ghosts of Gralstead’ and ‘The Devil’s Armada’. ‘The Ghosts of Gralstead’ is a six-part adventure on the first three discs whilst ‘The Devil’s Armada’ is a four-part adventure on two discs. There is also a bonus behind-the-scenes documentary on Disc 6.
Both of Philip Hinchcliffe’s stories have been adapted for audio by writer Marc Platt. Marc wrote for the Doctor and Leela before in the two-part adventure ‘Night of the Stormcrow’. Marc wrote a macbre, dark adventure and he was a perfect choice to adapt Philip HInchcliffe’s stories into audio.
Marc adapts these Philip Hinchcliffe’s stories into audio superbly. He echoes the gruesome gothic style and the dark black comedy of the legendary Robert Holmes, who was script-editor to Philip Hinchcliffe during his era of ‘Doctor Who’. It’s amazing to find Robert Holmes’ flavour in this box set.
I’ve had the box set cover for ‘Philip Hinchcliffe Presents’ signed by the lovely Louise Jameson at ‘Big Finish Day 6’ in Slough, January 2015. She told me ‘The Devil’s Armada’ was her favourite from this box set. I couldn’t wait to listen to these. I’ve also had the box set cover for ‘Philip Hinchcliffe Presents’ signed by…Philip Hinchcliffe himself at ‘The Capitol II’ convention in Arora Hotel, Gatwick, May 2017. I’m glad Big Finish have done more stories for his era.
‘The Ghost of Gralstead’ is a six-part adventure on the first three discs of the ‘Philip Hinchcliffe Presents’ box set. It echoes the atmosphere and influence of both ‘The Talons of Weng-Chiang’ and ‘The Foe from the Future’.
‘The Ghosts of Gralstead’ takes the Doctor and Leela back to Victorian times. The story is set in 1860, forty years before the Doctor and Leela meet Jago and Litefoot in ‘The Talons of Weng-Chaing’. This is great to start off the box set as the Philip Hinchcliffe era works well in Victorian times in London.
A gruesome mystery takes place as bodies of the dead are taken to St Clarence’s Hospital; miracle cures are performed at an exhibition and a ghost walks from Gralstead House. The Doctor and Leela are onto the scene as they investigate the body snatching and the cannibalism of the evil Mordrega.
Right from the start, I could feel the gothic mood and atmosphere of Victorian London in 1860 in this story. It feels more Dickensian from novels like ‘Our Mutual Friend’. This feels like another version of ‘Talons’, but this is a completely distinct and separate story and is altogether scarier and gruesome.
Philip Hinchcliffe delivers a fascinating adventure in the style of ‘Sherlock Holmes’ like Robert Holmes did for ‘Talons’. Philip certainly enjoys mixing in science elements with historical drama in his ‘Doctor Who’ stories. This could have been a full-on BBC classical drama had it been made for TV.
Marc Platt also does well in adapting Philip Hinchcliffe’s story for audio. It’s amazing that Philip was there in the scripting process working alongside Marc and helping to improve the story. Marc certainly does well playing Robert Holmes in writing the gruesome and humour aspects of ‘Ghosts’.
It was interesting when listening to this story how many echoes of ‘Talons’ and ‘Foe from the Future’ there were in this story. The cannibalistic elements are strong, but it was interesting to hear the inclusion of African servants in Victorian London and what goes on in hospitals from those vile times.
This story is set in two locations. The main part of the story is set in Victorian London for the first four episodes. But the fifth episode takes place in the Cogno in Africa where the Doctor; Leela; Professor Cedric and Abasi try to find the corona coronet in order to stop Mordegra and her villainy.
The story is also very well-cast as Marc writes and develops the characters in ‘Ghosts’ superbly and the actors give excellent performances as their characters, as well as Tom Baker and Louise Jameson.
Tom Baker leads the show as the Doctor. I’m sure that Tom enjoyed working with Philip Hinchcliffe again and doing one of his stories for Big Finish. Tom excels in settling back into the gothic era of his first three seasons of Philip Hinchcliffe and it’s clearly an era that he was very fond of as the Doctor.
The Doctor plays the Sherlock Holmes act again and he blends that in well into Victorian society with his bohemian manner. I liked Tom’s quirks of humour; wit and electricity as he sparks and argues with people like Professor Cedric Scrivener. I also liked it when the Doctor shows concern for Leela.
Louise Jameson is marvellous as the savage Leela. Philip Hinchcliffe gets a chance to enhance Leela’s character and continue where he left off from the TV series. Louise must have been pleased when she worked with Philip again and doing stories by him since he co-created Leela with Robert Holmes.
I liked Leela’s balance of noble savagery in this tale. Leela gets to wear her Victorian clothes again from ‘Talons’. I liked the close friendship she forms with the African male named Abasi since they’re both hunters. Leela has a shocking cliff-hanger at the end of ‘Episode Three’ which was so shocking.
The story’s special guest star is Carolyn Seymour as the villainous Mordrega. Carolyn is well-known as Abby Grant in the 70s BBC TV series ‘Survivors’ and has appeared in episodes of ‘Star Trek: The Next Generation’ and ‘Star Trek: Voyager’. She delivers a really chilling performance as Mordrega.
Mordrega is the ghost of Gralstead House that walks in through a portal and arrives on Earth. She’s a gruesome cannibalistic person who feeds on the brains of living people. She, like Magnus Greel, is deformed with two faces patched together to make her look ugly and she’s ruthless and merciless.
The story also guest stars Gethin Anthony as Sir Edward Scrivener. Sir Edward works at St Clarence’s Hospital and does some dodgy dealings. He finds Mordrega and helps her to survive and provides humans for her to feed on their brains in order to survive. He gets used by Mordrega as her puppet.
There’s Martin Huston as Professor Cedric Scrivener. Cedric is Sir Edward’s brother and lives in Gralstead House with his daughter Clementine. He was once an explorer in Africa before his wife died. Cedric is suspicious of the Doctor and Leela, but he gradually helps them in their investigation.
There’s Emerald O’Hanrahan as Clementine; Professor Cedric’s daughter. Clementine is a sensitive, young girl with a child-like attitude. She can sense the ‘ghosts’ presence at her home in Gralstead and seems to know more than she is letting on. She’s very wilful, much to her father’s annoyance.
Alan Cox also guest stars in this, playing two characters. First he plays Dr Gideon McDivett, who is the owner of a freak show in London and can work wondrous cures for people with illnesses. Secondly he plays Hill, the butler at Gralstead House for Professor Cedric Scrivener and is very loyal.
There’s also Ivanno Jeremiah as Abasi, who is an African male in the service of Professor Cedric in London. Abasi is very loyal and was once a hunter in the African Congo. He forms a close friendship with Leela. They share things in common in terms of hunting and fights side by side with each other.
I liked the scene in ‘Episode Five’ where Abasi proposes to Leela and asks her to marry him. It’s beautifully written and it’s well performed between Louise Jameson and Ivanno Jeremiah. Leela sadly turns Abasi down and it’s interesting to see a side of her we rarely see in her in ‘Doctor Who’.
Andy Secombe and Sean Carlsen play the body-snatchers in this adventure named Jonas Bulmer and Ned Davey. I liked the double act between these two, although what they do in stealing bodies for Sir Edward at St Clarence’s hospital is appalling. Tragically they get their brains eaten by Mordrega.
Mandi Symonds guest stars as Mrs Targate, who is a ghastly woman working at a poor house. I found Mrs Targate amusing sometimes, as Mandi delivers an authentic performance of a ratty woman. She gets Bulmer and Davey to remove the dead bodies at her poor house and also comes to a sticky end.
I liked the shift from the grimy Victorian London to the hot exotic African Congo in ‘Part Five’. It was exciting to listen to the Doctor; Leela; Cedric and Abasi facing the African tribe and being put to the test when venturing into the jungle. Things don’t appear as they seem when they take on the test.
I must admit I was slightly puzzled by what happened in the climax of this story. The final showdown takes place at Gralstead House and there was a lot going on. But it was very exciting to listen to.
‘The Ghosts of Gralstead’ is a gripping gothic six-part adventure with the Fourth Doctor and Leela. I enjoyed listening to this story and I could feel the presence of the Philip Hinchcliffe era throughout. Tom Baker and Louise Jameson are on top form and the guest cast deliver superb performances.
‘The Ghosts of Gralstead’ rating – 9/10
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