The Doctor is summoned to Italy by the Brigadier, whose Uncle Mario has requested help in the face of increasing threats from a New York land baron with mob ties. Apparently, the intimidation tactics are growing in their scope, including what seem to be apparitions of the dead and visions of horrible, unearthly creatures. The Doctor is very worried to discover that something supernatural is gaining a foothold at Uncle Mario’s castle – something which could, if it breaks through, overrun and destroy life as 20th century humanity knows it. With Sarah Jane Smith tagging along, the Doctor finds away to travel back through the time rift from which these visions are occurring, and finds that the apparitions are the result of one insane alchemist’s attempt to touch “the other side.” The Doctor must put these experiments to a halt, even though his presence merely confirms his adversary’s belief that he is succeeding.
Cast: Jon Pertwee (The Doctor), Nicholas Courtney (Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart), Elisabeth Sladen (Sarah Jane Smith), Richard Pearce (Jeremy Fitzoliver), Jonathan Tafler (Clemenza), Don McCorkindale (Don Fabrizzio), Stephen Thorne (Max), David Holt (Nico), Sandra Dickinson (Maggie), Harry Towb (Mario), Deborah Berlin (Louisa), Peter Yapp (Umberto), Joanna Sergeant (Maid), Paul Brooke (Paolo), Gavin Muir (Barone), Jillie Meers (Baronessa / Marcella), Jonathan Keeble (Roberto), Jim Sweeney (Guido)
Originally broadcast from January 20 to 24, 1996
LogBook entry and TheatEar review by Earl Green
Review: Oh dear God, what a stinker this one is. The real tragedy of The Ghosts Of N-Space isn’t so much that it was so bad in and of itself, but it was also some of Jon Pertwee’s last acting work, and his final turn in the role of the Doctor, before his death in 1996. Again, Pertwee’s age comes through loud and clear in his voice, but he’s doing the best he can with a real clunker of a script. I always thought Barry Letts – a former Doctor Who producer and writer who personally guided Pertwee’s excellent five years in the TARDIS – had a much better handle on the show’s concepts than this. Psychic/paranormal stories are nothing new to Doctor Who, and I suppose neither are badly-executed ones for that matter, but it’s hardly a fitting capstone for Pertwee’s career.
As usual, Nick Courtney and Elisabeth Sladen keep things afloat as the Brigadier and Sarah, respectively, but some of the other guest artists fall under the classification of “lamentable.” I didn’t mind Sandra Dickinson’s squeaky blonde interpretation of Trillian in the Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy TV series, but here she adds enough of a mock Brooklyn accent to just make it annoying. The whole mobster thing here is actually irritating – couldn’t we have stuck to The Claws Of Axos‘ Bill Filer as the most stereotypical American in the third Doctor’s era? Besides which, The Ghosts Of N-Space came out long after The Godfather – the Sicilian mafia might have made a better fit, given the location.
Ghosts is also horrendously over-long, almost the radio equivalent of an old TV six-parter, and the story’s development simply doesn’t support that length. Where The Paradise Of Death, Letts’ earlier third-Doctor-era radio romp, was a bit unfocused, this story is simply a mess, and an unnecessarily time-consuming one at that. It also contains the wildly apocryphal spectacle of the Doctor shouting “Damn!” – something else where Letts should have known better. A surprisingly bad closure to Jon Pertwee’s brief audio return to the role.