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4 - 18 October 1989

Average Viewing Figure: 4.1M


At Gabriel Chase in 1883 strange events occur in the basement and The Doctor makes Ace face a fear from her past


Sylvester McCoy (The Doctor), Sophie Aldred (Ace), Ian Hogg (Josiah), Sylvia Syms (Mrs Pritchard), Michael Cochrane (Redvers Fenn-Cooper)

Frank Windsor (Inspector Mackenzie), Sharon Duce (Control), Katharine Schlesinger (Gwendoline), John Nettleton (Reverend Ernest Matthews)

John Hallam (Light), Carl Forgione (Nimrod), Brenda Kempner (Mrs Grose)

Uncredited Cast

Katie Jarrett, Sue Somerset (Day Maids), Emma Darrell, Vivienne Drake, Diana Frances, Fiona King (Night Maids)

Keith Harvie (Reptile Husk), Jack Talbot (Insect Husk)


Marc Platt (Writer), Ron Grainer (Theme Music), Mark Ayres (Incidental Music), Dick Mills (Special Sound)

Gary Downie (Production Manager), Valerie Whiston (Production Assistant), Stephen Garwood (Assistant Floor Manager)

Malcolm James (Visual Effects Designer), Dave Chapman (Video Effects), Nick Barnett (Properties Buyer)

Richard Wilson (Technical Co-ordinator), Spencer Payne (Camera Supervisor), Oliver Elmes (Graphic Designer)

Susan Brincat (Vision Mixer), Hugh Parson (Videotape Editor), Henry Barber (Lighting Director), Scott Talbott, Keith Bowden (Sound)

Ken Trew (Costume Designer), Joan Stribling (Make-Up Designer), Andrew Cartmel (Script Editor), June Collins (Production Associate)

Nick Somerville (Designer), John Nathan-Turner (Producer), Alan Wareing (Director)


Filming Locations

  • Stanton Court, Greenhill, Weymouth, Dorest

  • Television Centre: Studio 3 


  • Mrs Pritchard [turned to stone by Light]

  • Gwendoline [turned to stone by Light]

  • Ernest Matthews [possibly killed when he is turned into an Ape and put on display]

  • Inspector Mackenzie [killed by Light]

  • Light [possibly killed when he disperses himself]

  • Maid [killed by Light]

Production Days

  • 6 days between Wednesday 21 June - Thursday 3 August 1989

Production Errors

  1. When Ace exits the Tardis she is can be seen wearing a ring (which personally belonged to Sophie Aldred), the ring then disappears later on in the same scene

  2. A cameraman's reflection can be seen during the scene when The Doctor tests Redvers for radiation. 

  3. Some of the sets prove to be very wobbly. When Ace pushes a maid into a room and slams the door, Gwendoline and the siad maid later break out a few scenes later. The sets wobble about considerably. 

  4. Why does Josiah think he will rule the British Empire after assassinating Queen Victoria? 

Working Titles

  • Life-Cycle

  • The Bestiary


A classical haunted house story where strange creatures lurk in the basement. The plot incorporated many ideas – science, religion, history and psychology in new invigorating ways that have not been seen before in the show. The serial opens up well, eerie, sinister and spine chilling aided by an incredible soundtrack by Mark Ayres and episode one is remarkable strong. As the story moves on there a few dead ends. Some of the characters are visual metaphors or filler – Ernest Matthews a man of God looks and walks like an evolved ape. The script has intelligence but is perhaps too smart for its own good, we have an alien who has been cataloguing Earth’s lifeforms from the beginning but loses control when everything evolves, the husks in the basements are previous bodies worn by Josiah Smith who also wants to control the British Empire -  by assassinating Queen Victoria – who suddenly can’t fulfil this because he isn’t invited to the Royal Palace, Ace feels insecure in Gabriel Chase, Nimrod is a Neanderthal rescued by Light, people argue about the evolution and the Bible, Gwendoline and Lady Pritchard turn out to be daughter and mother and they don’t realise it - confused yet? Sometimes the best scripts work when the plot is easy to follow. Sylvester McCoy and Sophie Aldred are on top form and the characters have never been closer, The Doctor truly cares for his insecure young friend who must revisit her past if she is to developed further. The cast is blessed with many big names at the time, but John Hallam is underused, and Light is a very darkly written character – anything interesting is left in the basement where he came from. A mixed bag which is neither good nor bad it’s just hard to get properly into. ***

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