Ghosts sees The Doctor and River Song arrive on a planet of ghosts, unsurprisingly. Thankfully unlike the bland title it’s a clever story, more so than most, so now more than ever pay attention to the spoiler warning! Don’t want spoilers? Then just skip to the score to see if it’s worth your time (there are no spoilers in the Overall Thoughts, I should make that more obvious really…) After a great and a good story, does the “Doctor and River Song” set end on an equal high, or a disappointing low? Let’s find out!
River and the Doctor meet on the most haunted planet in the galaxy. The Doctor’s not sure it’s an ideal date – until they discover a mystery.
Something is wrong with the ghosts. Something might even be killing them…
And as the Doctor and River investigate, the truth of what’s happening on the planet of ghosts may prove deadly for them both.
*spoilers appear from here on out!*
As the synopsis says, it opens with The Doctor and River meeting up on the “most haunted planet in the galaxy” (a planet I can’t remember the name of, sorry!), a planet so haunted it’s become a tourist trap, so The Doctor isn’t that interested, especially as he doesn’t believe in ghosts anyway. This changes when they meet four survivors who claim a killer mist has taken all the other tourists and is coming after them, and sure enough the mist seems to be doing just that. To make matters worse The Doctor and River see ghost versions of themselves at several points, which was both confusing and unnerving for them (obviously!) In fact it leads to a moment where an angry Doctor says that those can’t be their ghosts “because you-” before cutting himself off, nearly revealing that he knows River’s final fate.
The Doctor and co. soon arrive at the wreckage of a large spaceship, and a quick check on board shows them that it was a ship with an A.I. that creates hologram versions of dead crewmen (Red Dwarf alert!) until the end of the voyage, complete with a special filter that stopped them from noticing they were dead and incorporeal. It’s also revealed that a computer virus is what took down the ship, and soon everything clicks into place in The Doctor’s head. The ghosts weren’t ghosts, they were holograms of the dead crew being projected by the ship, given the whole crew was killed in the crash that’s a lot of projections, and therefore “the most haunted planet in the galaxy” comes to be. That doesn’t explain everything though, and that’s when we get to the clever bit…
A simple yet eye-catching cover. Sometimes that’s all you need.
It’s soon revealed that the survivors being gobbled up by a mysterious mist are actually the holographic crewmembers (with their memories altered as part of the filter) and the mist is the computer virus, now starting to gain a semblance of sentience. The bigger realisation soon hits: The Doctor and River are also hologram constructs, with the filter stopping them from realising, and the ghost versions of themselves were the real ones. “If we see ghosts as blurry shapes, what do ghosts see living people as?” We hear a flashback of the actual Doctor and River figuring this all out and the former wanting to keep the virus alive as a computer virus that has become sentient is a life worth keeping, but he can’t communicate with it to tell it to jump to his thumb drive, so he and River create hologram versions of themselves and hope they figure everything out and talk to the thing. When the fake River and Doctor struggle the real ones start to make themselves visible to them using the sonic screwdriver to try and steer them in the right direction.
They do figure it out (thanks to River pushing The Doctor into the mist) and the sentient virus is stored on the drive. The fake Doctor and River share a rather nice moment, confessing some things as they fade away together, meanwhile the actual Doctor installs the virus on some long-forgotten mainframe in some place to preserve its “life”. It was a great story, with another set of fantastic performances from both leads.
The only bad was another reference from River saying that living as a digital construct with no idea you are one would be a horrible thing. This is the second story in a row where her “death” has been nudge-nudge mentioned to the listeners who know her actual fate. It’s a bit much, and never happens in any of her other appearances, so it’s like just because it’s the Tenth Doctor it’s something you have to cheekily mention. Ah well, by no means a big deal!
I can pretty much copy and paste the Continuity section from the last review, as the only connection is the one and only Tenth Doctor / River Song TV story “Silence in the Library / Forest of the Dead”.
Ghosts was the story I was least interested in going into the set (mostly because of the rather plain title) but it’s somehow managed to end the trio of stories on just as, if not a higher note than it started on. It’s a well performed, well-written story with some fun twists. Another high score, and a real contender for Who story of the year…