Doctor Who: Ghosts Of India Audio CD review

The Doc meets Mahatma Gandhi and does his level best to foil an alien insurrection...

Doctor Who: Ghosts Of India

The Doctor and Donna Noble arrive in Calcutta, India in 1947. A civil war is raging and at a nearby refugee camp the hospital tent is admitting patients with strange mutations. The Doctor and Donna become separated. The Doctor saves a man from being trampled by a horse and arrives at the refugee camp. Examining the mutated patients with his sonic screwdriver, the Doctor is made aware of an alien energy source.

Donna has been taken into protective custody at the home of Sir Edgar Campbell, where she struggles to fit in with his family. In the city people are going missing and there is talk of ‘half made’ men, “white as salt with shadows for eyes”. There is excitement as the refugee camp is visited by Mohandas “Mahatma” Gandhi. The Doctor is delighted to meet the great spiritual leader.

Later reunited with Donna, the Doctor, Gandhi and others take an elephant ride to a strange temple. At the temple the travellers see visions of their worst nightmares. The Doctor realises this is a ‘psychic shield’ designed to scare people in order to protect an alien craft. Gandhi is very accepting of the Doctor’s ideas.

Using the TARDIS the Doctor is able to locate the alien energy source. As Donna enjoys tiffin on the lawn at the Campbell’s home, the Doctor is whisked away by a group of ‘half-made men’, which he discovers are actually Gellum warriors, created illegally by the Jalkorath, a weed like creature with multiple eyes. The Jalkorath has ambitions to harvest 50,000 humans to create Gellum warriors. When these plans involve Gandhi, the Doctor is forced to protect the timeline from being destroyed…

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This is a well written, very atmospheric story. Many of the scenes are reminiscent of A Passage To India, The Jewel In The Crown and indeed, Gandhi. David Troughton, with several connections to Doctor Who of his own, is a great choice for narrator. He captures David Tennant’s vocal mannerisms very well, allowing the Doctor to comes across as playful, passionate and a voice of authority when required.

Troughton’s attempts at Donna are interesting. Whilst she retains her sledgehammer social skills and uber-firey persona her accent seems to drift somehow. The “upper crust” gentry and natives are very believable, Troughton excels himself with his performance as Gandhi.

The plot is quite involved and may take more than one listen to fully appreciate. There are sequences of technobabble which go on too long – even for Doctor Who! Gandhi’s inclusion is delightful but the story would have been strong enough without the ‘let’s include a famous historical figure’ attitude which sometimes undermines the television series. The story is split into two episodes running at  approximately 75 minutes each. The nominal ‘cliffhanger’ isn’t really strong enough to encourage the listener to return, perhaps the story would have worked better as a four-parter.

There are some wonderfully descriptive passages which evoke the heat, excitement and danger of India in the late Forties. David Troughton’s nicely-judged performances really bring the script to life. For the ardent fans there are references to previous adventures, notably School Reunion and a particularly comic scene about aliens’ abilities to make tea. In a poignant epilogue the Doctor tells Donna of Gandhi’s eventual fate. This is handled with great sensitivity and the disc is all the better for it.

Written by Mark Morris Read by David Troughton 2 CDs Running time: 2 Hours 30 mins approx

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4 stars
Ghosts Of India is out now.

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Rating:

4 out of 5