BBC Radio 2
The Ghosts of N-Space

Episodes 6
Dates Jan. 20, 1996 - Feb. 24, 1996

With Jon Pertwee, Elisabeth Sladen,
Nicolas Courtney, and Richard Pearce.
Written by Barry Letts.

Synopsis: N-Space, the barrier between life and death, is breaking down in a castle owned by the Brigadier's uncle... (Really!).


A Review by Stuart Gutteridge 1/12/98

The Ghosts of N-Space, the follow up to The Paradise of Death (again featuring Jon Pertwee, Nicholas Courtney and Elisabeth Sladen) can only be judged as partly successful in comparison to its predecessor. What starts off as a simple plot, the Doctor must stop an alchemist from gaining immortality, soon becomes muddled under layers of subplots and is very difficult to follow.

The tale also contradicts season eighteen's E-Space Trilogy... now N-Space is a stopping off point between this world and the next, and those who cannot believe they are dead remain there appearing as ghosts to those on Earth.

Fortunately, the (somewhat large) cast do perform well, and Richard Pearce as Jeremy Fitzoliver is more believable (as is Sandra Dickinson as the gangster's moll, Maggie). Unfortunately Elisabeth Sladen as Sarah Jane is somewhat embarassing to listen to, and the idea of the Brigadier being part Italian because of his uncle stretches credulity.

Filled with padding and overlong, The Ghosts of N-Space is frustrating because better writing could have made this all the more enjoyable.

A Review by Richard Radcliffe 1/11/01

A peculiar one this - an audio and a missing adventure. I never read the book - too many poor reviews put me off - but I was interested in the audio despite its poor reception. I was intrigued how bad it was compared to the Big Finish Productions we are now used to. Having now listened to it I have even less intention of reading the Missing Adventure. The Target Books were so good because they were of a story often well in the past, or one unavailable in any other source (back in the 1980s at least). But we have the Audio of this, I see no need for a novelization. It is written as an Audio - therefore I will focus on the Audio.

Doctor Who's chequered past in Audio (before Big Finish) is epitomized in this offering. There is a huge amount crowded in (whether in ideas or personnel), in the hope that some interest may be found by the listener. The story jumps from one Time Period to the next, there are more characters than I can remember in anything. The story is difficult to follow in any medium, let alone the "go deaf for a second and you miss it" forum of Audio.

It actually starts off rather well. The 3rd Doctor, Brigadier and Sarah-Jane all happen to be in a place near Sicily at the same time. Actually the Brigadier calls on the Doctors' help, but Sarah-Jane is on holiday with the nauseating Jeremy. The Italian setting is welcome, there are too few travels of the Doctor to other countries. The Castilo provides an effective setting. Much has been made of the Brigadiers' Italian ancestry in this, but we all have oddities in our family tree if we look back far enough.

What follows is a tale of Ghosts and Alchemists, the Supernatural. Barry Letts, the writer of The Daemons and other Pertwee stories, wrote this and provides an explanation of beings from the space inbetween our world and the next. He calls this domain N-Space. I found this to be quite fascinating. This is combined with Gothic romance trappings from the pen of Ann Radcliffe (no relation), it should have provided exactly the sort of things I like in a story. The Doctors embrace of this line of thought was quite non-Pertwee, but this did not hinder the story for me too much.

The regulars are always a joy to listen to. The Doctor is not as majestic as his TV personae, but Jon Pertwee is welcome in any medium. The Brigadier spends a lot of the story absent, but gets to marshall his forces by the end - some great battle scenes feature in the closing few episodes. Sarah-Jane doesn't feel quite right, her caring nature coming to the fore more than usual. She seems to be involved in any lost cause, and her relationship with Louisa is the only thing worthy of note.

The other players in the drama are universally bad. As if bringing back Jeremy wasn't bad enough, we have the cliched American gangster Vilmio, the incomprehensible Italian Uncle of the Brigadier, and Sandra Dickenson squeaking her way through things. Only when Vilmio gets to be really bad (as the Alchemist) do things get interesting for anyone other than the big Three.

Episodes 1 and 2 I quite enjoyed, but from there on I got lost. Too much was happening for confusing reasons. It was only when I read the Synopses on the Web that I got the story - and that shows that the Audio Story did not work. I can keep track of Big Finish Audios, but had to read the plot to make anything of this. Not good.

Ultimately therefore Ghosts of N-Space gives us some good things. But the majority of it is poorly executed, thus making any interesting ideas lose their impact. Full use are not made of 3 key players in the DW hall of fame. There is much confusion and at 6 parts it is all a bit of a struggle. 6/10

Is this an original story or a dramatisation of a novel? by Tim Roll-Pickering 17/7/02

Doctor Who is a series full of unexplained coincidences but it is rare for a story to tackle the problem head on the way that The Ghosts of N-Space does by trying to explain everything through 'syncronicity'. Yet this story more than most contains outrageous coincidences, most obviously the coincidence of Sarah and Jeremy being on holiday on the very island the Brigadier and the Doctor have arrived at. Even by Doctor Who's standards this is difficult to accept and so the early parts of the story fall flat.

Further complicating matters is the fact that the events of The Ghosts of N-Space do not take place in proper chronological order and so the listener is left trying to follow the logic of how Maximillian is aware of the Doctor before the latter departs for the past. Virtually the entirety of the 1818 setting is redundant since it adds little to the plot other than explaining how Maximillian escapes from being trapped in the wall - something that could have been accomplished in a mere couple of minutes. Like its predecessor, The Paradise of Death, this radio play shares an unfortunate tendency with several of the televised longer Jon Pertwee stories that run on for more episodes than their plots can sustain. The plot for this audio adventure is remarkably straightforward and would have difficulties sustaining a four part story, let alone the six parts to which it has been stretched. Rather than an action adventure we get a complex mystery story of ghosts and the afterlife that is at times difficult to follow due to the highly complicated explanations given for everything. By the end of the story it isn't at all clear just what is going on and even the villain himself appears to be aiming for a different goal than he has achieved. The story is certainly bold in seeking to explore the afterlife but just doesn't quite succeed in going the whole way, with the result that we get some bizarre dimension that may or may not be analogous to Hell or Purgatory. Consequently it is difficult to latch on to this and so the attempt falls flat.

This story had the misfortune to have its original transmission delayed by over a year, with the result that its novelisation appeared a long time in advance of the story and so gave away full details of the plot to anyone who read it in that year. Consequently a lot of the surprise is taken away by such foreknowledge. The story falls down in places because far too often it attempts to explain things by having characters think aloud - a poor narrative device in audio adventures - and it is often difficult to tell if someone is thinking to themselves, thinking out loud or talking to another person. This makes some of the more dramatic scenes tedious as characters spend too long explaining what is going on rather than reacting to it. The story's origins as a Missing Adventure are all too clear even if it had beaten the book form to the public domain. As a result this story is just weak and fails to work successfully as an audio story.

Of the cast Jon Pertwee has clearly aged in what sadly turned out to be his final performance as the Doctor but he still gives it all his effort, ably aided by Elisabeth Sladen and Nicholas Courtney. Richard Pearce returns as Jeremy Fitzoliver and this time gets some more meaty material for the character but since much of this is in the padding it proves ultimately redundant. Harry Towb plays the Brigadier's Uncle Mario with an utterly unconvincing accent and fails to convince the listener that he really is in his nineties, whilst Stephen Thorne plays Maximillian but is never quite sure whether to play the part throughout as a Mafia Boss or a medieval mad scientist and so whilst his portrayal is consistent it just never quite convinces in either form. The music is clearly recycling tracks from The Paradise of Death and so it is far less effective this time round. The sound effects are more mixed, with N-Space itself proving a difficult environment to simulate. Overall The Ghosts of N-Space is a severe letdown, due to the story never quite knowing if it is a dramatisation of a novel or an original story that is being simultaneously novelised, whilst the cast are less than effective. Not the best of audio adventures by a long shot. 2/10

A Review by Josh Smith 30/4/13

This is a fantastic story with Jon Pertwee as the Doctor, Elisabeth Sladen as Sarah Jane Smith and Nicholas Courtney as the Brigadier.

First, the plot in this audio adventure is superb. It starts with the Brigadier talking to his uncle about his castle and you can already tell how good the story will be. The acting from the main cast is flawless, especially Sarah Jane Smith who puts something special to make it even more believable.

Jon Pertwee is on top form again and so is Nicholas Courtney, but he plays a somewhat minor role in episodes four and five. We also get to see Sarah Jane Smith at work. First trying to write "the greatest novel of the 20th century", she quickly takes her friend Jeremy onto a field trip about journalism. She sees the Brigadier going on a boat and follows him. Only to be reunited later on the island when something rather odd is happening.

Then she and the Doctor go on a hunt through time to solve the catastrophe that is happening in N-space. I thought that episode one is the best, because it has a mystery element to it and creates a very power full image of the Feins (the creatures from N-Space).

The idea that after someone dies their body gets transported to N-Space is fantastic and the story goes deeper into that aspect as they enter N-Space. I thought that the girl who fell off the cliff at the end of episode one was fantastic and when Sarah goes back in time to become friends with her, it makes Sarah just that little bit better. She shows a lot more emotion in this than some of her televised stories while still being strong and asking lots of questions. When they are in the TARDIS eating a fried egg sandwich, it gives the effect that the TARDIS is also a home, not just a space ship.

It's small moments like this that gives charm to the whole piece, although I would like it if they had used the famous line 'reverse the polarity of the neutron flow'. But we can't have that line every episode or it loses all meaning. Overall, episode one is by far the best. But the others are just as good. My favourite line has to be: 'if you need the time, ask a Time Lord'.

The music is just amazing. Fits perfectly with the story. Not too much, not too little and captures the reminiscence of the Pertwee era perfectly. I especially like the music when they change the scene, as it gives a shiver down your spine.

Overall, this is a brilliant audio and it gets a 9/10 from me.

Lightning Rarely Strikes Twice by Matthew Kresal 18/3/15

Nine months after The Paradise of Death finished broadcasting, the BBC agreed to produce another Doctor Who story made by much the same team. The follow-up, once again by Barry Letts, would be the six episode story The Ghosts of N-Space (or "Doctor Who and the Ghosts of N-Space" as announced in the episodes themselves). The story was recorded in 1994 with a cast including Stephen Thorne (who had played in Azal The Daemons and Omega in The Three Doctors) and Sandra Dickinson (Peter Davison's former wife and Trillian in the TV series of The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy). In theory perhaps, Ghosts should have been at home with such stories as the Letts co-written The Daemons with its mix of magic, the paranormal and science fiction. But lightning rarely strikes twice and, as was the case here, it sometimes misses completely.

Take the cast for example. Despite the splendid performances the trio had given in The Paradise of Death, the performances of the leads here lack that certain spark they had before. Pertwee in particular seems to lack the energy he had previously with moments where he seems to just be reading lines off the paper without any attempt at feeling. Worse perhaps, the strain in his voice is painfully apparent. Elisabeth Sladen's performance feels as though she is doing the best with the script, but the script undermines her by turning her into the very stereotype she was supposed to be against or by clumsy writing (more on that later). Indeed, of the trio, is Courtney that comes out best as he has quite a bit of range, from the comedic scenes with Uncle Mario to the various action sequences. The supporting cast comes across as a letdown as well with Thorne going for the cliched villain (in whatever guise Max appears in), while Dickinson comes across as nothing more than the cliche of the dumb blond American woman. After The Paradise of Death, this comes as a disappointment to say the least.

The problems with this story lie largely in the script first and foremost. While the idea of what N-Space is - the place where a dying person's consciousness (N-form) travels into to both live and be at peace - is quite intriguing, it somehow feels out of place in a Who story (as well as the fact that "our" reality had been established as N-Space already in Season 18, which Letts had overseen as executive producer). Plus, unlike The Daemons, Letts seems to be making the decision that magic does indeed exist in some form in the Who universe as witnessed with the significance of alchemy in the middle parts of the story. It seems ironic that the man who co-wrote a story famous for a scene of the Third Doctor dismissing magic with science would, twenty-odd years later, seem to reverse his position all together. Letts also populates the story with cliched characters and just as cliched dialogue to go with them, be they gangsters, the pseudo-Jane Austen character in 1818 or the cliched take on the sixteenth century characters. There are no greater examples than Dickinson's Maggie or indeed the villainous Vilmio himself. Those aren't the only problems with the script however.

While Letts was able to use Experienced Reality to disguise the cliche of describing events to the listenerin The Paradise of Death, he had no way of hiding from it here and the result is that there are entire scenes devoted to a character (usually Sarah) describing events in-between the occasional bit of dialogue. This becomes excruciatingly apparent in episode four to the point that not only Sarah but the Doctor himself engage in this for no one's benefit but the listener. Perhaps this was meant to be internal monologue but the writing and production make it come across clumsily if that was the intention. Letts himself acknowledged this fault in a quote featured in the Doctor Who: The New Audio Adventures - The Inside Story when speaking about his contribution to Big Finish's Sarah Jane Smith series. The point remains though that this remains a significant flaw of this production.

The Ghosts of N-Space fails then more often than it succeeds. Be it the performances of the cast or the script filled with problems by Barry Letts, this story comes across as a poor cousin to the much more successful The Paradise of Death. Then again, as said above, lightning rarely seems to strike twice...

Close the Door by Robert Smith? 7/3/16

I said this about The Paradise of Death:

"There's a polish to the production values that carry the weak script and the whole thing ends up being a mostly enjoyable romp."
The same can't be said for The Ghosts of N-Space, sadly. Ghosts has a full extra episode on Paradise, although it's hard-pressed to justify it. It starts off appallingly, with the Brigadier's oh-so-unfunny 92-year-old Italian uncle (yes, really), with a comedy accent so ridiculous that almost every line of dialogue he has is indecipherable. Sarah and Jeremy just happen to be holidaying in Sicily where they randomly spy the Brigadier. This is so appallingly contrived the script even comments on it, with the Doctor's reference to synchronicity completely failing to disguise the lazy writing on display.

Where Paradise had an adventure taking place on three planets, Ghosts takes place in three time zones, but it's not nearly as interesting. The sound effect for the Experienced Reality chamber in Paradise was fabulous and conveyed precisely the right atmosphere, but the sound effect for N-Space is so obviously Velcro that you start to wonder if N-Space is actually inside somebody's wallet. There are appalling Italian and New York accents all over the place, with the latter being conveyed by characters saying "We weren't to be distoibed" in precisely the way that no one in the real world ever does.

It was one thing to have the Doctor naked in a morgue in Paradise. However, here he cheerfully tells Sarah about the time he and his old teacher went swimming, with the words "I stripped to the buff and followed him" and "It was great, like having a cold beer after a game." Thanks, but there are some images I can live without. Oh, and Sarah revels in going for a swim, flatly contradicting Death to the Daleks. Episode 2's cliffhanger actually has Sarah killed, which is a very brave and postmodern approach to an adventure where we supposedly know this sort of thing can't happen... but the beginning of episode 3 reveals that she was just concussed after all. Um, thanks for that, Bazza.

Jeremy is appalling here, locking himself in a cupboard and generally getting on everyone's nerves, but most of all mine. The scenes where he and Maggie wander about on a boat are impossibly painful, involving as they do two incredibly stupid people, ridiculous amounts of whining and putting on a vastly over-exaggerated accent. Which is the production in a nutshell, really.

Afer explaining what the sonic screwdriver is to Sarah (!), the Doctor spends a great deal of time telling her what a meaningless phrase "changing the course of history" is, only without providing any examples or reasoning behind this onetime pet peeve and then admitting that he uses the phrase all the time anyway. Meanwhile, the Brigadier and friends spend fully half of episode 4 trying to close a door.

Somebody kill me now.

By this point, the story has abandoned all pretence at being a dramatic production and has characters simply standing alone in a room and talking to themselves for no apparent reason. The cliffhanger to episode 4 involves the incredibly tense situation of the Doctor and Sarah having solved the entire problem and heading home. (It later turns out they were wrong, but this is not exactly prime material for getting the listener to tune in next week.) Maggie gets possessed nine minutes into Episode 5 and promptly has an orgasm. The Brigadier uncharacteristically snaps "Don't be disgusting" at Jeremy, who shortly afterwards rushes in to murder a bunch of mafia hitmen. Um...

The resolution relies on the Doctor effectively becoming Jabba the Hut, since his entire plan involves the villain just happening to stand on the exact spot the Doctor needs him to, so he can flick a switch and mutter some incomprehensible technobabble. The Brigadier does have an amusing scene where he gives a patronising lecture on what it means to grow up and be an adult... to his 92-year-old uncle. However, it's the only bright spot in a production that has gone completely pear-shaped.

The third Doctor's tenure on audio reached the heights of mediocrity in The Paradise of Death and then sinks to unbelievable depths with The Ghosts of N-Space. It's a pity, because Jon Pertwee manages to recreate his role quite nicely, and it's pleasing to hear Elisabeth Sladen and Nicholas Courtney voicing characters that bear a vague resemblance to ones we saw on TV. All up, it's a rather depressing trip into the world of the third Doctor on audio.

A Haiku by Finn Clark 6/9/21

Bold, deranged ideas.
Massively memorable, but
Fandom hated it.