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Monday, 30 June 2003 - Reviewed by Martin Harmer

The story's opening is beautifully dark, with a suitably disturbing introduction to one of the Doctor's boldest stories. The period of the story is set efficiently, and the introduction of the Doctor and Ace shows off the wonderful rapport that has developed between both the characters and the actors. The Doctor's line, 'It's a surprise,' in reference to the reason for their visit, seems almost cruel on a repeated viewing, evidence of the Doctor's evolution, an overall theme of the story, into someone, or something, darker; less predictable.

The Doctor and Ace seem to 'slide' into the story, and are almost too readily accepted with no question from the players, but this ultimately only reinforces the themes developed later in the story and is typical of the show's era. The introduction of Nimrod is our first true sign that all is not as it should be, besides the glowing purple eyes which merely softened the impact without ever being adequately explained. Despite events spiralling dangerously, the Doctor now takes an admirable degree of control over the situation. It is perhaps of no coincidence that a character by that very name appears later in the story. The character of Josiah Smith,though, is a truly wonderful creation of style, with his shades, dust and white gloves, combined with substance, in his references to the moth's need to evolve due to industrial influence, again introducing the theme of evolution.

The story feels as if a great debt is owed to 'Sapphire and Steel' in as much as it feels wonderfully claustrophobic, and not least for the shots of Redvers strapped into a straightjacket whilst light pours from the snuffbox. The scripting also shines, as shown in the exchange between Ace and the Doctor as the girl realises that her protector has deceived her; but it is the Doctor's revelation that he loathes bus stations, unrequited love, cruelty and tyranny that simply explains the Doctor for who he is.

The story is filmed with a certain flair including some beautiful juxtaposition of imagery, such as the Reverend being drugged whilst Josiah's niece plays the piano, for example; the song predicting the Reverend's final fate.

There follows an example of one this era's laudable 'reality slaps', where Ace reveals how her friend's flat was firebombed, causing Ace to no longer care. Beside being dramatic and anchoring the fantastic in a harsh reality, these references served the writers of Virgin's 'New Adventures' extraordinarily well. 

Of pure joy is the knowing line, 'Oh don't worry, I always leave things to the last moment.' It serves not only as a reference to the way the Doctor always appeared to deal with the problem in 'the nick of time', but also emphasises the way the Doctor has again taken control of the situation. This becomes a recurring theme in this era, introducing the concept of the Doctor as a controller, rather than simply being caught up in a chain of events. It is something of a shame that McCoy's earlier stories put so many viewers off 'Doctor Who' , resulting in many people not witnessing the show's gradual transformation into something darker, more adult; a show beginning to show itself more than worthy of tackling the concerns of the final part of the millennium.

The introduction of the Policeman quietly emphasises the Doctor's power and also carries an echo of characters from earlier Victorian stories in his true old-fashioned perspective, along with the racist attitudes.

The Doctor reminds us of two things with his line, 'You must excuse me, things are getting out of control'; that he does exert some form of control over the proceedings but that his control is not perfect. This has the effect of disquieting the viewer and adds to the reinvented mysterious nature the Doctor has been acquiring, as events spiral out of control once more. The disturbing concept of the Doctor directly meddling and then losing control is never more emphasised than when Light casually destroys the maid under Josiah's control.

We learn more of Ace's past as her character is fleshed out further, just before a delightfully creepy yet somewhat kitsch sequence which leads to an equally delightful mid-episode cliffhanger as the now darkened Gwen takes advantage of Ace's momentary weakness. The following action sequences admittedly let the story down, but to err is to leave one wanting more. There is a wonderful nod to the now late Douglas Adams, as the Doctor, and the script, regain control, culminating in the excising of Ace's ghosts.