1996: Doctor Who - THE GHOSTS OF N-SPACE

First broadcast January 20th 1996, Christopher Morley looks back at The Ghosts Of N-Space, Jon Pertwee's final performance as the Third Doctor.

Come gather round the wireless for a trip into N-Space as we look back upon Jon Pertwee's final performance as the Third Doctor in The Ghosts Of N-Space (a follow-up to The Paradise Of Death).

In recording these two early Nineties audio dramas, Pertwee became the eldest surviving classic Doctor to reprise his role for the medium - though he would sadly pass away only a few months afterwards.

Both radio plays were written by Barry Letts, who had been producer on Doctor Who for the entirety of the man who would be Worzel Gummidge's five-year television run in the smoking jacket & opera cape, before presumably finding himself in a field in the West Country with no memory of Jo Grant, Sarah-Jane Smith, the Brigadier or the Master.

But in 1993 he was welcomed back from a second exile of sorts with a cup of tea & slice of cake to record The Paradise Of Death, the tale of strange goings-on at the Space World theme park owned by the alien Parakon Corporation. After that, in 1996, came The Ghosts Of N-Space.

For the Doctor this adventure takes place at a point after Death To The Daleks as he looks into N-Forms, or perhaps more simply 'space ghosts' which have crossed over from Null-Space & are now said to be haunting a castle in Sicily. Owned by no less than the Brigadier's great-uncle Mario!
THE BRIGADIER: Uncle Mario, how can I help you if you won't tell me what the trouble is?
MARIO: I tell you what trouble is, don't I? For thousand years we say castello is home sweet home, sí?
MARIO: For ninety-two years I live here, sí? When I die, you be Barone, sí? You want it should be stole away like the pig?
THE BRIGADIER: Pig? What pig?
MARIO: What Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son stole.
THE BRIGADIER: Oh, that pig.
THE BRIGADIER: Yes, I see. And who is going to steal the castle, Uncle?
MARIO: Nobody. You stop him. That's why I ask you to come to island.
THE BRIGADIER: But stop who? What are you talking about?
MARIO: Ah, you not listen. The gangster man Vilmio - Max Vilmio - he say, I no sell him castello, island, all, I be sorry. Be very ... I be very sorry to die.
THE BRIGADIER: Die? You mean he's threatened to kill you?
MARIO: Oh yes.
THE BRIGADIER: Well, that's intolerable. I think I'd better have a word with Mr Vilmio.
MARIO: Well, he no listen to word. You see, he wait until you go, and then - boof!
THE BRIGADIER: Mm. Listen Uncle, this is more serious than I realised. I think I'd better go back to the mainland and pick my stuff up from the hotel and come and stay for a while - just till it's sorted out. I'm due for a spot of leave. And if this Vilmio chap...
There's hard science to be had here, too. Every 157 years Theodore Clancy's Comet reappears- which for story purposes means its 1975. It last appeared in 1818, having first been discovered in the heavens in 1505. Now then, just what is this N-Space?
"Well now, the Earth - every world - has a counterpart. They're as close to each other as a pair of clasped hands. In the normal course of events, it's impossible to go there or even to communicate with it because..."
Quite simply, it's "because" it's null:
"Nowhere. Literally. It's a question you can't ask. There's no "where" for it to be. You see, N-Space isn't in this Space-Time Continuum at all. That's how it gets its name. It's short for Null-Space."

You can easily get there if you happen to be dead, though.
"You see, every sentient being on Earth has an equivalent N -Body, coterminous with the ordinary body."
And there's a scientific explanation behind the apparently common phenomena of angels & white light appearing to people near death, too!
"When somebody dies, the N Body goes into N -Space. It often seems like a tunnel of darkness leading to a blissful light."
Only some of these souls become trapped in N-Space, which serves as a sort of limbo.
"The trouble is, with some people the mind is so attached to the things of Earth that they can't give them up. Well, often they can't even take it in that their Earthly lives are over. So, instead of just passing through, they get stuck in N- Space. Some of them even try to get back through the barrier; and if they can find the smallest flaw, they'll come back and try to relive their final moments and make them come right."
Which leads to a heap of trouble when the barrier between ''our'' universe & N-Space is ruptured! As the Doctor puts it:
"When the catastrophe point is reached, and the barrier gives way, this planet will be flooded by all the evil in N Space. All the fear, greed, anger, hate, all ... all the sheer malevolence that the world has experienced from the beginning of time will pour out into the world in an overwhelming torrent. And at the moment, I've no idea how to stop it."
But stop it he did, & mere months after the broadcast of the last episode Pertwee had sadly died of a heart attack at the age of 76 while on holiday in the United States.

Sad, but all the more reason to "believe in a man who has helped to save the world twice, with the power to change his physical appearance? An alien who travels though time and space--in a police box?!?".

Of course Jon wasn't to know it at the time, but nine years after his death we'd have reason to believe once more, as Christopher Eccleston's Ninth Doctor faced off against the Nestene Conciousness/Autons in his first televised appearance just as the late great Pertwee once had, and Saturday tea-times were magic all over again!

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