It’s always good to hear a Jo Grant story because it means that we get the wonderful Katy Manning to read a story and I could listen to her read the phonebook. There is something about Jo Grant stories in this range that they always seem to be special releases. The third Doctor Companion Chronicle starts off with the Doctor nowhere to be seen or heard. When Jo does find the Doctor he appears to be in a frozen state similar to the one that he was in back in ‘Planet of the Daleks’. One of the things that I had read about this story before listening to it was how atmospheric this release is. I have to say that I completely agree with this. Part of this is down to Damian Lynch who plays Benjamin Chikoto. The other part is down to the story which as time progresses becomes more and more creepy. Things that you think you’ve heard but in fact you haven’t is something that creates the unsettled feeling to the story.
I think that doing cliffhangers in these stories are quite difficult because it depends on the performer and the writer to create the right tone to make the ending seem effective. The cliffhanger in this is rather good as Jo finds herself in the machine. The second half of this release does all the explaining part and it’s when Jo finds herself in the machine and we learn that she can only say/remember words that she has recorded into the machine. Mary had a little lamb seems to be an important part of this story and whilst its relevant to the story it becomes a little bit annoying as the story goes through its relatively short (1 hour and 17 minutes) running time. The final scene with Ben was quite sad really. He wants to be killed by the Doctor because he is tired of just existing on the recording. I actually wanted the Doctor to be able to save Ben because I thought that he was a good character and I enjoyed listening to Damian.
It’s a great performance from Katy Manning who can always be relied upon to give a great performance. Such stories as ‘The Many Deaths of Jo Grant’ and ‘Find and Replace’ show how much she is part of the character and manages to seem strong and vulnerable at various moments during the story. Damian Lynch is a good bit of casting and delivers his lines in the right tone of voice which is calm and somehow creepy. When he has to do the Doctor I think he does a good job. It’s a lot closer than I would have expected but it’s still a good attempt. His impression of Katy Manning is less successful but its still a good attempt.
Another thing about this story that is quite interesting is that it is directed by Louise Jameson who has done countless releases in the booth and now gets to direct a companion chronicle quite like Nicola Bryant did with ‘The Prisoner of Peladon’. Jameson should be credited for directing a story that has a great feel to it and manages to capture the fantastic feeling of the story and also gets great performances out of Katy Manning and Damian Lynch. The Ghost in the Machine is a chilling adventure that uses its two cast members well and help continue to strong run of third Doctor Companion Chronicle adventures. I wouldn’t be surprised if this is in the winner or at the very least top three companion chronicles at the Toms Tardis Awards at the end of the year. With the number of Companion Chronicles yet to be released starting to dwindle down it seems that this story reminds us of how effective and how good the range has been since it started back in 2007. It will be a shame when its gone.