Doctor Who review: The Paternoster Gang: The Screaming Ceiling

As their own Doctor Who spin-off continues, the Paternoster Gang meets Ghost Finder Thomas Carnacki on one of his earliest cases in The Screaming Ceiling.

The second episode of Doctor Who spin-off box set The Paternoster Gang: Heritage 2 focuses on Thomas Carnacki investigating a strange case at a haunted castle. When he meets Madame Vastra, Jenny, and Strax, who are also investigating the same case, he initially believes that they won’t be needed. After all, as a young Ghost Finder, he’s dealt with plenty of similar cases before. But he hasn’t seen anything quite like what he finds at Castle Kraighten…

I’ll be honest: I’m very unfamiliar with the character of Thomas Carnacki. In fact, while Big Finish has produced some audiobook readings of William Hope Hodgson’s stories, I hadn’t actually heard of the character before. It was only through looking him up online that I discovered how influential the character is in terms of occult detective fiction.

Not that I felt that I was missing anything when listening to Guy Adams’s story. The Screaming Ceiling is a very accessible introduction to this character – indeed, it takes place when he’s really only just starting out as a Ghost Finder. He’s extremely flawed, and still has a great deal to learn about the world. Fortunately, the Paternoster Gang are there for him when he needs their help – even if he’s completely unaware that he needs it.

A clear balance

The Screaming Ceiling features a nice balance between two recurring elements of Guy Adams’s stories: humor and horror. We have a story with a haunted castle, featuring plenty of rich and spooky atmosphere as well as some nasty surprises.

But we also get a story featuring plenty of moments to make you laugh, too. And this time, it’s not just Strax who gets the funniest moments, as Carnacki gets his fair share, too. This is due to his extremely high level of confidence in his own abilities, his ongoing reactions to the Gang, and the narration that he provides – narration that proves to be very unreliable as the story goes on.

We also get a fresh take on the classic haunted house story, as well. We’re introduced to a house with not just a hint of history, but also a strong sense of dislocation – a sense that only grows as the story goes on. There are clear, sci-fi reasons for everything, but Guy Adams makes sure to avoid giving too much away too soon, allowing the haunted house story to play out naturally.

The Screaming Ceiling is an interesting stand-alone adventure for the Gang. It’s a nice balance between humor and horror, with neither quite outdoing the other. A rather light episode for the Gang, but extremely enjoyable, regardless.

Next: Time Lord Victorious audios starring Paul McGann revealed

Are you familiar with the stories featuring Thomas Carnacki? If you’ve listened to The Screaming Ceiling, do you think it featured a decent portrayal of the character? Let us know in the comments below.

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