Post Comment 8 comments on “Episode 129 – The Signal-Man

  • The other dave on

    Re: Doctor Who: I’ve always wondered if the Doctor’s liking of the story had anything to do with something similar happening to himself in “Logopolis” (where he is haunted by the Watcher – the foreshadowing of his future incarnation)? (though oddly enough Christopher Eccleston did the story for radio as part of the “Devil’s Christmas Series a few years since.)

    As for motivations and plot in this story – something you didn’t seem to touch upon was the idea that if it wasn’t for the premonitions the signal-man wouldn’t have been on the line. The story talks about him being a careful and experienced operator who should have known better, but whose curiosity, fear and fascination ultimately lead him to be on the track and perhaps investigation the fateful call and “specter” when they actually turned out to be fatally real. just a thought.

  • Utech on

    While I sympathize with your desire to work out the connections in “The Signal-Man”, I also think this is the sort of thing that would make H.P. smile. You’ve got that very human belief that the universe really does work through cause and effect. That the logical underpinnings of this story are understandable.

    Perhaps the reason H.P. enjoyed the story is that he understood those underpinnings are not there. The events in the story are either utterly unconnected, wholly coincidental, or follow a logic/physics/metaphysics inconsistent with the world as we know it. In other words, you’re looking for before-the-veil explanations in a beyond-the-veil story.

    You sure you want to raise the corner and have a peek? Sure, you’ll see the way the events of the story really connect. But you can’t go back…

  • latasha on

    great show as always. do u guys plan on covering any Poe stories? that would bo so great! plz! what if i subscribe πŸ˜‰ just kidding! i plan on doing that anyways!

  • Steve Dempsey on

    The radio version is on iPlayer at the moment:
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b00pdkdp/Charles_Dickens_The_Signalman/

  • Eric Topp on

    +1 “Logopolis” and was anyone else reminded of the “Future Echoes” ep of Red Dwarf?

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2PLjQycLlVA

  • Eric Topp on

    Charles Dickens appears as a character in “The Exiles” by Ray Bradbury. In the story, Dickens is upset that he has been sent by the book-burners to Mars because he wrote a couple of ghost stories.

  • Elliott James on

    The BBC have done a number of “Ghost Stories for Christmas” most of the stories filmed were by M.R. James but one from 1976 was “The Signalman” Here are the links:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c06WUYsI0ic

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=udnAYweewLk

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pDeJ-7NPNyk

  • James on

    Apologies for replying to an episode that’s ~9.5 years old now, but I just recently discovered your podcast and have thoroughly enjoyed it.

    I felt compelled to comment on my impressions of the story b/c I think there is a very powerful explanation of the signal-man’s motives that neither you all nor the other commenters seem to have touched on… self-sacrifice.
    The signal-man stood on the tracks in order to save everyone else.

    He’s just too good at his job to have accidentally stood in front of an oncoming train, and no amount of supernatural shenanigan’s are going to change that. How do we know this? Dickens spells it out for us. He shows us in the first act that that the signal-man is able to execute his signal-man duties, deal with a random chump who’s wandered into his tunnel to make small talk, and mentally process ghostly premonitions without any decrease in his ability to execute his signal-man duties. His dialogue is basically “Signal A, do this… Signal B, do this… Oh, hey random stranger. Did a ghost tell you to say what you just did? Because a ghost said to to me the other day… Oop, one sec. Signal C, need to do one of these…. Okay, sorry. You were saying? Uh-huh. Oh, did you happen to see a ghost just now? Oh, one sec. Gotta flip this switch to avoid a train wreck. So as I was saying, this ghost I just saw…” He’s just not the sort of person who’s gonna accidentally stand in front of an oncoming train, even if there’s a ghost
    So what would it take to get this guy to stand in front of a train? Well, if he won’t do it accidentally, look at what it would take to get him to do it intentionally.

    He’s afraid of some disaster, not for himself, but for others. He’s clearly convinced that there’s gonna be a large train accident that will result in the loss of many lives, but he recognizes no one will believe him if he tells him that he was warned of this disaster by a ghost. We have Dickens, who seems to have survivors guilt about a very bad train accident he was in, writing about a man who knows a train accident is coming, but is powerless to stop the train b/c no one will believe him.
    Now, if I REALLY wanted to force a train to stop without derailing or damaging that train, how would I do it? Well… putting a human in front of it seems like a pretty reliable options. And what humans do I have on hand… just me. Well, guess I’m gonna be standing on those tracks.

    The self-sacrifice angle just makes so much more sense than the “accidentally stood in front of a train” angle.. We have a guy who is hypercompetent at his work even while he’s seeing ghosts and talking to chumps, and he REALLY wants to stop this train in order to prevent mass casualties. He’s fully aware that no one will believe him if he says that ghosts warned him of the accident, so what can he do? Stand on the tracks, knowing the train will stop after it hits him.

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