THE GREATEST SHOW IN THE GALAXY

Part One

Cue the Doctor Who theme music.

Sue: Is this 5.1 surround sound?
Me: Yes, it is.
Sue: Excellent. Good old Mark Ayres. I just hope he keeps Keff low in the mix.

And then…

Sue: The Greatest Show in the Galaxy? Are they taking the piss? Especially after the last one. I’m still annoyed about that.

The Greatest Show in the GalaxyBefore I begin, and to save time later: Sue has never seen Lovejoy; she didn’t watch EastEnders when Tricky Dicky was in it; she’s never heard of Jessica Martin; and she’s never sat through an episode of Red Dwarf. Oh wait, that’s not Danny John-Jules. But most annoying of all, especially given her deep love of carpentry and home improvements, she doesn’t remember the ‘Do It All’ adverts from the eighties. This is very disappointing.

Sue: Is this the first use of hip-hop in Doctor Who? I bet you like this. You love scratching.

Meanwhile, in the TARDIS.

Sue: Is Ace wearing Tom Baker’s scarf? I really miss that scarf. You would have thought they’d let Tom keep it though, wouldn’t you?

Funnily enough, Mel’s top from Paradise Towers didn’t make the same impression on her. Anyway, a robot delivering junk mail has managed to penetrate the TARDIS.

Sue: Eh? How is that even possible? That’s bollocks for a start!

The Greatest Show in the GalaxyThe junk bot taunts Ace into visiting something called the Psychic Circus.

Ace: I’m not scared of anything.
Sue: Yes you are. You’re scared of clowns. Anyone can see that. I don’t blame her, though. Who in their right mind likes clowns?

On the planet Segonax, a young couple named Flowerchild and Bellboy are on the run.

Me: I had a massive crush on Dee Sadler when I was 19.
Sue: You do know that you’re not supposed to tell your wife about stuff like that, don’t you?

The couple are pursued by a hearse driven by a clown.

Sue: (Singing) Ashes to Ashes, Funk to Funky…

That reminds me, Sue hasn’t mentioned the incidental music yet. This is a good sign.

The Doctor and Ace arrive on Segonax and head directly to a concession stand.

The Greatest Show in the GalaxySue: He’s famous.
Me: She.
Sue: Are you sure?
Me: It’s Peggy Mount. You must know who Peggy Mount is.
Sue: Sort of. Wasn’t she the person they called when they couldn’t get anyone from the Carry On… films?

The Doctor and Ace end up eating some disgusting fruit.

Sue: It’s like a round on The Amazing Race. Once they’ve eaten the fruit, they’ll get their next clue.

Flowerchild arrives at a painted bus on the outskirts of the circus.

Sue: Has a performance of Jesus Christ Superstar gone horribly wrong?

Sue may not know who Peggy Mount is, but that doesn’t stop her from adoring the actress.

Stallslady: Everyone of them who’s up to no good goes there. We locals wouldn’t touch it with a barge pole.
Sue: She’s brilliant. I could listen to her all day.

The Greatest Show in the GalaxyThe Doctor and Ace begin their long walk to the circus, and they almost get run over by a hearse in the process.

Sue: How the **** did they not hear that car coming?
Me: I think the car is silent.
Sue: Okay, but that doesn’t explain why THEY CAN’T SEE IT!

I change the subject before Sue can get bogged down in a rant about shoddy peripheral vision in Doctor Who.

Me: I vividly remember watching this episode in German, once.
Sue: Eh?
Me: Not long after I moved in with you, after you’ve gone to bed, I found a German channel on your cable box. They were playing this episode in German.
Sue: You were waiting for porn to come on, weren’t you? That was on the Italian channel, you idiot. Wait, what am I saying? This is your porn, isn’t it? So that’s what you were doing downstairs by your self all those years – you were watching Doctor Who in German. Brilliant.

Sue still hasn’t mentioned the incidental music yet. This is a very good sign.

Nord the Vandal rides up to the Psychic Circus on his trike.

The Greatest Show in the GalaxySue: That doesn’t look bad at all. Where is it?
Me: Segonax.
Sue: No, I mean where is it really?
Me: Wait for the extras. There’s an interesting story behind this.
Sue: I was hoping for an interesting story in front of it.

The Doctor and Ace stumble across Captain Cook and Mags. I forgot to mention that Sue has no idea who TP McKenna is. Yes, I know, but what can you do?

Sue: He’s a bit like the Doctor, and she’s a bit like his companion.
Me: Interesting, isn’t it?
Sue: Not really.

Ace and Mags accidentally activate a robot that has been buried under the sand.

Sue: This robot is an abysmal shot. Hang on, why hasn’t Ace brought any Nitro whatsit with her? What if the Doctor wants her to blow shit up?

Poor Flowerchild is dead.

Sue: She didn’t last very long. Good.

I wipe away a solitary tear.

The Greatest Show in the GalaxyThe four explorers reach the painted bus, where they are set upon by a robotic bus conductor.

Sue: This is a bit weird. Nicely directed, though.

The Doctor bamboozles the robot:

The Doctor: I’d like a there-and-back off-peak weekend break supersaver senior citizen bimonthly season with optional added facilities a free cup of coffee in a plastic glass a crocodile sandwich and make it snappy, you mechanic moron!
Sue: I love it when the Doctor does that.

The Doctor and Ace confer.

Sue: One thing that I’ve noticed about these two is that they have a lot of down time together. They sit around and chat things through. I really like that.

Ace is terrified.

Sue: What’s that all about? That’s not like Ace at all. Her character is all over the place.

The Whizzkid arrives on Segonax.

The Greatest Show in the GalaxySue: What the **** is Adrian Mole doing here?
Me: Well spotted.
Sue: I was joking. Is it really Adrian Mole? Bloody hell, so it is.

Bellboy is thrown back into the circus ring.

Sue: If this is supposed to be Britain’s Got Talent, he just got three Xs.

Outside the Big Top, Ace can hear Bellboy screaming.

The Doctor: I can’t hear anything.
Sue: Ace’s hearing is better than yours because she’s a lot younger than you. That’s a scientific fact, that.

The episode ends with the Doctor asking Ace if she wants to enter the circus or not.

Sue: What a weird cliffhanger. Actually, the whole thing is weird. Very weird. It reminds me of The League of Gentlemen. I’m not sure if I like it or not. The locations are nice.

 

Part Two

The Greatest Show in the GalaxyWhen the Doctor and Ace purchase their tickets to the circus, a fortune-teller shows them a Tarot card – the Hanged Man.

Sue: People assume that that card is bad, but it isn’t. It could mean anything. I’m surprised they didn’t go with the Death card; that’s an even bigger clichรฉ.

The fortune-teller tries to warn our heroes off, but the Chief Clown intervenes.

Sue: You don’t see them pull focus in Doctor Who every day. The director is trying his best.

The Doctor and Ace take their seats in the darkness.

Sue: This place is a Health and Safety nightmare. I’m surprised they haven’t been shut down already.

The Ringmaster introduces the next act.

Sue: I really like the songs. You don’t get enough singing in Doctor Who. It reminds me of The Gunslingers.

The Greatest Show in the GalaxyThe Chief Clown wants to know how Ace got her hands on Flowerchild’s earring.

Sue: His performance is insane. He’s well over the top but he’s freaking me out at the same time. Look at him!

The Doctor is locked in a cell with Captain Cook, Mags and Nord.

Sue: It’s gone from being X-Factor to being Big Brother.

Captain Cook cons Nord into performing in the ring before him.

Me: (Singing) How do Do It All do it what they do it for? Won’t somebody tell? If only we knew it, how Do It All do it…
Sue: No. Doesn’t ring a bell. Sorry.

Ace is on the loose in the circus tent. She cuts a hole in the material so she can avoid the clowns pursuing her. Sue still hasn’t mentioned the incidental music yet… Oh, wait.

The Greatest Show in the GalaxySue: Keffing hell!
Me: It’s not Keff!
Sue: This bit is a bit Keff. It’s Keffish.
Me: It’s Mark Ayres.
Sue: Is it? I thought he just mixed this. Oh.
Me: You haven’t mentioned the music until now.
Sue: I haven’t noticed it. That’s good.
Me: I know.
Sue: I’ll pay more attention to it from now on.

A man named Deadbeat pushes a broom round the outside of the cage.

Sue: There are lots of interesting characters in this story. I don’t know what the hell is going on but it’s definitely getting better.

Whizzkid arrives at the circus. He is very excited.

Whizzkid: I know all about the Psychic Circus. In fact, I’m your greatest fan.
Sue: Hang on a minute… Is this show supposed to be about Doctor Who? Is it trying to be meta?
Me: Yes. It’s the 25th anniversary year. The show has gone all self-reflective.
Sue: So is the ringmaster supposed to be John Nathan-Turner cracking his whip?

The Chief Clown chains Bellboy to a workbench.

Sue: That’s a lovely bench. And a very nice tenon saw, too.

Nord’s performance is judged by a family audience.

Sue: (in her best Len Goodman) “SEV-EN!” So, are these supposed to be the audience who score Doctor Who?
Me: The Appreciation Index? Yes.
Sue: How very meta.

But when Nord’s comedy routine goes down like a lead balloon, his score takes a turn for the worse.

The Greatest Show in the GalaxySue: Oh dear. It’s all gone a bit Silver Nemesis.

Nord is killed for his troubles.

Sue: This is years ahead of its time. It’s like an episode of Black Mirror.

Whizzkid takes his seat in the big top.

Sue: This is basically you in 1988, isn’t it? I’m so glad I didn’t meet you then. You only looked a bit like him when I met you.

The Whizzkid is chosen to perform in the talent show.

Mum: I hope he’s better than the last one.
Sue: I bet that’s a reference to Colin Baker.
Me: Really? I thought that was all the clowns running around.

The Doctor escapes from his cell with the help of some juggling clubs.

The Doctor: Join the club, Captain?
Sue: McCoy does puns really well. If he didn’t look like Mr Bean, he would have been a good James Bond.

The Greatest Show in the GalaxyThe Chief Clown sends his robots after Ace.

Sue: Clowns are so much scarier than green plastic wobbly rubbish. I bet this scared a few children for life.

When Ace is captured, she is thrown into a workshop full of immobilised clowns.

Sue: That’s scary. I wouldn’t want to be trapped in there with them. They are so gonna move.

Of course they do.

Sue: It’s like the first episode of the new series, the one with Rose in the shop.

The Doctor and Mags journey beneath the circus and they find a gaping abyss.

Sue: That looks good. Well done.

The Doctor drops a club into it and an eye appears out of the mist.

Sue: Told you. It’s definitely Big Brother now.
Me: Everybody else says JR Tolkien, but not you.

The episode concludes when Captain Cook catches up with the Doctor. And he’s brought some clowns with him.

Sue: Who put him in charge? These cliffhangers are very weak. But I’m starting to get into it.
Me: You still haven’t mentioned the music yet.
Sue: It must be good, then. Actually, it sounds like the stuff you listen to all the time. Tangerine Dream electro bollocks. But as far as electro bollocks goes, it’s alright.

 

Part Three

The Greatest Show in the GalaxySue: I’ve just realised who that woman is.
Me: Jessica Martin?
Sue: Yeah, she played Mary the punk in EastEnders.

Ace is threatened by robotic clowns.

Sue: This should have been the cliffhanger. This is very effective, even if it does look like R2-D2 has gone a bit mental.
Me: C3PO.
Sue: Whatever.

But what does the audience think?

Sue: I don’t think much of this, Father.
Me: Nothing’s happening, is it?
Sue: Not that I can see.
Nicol: Mum, Mum!
Sue: What is it?
Nicol: I’m bored.
Me: There’s no point in going on, dear. We’re all bored.

Sorry, I went a bit meta there for a second. It must be catching.

The Doctor pours scorn on a poster advertising the Psychic Circus.

The Doctor: Fun for all the family? I don’t know how they’ve got the nerve.
Sue: Exactly. NOT FOR KIDS!

Ace and Bellboy are locked up together.

Sue: I like him. He reminds me of Jamie. But good.

Bellboy tells Ace that he built a giant robot with lasers for eyes.

Bellboy: It was to have been my masterpiece, but like everything else it was abused and went wrong.
Sue: Yeah, it’s a nightmare when someone abuses your killer robot.

The Doctor runs into Deadbeat in a corridor made from tents.

Sue: It looks like they’re both on their on way to a wedding.

Meanwhile, Whizzkid is reminiscing about the good old days of the Psychic Circus.

The Greatest Show in the GalaxyWhizzkid: Although I never got to see the early days, I know it’s not as good as it used to be, but I’m still terribly interested.
Sue: He is so right.
Me: The production team were taking the piss out the fans. You do get that, don’t you?
Sue: It’s a bit silly having a go at the only people left watching, isn’t it? Funny, though.

Although Captain Cook is Whizzkid’s hero, the explorer doesn’t treat the boy very nicely.

Sue: What a Benton.
Me: He’s killed it now.

The Whizzkid is the next contestant in the ring.

Whizzkid: This is the most exciting day of my life. My dream come true. I’m standing in the ring of the Psychic Circus!
Sue: This is how our friend John Paul must have felt when he appeared in an episode of Doctor Who. This is so meta.

The Chief Clown gives Bellboy a slap for letting Ace escape.

The Greatest Show in the GalaxySue: What a ****. He’s horrible.

Bellboy commits suicide by turning the clown robots on himself.

Sue: Eh? Why doesn’t he just set them on the bad guy?

The Chief Clown looks worried, concerned and a little bit frightened. But on his way out the door, his mask slips back into place once more.

Sue: It’s a great performance. He’d easily give the Joker a run for his money.

The Doctor returns to Captain Cook and Mags in their cage. He tells them they should work together to escape.

Sue: Are they going to form a band?

The Ringmaster introduces them:

Ringmaster: Now welcome, folks, to not one act but three, to the Greatest Show in the Galaxy, the Galaxy, the Galaxy!
Sue: He wasn’t given a lot of time to work on that rhyme. Bless him.

The Greatest Show in the GalaxyBut Captain Cook has other ideas and he makes Mags transform herself into a wolf.

Sue: It’s just a sodding gobo! You can’t turn a werewolf with just a coloured light, can you? That’s mental.

The episode concludes on a close-up of the Doctor as Mags goes feral on his ass.

Sue: Finish on the scary werewolf, you idiots. Don’t finish on Mr Bean! That’s rubbish!

 

Part Four

The audience is lapping it up…

Sue: It must be Britain’s Got Talent. They love dog acts on Britain’s Got Talent.

Meanwhile, Ace and Deadbeat arrives at the hippy bus.

Sue: So what part of Doctor Who does the bus conductor represent?
Me: God knows. Don’t worry about it.
Sue: Maybe he’s the bloke who sells all the merchandise?

The Greatest Show in the GalaxyThe Doctor rounds on Captain Cook.

The Doctor: You’re not only a scoundrel and a meddling fool, but you’re also a crushing bore!
Sue: A subtle reference to Jon Pertwee, there.

Speaking of which, when the Doctor swings on a rope:

Sue: Pertwee would have loved that. It’s very nicely lit this scene. The director is doing his best.

Mags kills Captain Cook.

Sue: Brilliant! That’s what Jo Grant should have done to the Doctor when he nicked her sandwiches.

Ace is attacked by the bus conductor.

Deadbeat: Bellboy put a button that said ‘Request Stop’. Press it!
Sue: Why don’t you get off your arse and press it yourself? She’s busy!

The Doctor opens a pathway which leads to the Dark Circus.

Sue: I can remember when that video effect was cutting edge. We had to ban students from using it.

In the Dark Circus, the Doctor confronts the Gods of Rrrrrrrrragnarok.

Mum: When you no longer entertain us, you die.
Sue: Or you get cancelled. It’s the same thing, really.

The Doctor puts on a show.

Sue: Is Sylvester McCoy doing all these tricks himself? He’s very clever, isn’t he?
Me: He used to put ferrets down his trousers.
The Greatest Show in the GalaxySue: Professionally or just for pleasure?
Me: A bit of both, I think.
Sue: He’s very good. I’d put him through to the next round.

The Gods are not amused, so they make it rain.

Sue: At last! The Doctor is using his umbrella for what it was designed for, rather than using it to grab Ace by the neck. I hate it when he does that to her.

A little later, the Doctor finds himself hanging upside down…

Me: The Hanged Man. Remember?
Sue: Oh yeah. Very good. A bit literal but good.

The Gods raise their stone hands.

The Greatest Show in the GalaxySue: I thought they were going to high-five each other. Phew. I like the design of the rock Gods.

The Doctor throws a slab of metal into the air, where it is transformed into a sword.

Sue: Zelda! It’s even got the Zelda sound-effect. They’ll be showering him in gold coins next.

The Gods bring Captain Cook back to life.

Sue: This must be a reference to the time they brought the first Doctor back, even though William Hartnell was dead.

The Doctor directs the Gods of Ragnarok’s energy back at them.

Sue: This is just like Zelda. You know at the end of the level when you have to beat the evil boss.

The Dark Circus begins to collapse.

Sue: It’s just like the end of The Wall. But with less singing. It looks pretty good, actually.

The Greatest Show in the GalaxyThe Doctor leaves the circus tent seconds before it explodes.

Sue: Wow. He didn’t even flinch. I’m impressed. You’d never see Matt Smith that close to an explosion.

Thankfully, there’s enough time for a quick scene with Peggy Mount.

Stallslady: It’s what I’ve always said. No consideration for those of us that live here.
Sue: They should have given her her own spin-off. She’s brilliant.

Ace suspects that the Doctor isn’t as innocent as he seems.

Ace: It was your show all along, wasn’t it?
Sue: He’s a crafty sod, isn’t he? I like it, though.

 

The Score

Sue: It took me a while to get into it, but I really liked the last episode. It was hovering around a 6 or a 7 but it really picked up at the end. I can appreciate what they were trying to do – I bet it wasn’t easy doing postmodernism for a family audience in the 1980s. And some of the performances were great. There’s something missing that I can’t quite put my finger on – but I think it deserves:

8/10

We watched the behind the scenes documentary on the DVD. This made Sue very angry:

The Greatest Show in the GalaxySue: That is outrageous!
Me: What’s wrong?
Sue: Keff McCulloch won the Best Music category! And Mark came last! Who the **** voted in this thing? Just Keff McCulloch?

It’s not all bad news, though. At least Sue knows they filmed the story in Dorset, that Ian Reddington seems like a thoroughly nice bloke, and that the producer pulled out all the stops to get the damn thing finished.

Sue: I’m impressed. And it’s the first time I’ve ever heard anyone say anything positive about John Nathan-Turner.

 

Next Time

 

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Comments

  1. Paul Greaves  March 15, 2013

    Thank God for that. For one horrible moment I thought Sue was going to say it was a pile of shite. Which clearly wouldn’t be true, as its one of the best stories of the Eighties and certainly one of the best McCoy’s. Just sayin’…

    • John Miller  March 15, 2013

      Yup. This is the best Mccoy by miles. The only problem is the Ringmaster can be a bit offensive, can’t he? Unless they’re trying to be ironic. It blows my mind that anyone can prefer Remembrance of Crappiness Patrol to this.

      • John Callaghan  March 16, 2013

        John, do we know each other? Do you live in South London and play the accordion?

        • John Miller  March 16, 2013

          John, do we know each other? I don’t believe so.
          Do you live in South London I used to, but I haven’t for years
          and play the accordion? No. Not at all.

          • Anonymous  March 16, 2013

            Sorry to trouble you. You have a namesake Doctor Who fan in South London, who’s the friend of a friend of mine!

    • Broton  March 15, 2013

      But it is a pile of shite. Easily the worst Doctor Who story ever.

      IMO of course.

      • Anonymous  March 17, 2013

        I agree. When I watched it, I found it the least entertaining and most aggravating of all Doctor Who stories.
        Yes, Ian Reddington puts in a good, eerie performance. But he can’t save this story, which substitutes self-referentiality for anything resembling coherent plot logic, or any motivation for the villains.

  2. Patrick Sanders  March 15, 2013

    Once again, delighted with Sue. Interesting that she feels the story gets better towards the end, as many hardcore fans think it begins to fall apart. I love this story. The rap at the start made our family very wary that this would be balls but gradually it became creepier and creepier, and the necessity of having to film in a real tent really adds to the atmosphere. Not perfect but great stuff! Now on to one of my favourite seasons…

  3. chris-too-old-to-watch  March 15, 2013

    I must admit to be getting a taste of commentators age here: I’m willing to bet that the majority first watched during the McCoy era. Therefore he can do no wrong. Whereas the others have only been watched retrospectively.
    McCoy himself was OK. The stories have acheived a credibility only because explanations and logic were kept to a minimum, and so appear mysterious and “postmodern”. Mostly they’re just lazy.

    Cue hate-filled screams and nasty comments….

  4. Simon Harries  March 15, 2013

    This was my favourite McCoy story back in the day, alongside Fenric… and my opinion hasn’t changed. I love the fact that Sue likes it too ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. John Williams  March 15, 2013

    Yes – put me down as an old fart who first watched this about three years ago and enjoyed it. For me it’s probably the best story of the McCoy era.

  6. jazza1971  March 15, 2013

    “So thatโ€™s what you were doing downstairs by your self all those years โ€“ you were watching Doctor Who in German.”

    Hehehehe.

  7. Warren Andrews  March 15, 2013

    My nine year old self in 1988 didn’t like this story, I found it really boring. But it clicked when I eventually saw it again. I wouldn’t like all Who to be like it but I do love the grotesque imaginings of Stephen Wyatt. It certainly helps that a decent director finally appears on the show after tooo long. Great debut score from Mark Ayres that is so perfect you can’t imagine it with any other score – and using percussion for action doesn’t make something McCulloch. Interesting that Sue had no issue with part 4.

    My only issue is the rather grafted on “Doctor with unfinished business” stuff which comes out of nowhere and doesn’t convince.

    I have a friend whose one experience of Doctor Who was this story and it so freaked her out she never went near the show again – even the theme music makes her think of clowns!

  8. Carson  March 15, 2013

    “Brilliant! Thatโ€™s what Jo Grant should have done to the Doctor when he nicked her sandwiches.”
    YES. Well said, Sue!!!

    Very glad this one went over so well; it’s one of my favorites of the entire series. (and Chris, I’m a child of the Tom Baker era. ๐Ÿ™‚ ) I’m ashamed to admit that I’d never noticed the Hanged Man connection before!

  9. Chris  March 15, 2013

    Stone cold classic. Haunting, unsettling and smart. Ian Reddington’s performance is straight out of a nightmare. McCoy walking from the explosion without batting an eyelid is one of Doctor Who’s greatest images. Adore this story.

  10. John S. Hall  March 15, 2013

    People can slag off JN-T all they like, but I’ll always admire and be thankful for the way he pulled out all the stops to make sure that “The Greatest Show in the Galaxy” didn’t end up the same way that “Shada” did. And if anything, having the Circus filmed outside in a car park gave it considerably more atmosphere — the billowing tent corridors and so on — than studio-bound sets would have done.

    Ian Reddington is riveting, but I think this has been mentioned before… ๐Ÿ˜‰

    • John Miller  March 15, 2013

      That and the fact that Mccoy and Aldred seem far more in their element in a tent than in a television studio.

      • John Callaghan  March 16, 2013

        It might not be the accordion. But you have performed at the Klinker, yes?

  11. Jamie  March 15, 2013

    I’m astonished that a carpentry-loving, ITV-honed old girl such as Sue can’t remember those dreadful Do-It-All adverts from the 80’s….they feature Eastenders’ Big Ron for heaven’s sake.
    Maybe Sue had parts of her memory wiped when she was exiled and forced to submit to this experiment.

    • Neil Perryman  March 15, 2013

      I think it must have been in her golfing days when she wasn’t that into carpentry. Then again, her memories of mid to late-80s adverts is, quite frankly, shocking.

  12. Mark taylor  March 15, 2013

    Glad Sue liked this one. My favourite McCoy story along with Remembrance, I much prefer these two to anything in the next season.

  13. Hev  March 15, 2013

    This is the only Ace story I don’t own on DVD yet. Glad you liked it though Sue ๐Ÿ™‚ H x

  14. Marty  March 15, 2013

    Good to see Sue enjoyed this after the abysmal rating Silver Nemesis got.

    I should get around to watching this again, I bought it on DVD (with the special cover and everything) but it’s sat there next to several other DW DVDs waiting for me to watch them. The last time I watched it was several years ago when the ABC was busy repeating DW each night.

    It is a very meta story, wonderfully meta really. Probably a little too meta for when it aired, but now it’s rather post-modern and brilliant.

    I seem to recall thinking the ending was a bit rubbish and rushed. That the Gods of Ragnarok sort of dropped in at the end to wrap up everything, but Sue seemed to have enjoyed it so I’ll have to watch it and see if it makes more sense this time around.

    I do remember seeing this when it was first broadcast and the clowns freaked me out and Mags the whole werewolf transformation was scary (I think) when I first saw it.

    I wonder could this story and Vengeance on Varos be considered together as Doctor Who’s reflection on reality TV? Compared Varos and this story Bad Wolf feels like it’s beating you over the head with its reality TV comparisons.

  15. Lewis Christian  March 15, 2013

    Perfect ๐Ÿ™‚

  16. Matt Sharp  March 15, 2013

    Of course, you can tell right away that he’s an Evil Clown as his make-up has sharp edges on his mouth. Real clown make-up never has points near the mouth.

    Take, for example, Pogo the Clown, a children’s entertainer from America. His smile had pointed edges and he turned out to be particularly evil, considering his real name was John Wayne Gacy…

    I hope this lesson in Evil Clown Identification proves useful. However, you need to be aware that the Clowns know this too, so it isn’t a sure fire indication of an Evil Clown. In fact, you’re probably better off avoiding clowns all together…

  17. Frank Collins (@cathoderaytube)  March 15, 2013

    Ah, good. Sue deservedly tore apart Silver Nemesis but saw the light again with Greatest Show. One of the best McCoy stories for me and it’s a team effort that pays off. I remember seeing some but not all of the episodes at the time and was only reacquainted with it on video. What’s not to love – excellent use of locations, a clown driving a hearse, psychotic robots and a circus no one would want a day out at.

  18. Cookey  March 15, 2013

    Nice score, didn’t see that coming at all!

    It’s a good story, not perfect but quite watchable once you get into it.

    Roll on season 26 ๐Ÿ˜€

  19. gavinio  March 15, 2013

    I was impressed when I watched this go out live in 1988 as a 15 year old. I thought it was terrific back then and I think the same now. Depending on my mood I sometimes rate this higher than Remembrance of the Daleks and sometimes it’s just behind it as being the high points of his tenure (with Paradise Towers – yes really – up there with them). It was nice to have a TARDIS scene though I did find the ringmaster rapping embarrassing. I didn’t get the Whizzkid reference at the time as being a dig at Who fans as I didn’t know there was such a thing as fandom back then!

    Glad Sue enjoyed it. I always think of series 25 as a shit sandwich (as one reviewer called the SPinal Tap album Shark Sandwich!). The bread is wonderful but what’s in the middle is awful…

  20. Matt Sharp  March 15, 2013

    ‘Sue: Keff McCulloch won the Best Music category! And Mark came last! Who the **** voted in this thing? Just Keff McCulloch?’

    The truly infuriating thing was that the Production Team apparently regarded the annual DWM poll as the final, definitive critical word on the subject. No other opinion was considered. Ever.

    When Saward mentioned on a DVD extra made decades later, in a very final tone of voice, that Kinda couldn’t possibly be any good because it had come bottom of the DWM poll in 1982 I wanted to gnaw my fingers off in frustration.

    Who the **** did vote in these things?

  21. Kevin Gallagher  March 15, 2013

    I’ve just sent off for a copy on this recommendation, if you can call it that.

    Did I imagine you posting a list of all of Sue’s Final Scores? I was sure I saw that recently but can’t find it any more. Could you add a link to the menu for people to access this directly. It will be a good reference when prioritising which DVD of past shows to buy.

    I’ve really enjoyed the journey. I’ll miss it when you are done in a few weeks.
    Anyway awaiting the release of the book – should be a great resource for fans and non-fans alike.

    • Neil Perryman  March 15, 2013

      All the scores for each Doctor are listed under the Era summary for each Doctor, ie. The Tom Baker Years. They are even in ascending order. Hope that helps.

    • Neil Perryman  March 15, 2013

      The book *isn’t* a compilation of the blog by a long chalk. That may come later. The book will probably list all of Sue’s scores in the appendix, though.

  22. DPC  March 15, 2013

    That rap is great! It’s very 1989, but so is Queen Latifah and she’s just as much fake!

    On the plus side, the rap is a million times better than, say, fluff like “Toxic”…

    The fruit the Doctor and Ace eat represent “Doctor Who” the TV show. (since the story poked fun at everything else…)

    Loved Mark Ayres’ music…

    WHO was never for the kids. Adults always made it, for themselves, the way they wanted to… even Verity Lambert admitted to that once… ๐Ÿ™‚ Andshe’s my favorite producer of the show’s entire run…

    Will y’all be reviewing the surviving episode (3) of “Galaxy Four”? ๐Ÿ™‚

    Kep in mind, that poll for best musician took place like 20 years ago and Keff’s music was the most trendy… Ayres and Glynn’s scores were more timeless (and often better suited to the visuals)… Keff’s music is rarely *BAD* (a la “Delta”), but that music is most blatantly of its time…

  23. Stuart Ian Burns (@feelinglistless)  March 15, 2013

    What? McGann flavoured podcast?

    (sorry, I was bound to ask, wasn’t I?)

  24. Tefturnal Redware  March 15, 2013

    This is even better read in the voices of Chico and Groucho Marx:

    “Me: Wait for the extras. Thereโ€™s an interesting story behind this.

    Sue: I was hoping for an interesting story in front of it.”

    • BWT  March 16, 2013

      Harpo: “Honk! Honk!”

      ๐Ÿ˜€

  25. Richard Lyth  March 15, 2013

    This is one of those stories that I don’t have particularly fond memories of, so never bothered to watch again until this year, and now I discover it’s absolutely superb! Great characters, great story, great director, just top-notch throughout. The memory cheats, as they say…

  26. Steve White  March 15, 2013

    Just my opinion, but I have to say I’ve never understood the love for this one myself…

    I just found it embarrassing when it went out, and a bit of a mess nowadays. The plot never really explains itself, and the ending seems to rely on “Magic” to save the day.

    The clowns are great, its a wonder Doctor Who never took up the idea of sinister clowns before, and Ian Reddington is by far and away the best thing in it (He would have made a brilliant Master if the show had gone on). But the rest of it really doesn’t hang together well for me.

    And I still cannot understand the point of Whizz-Kid… Yeah I get the “joke” but seriously, when production team bite the hand that feeds it in such a blatant manner it verges on insulting.. (having said that I still laugh at the Anorak in Resistance is Useless, so I guess humour really is relative…)

    I know its appeals to a lot of fans, but I guess I’m not one of them…

    Mind you, The Twin Dilemma is a guilty pleasure of mine, so what do I know…

    • DPC  March 16, 2013

      “The Celestial Toymaker” had evil clowns… sadly, the episode including the clowns no longer exists…

  27. Philip Clarke  March 15, 2013

    So far Sue has only given 3 stories 10/10, am wondering if ther’ll be a fourth before we get to the end…?

    • Pete Galey  March 15, 2013

      … might be an interesting juncture to predict her remaining scores. I think I’ve got a good handle on what she looks for in a story, and what’s a deal breaker. My predictions:

      5/10; 8/10; 9/10; 6/10; 7/10.

      • encyclops  March 16, 2013

        I think your 9/10 will be another 8, and your 7/10 will be a 3 at best, but the rest seem plausible.

        • Pete Galey  March 16, 2013

          Possibly. But Sue likes distinctive camerawork, and whatever else you think about old 7/10, it has that in spades. Relatively speaking, anyway.

          • encyclops  March 16, 2013

            Yes, I love when Sue surprises us. This will be an interesting way to measure how much.

  28. Tefturnal Redware  March 15, 2013

    My favourite McCoy story by quite a long way – though I agree with Sue that it has something missing. I think it lacks a really cohesive centre. It struggles with the McCoy/Cartmel problem of too many characters, too many subplots, too many competing motivations, and the obligatory Ace sulk. I found it a bit baffling at the time, and a bit baffling a few years ago when I watch it again. Possibly one problem is that in having a mysterious, manipulative central character who knows what’s going on but doesn’t really explain anything, it’s a wee bit opaque.

    But certainly a step up, and the non-Keff music helped a ton.

  29. encyclops  March 15, 2013

    This is the DVD I asked McCoy to sign at Gallifrey, so yeah, I’d say 8/10 is about right.

    I don’t find it perfect. Yeah, there’s the climactic battle which only really makes sense symbolically; there’s the relationship between the Captain and Mags (which is rich and absolutely spot-on as written but is just the wrong side of creepy for me to enjoy, quite), there’s the rapping Ringmaster (though to be fair, a lot of rap still sounded pretty lame in 1988), there’s Bellboy (can’t stand him, not sure why), and then there’s the whole circus setting (can’t stand circuses, not sure why). Most of these things are appropriate to the story, just off-putting to me personally.

    I’m not that bothered by Whizzkid, actually; at the time I had the “biting the hand that feeds” complaint as well (see also Toy Story 2), but when I rewatched this recently, I found him to be one of the most polite, well-spoken, well-mannered fans of anything I’d ever run across. What we see of him onscreen isn’t at all as annoying as the fortune teller’s reaction is supposed to make us think. Apart from his fashion sense (again, better than that of many fans I’ve met) there’s very little here to take umbrage at. He might as well be Elton from Love & Monsters.

    The three-episode stories in these seasons typically don’t work that well for me; they always seem to be missing important connective tissue, or running at the wrong pace somehow. So it really helps that this is four parts. There are scenes I think they could have cut, but not without making it feel a little thin on the ground. It’s probably the only McCoy story that has both the old-school adventure feel (like Remembrance and Fenric) and the McCoy-era postmodernism (like Towers and Happiness Patrol).

    And yes, Ian Reddington is probably one of the best Who villains of all time. This is one of the only Doctor Who stories I’ve ever dreamed about (it wasn’t quite a nightmare, but still creepy). Terrific stuff.

    • Tefturnal Redware  March 15, 2013

      I forgot to mention, I used to work for a company who made and fitted blinds, and we did Ian Reddington’s once. I didn’t attend, but I’m told he was indeed a thoroughly nice bloke.

      • encyclops  March 15, 2013

        Yes, I should say “The Chief Clown” is probably one of the best Who villains of all time. Ian Reddington, from the sound of it, might be one of the best Who guest actors of all time.

  30. Rassilon  March 15, 2013

    “It is a very meta story, wonderfully meta really. Probably a little too meta for when it aired, but now itโ€™s rather post-modern and brilliant.”

    To meta for me at the time, it wasn’t subtle or clever to my mind at the time, the only good things I took away from it was The Chief Clown & The stride away from the tent without blinking.

    Another I would prefer not to waste my time watching again!

    • Tefturnal Redware  March 16, 2013

      It’s funny, I was never impressed by the stride away from the exploding tent. It just seemed to be mimicking a popular action movie trope that had been springing up a lot during the 80s, and even to teenage me I felt it looked a bit contrived and silly.

      • encyclops  March 16, 2013

        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sqz5dbs5zmo

        I like this better than the “end my life” speech but yes, they both belong to a certain macho cinematic tradition that I can’t get too excited about seeing crop up in Doctor Who. Of course, the Matt Smith era is full of this kind of thing. That’s the downside of having a fan in charge; they want to make the Doctor “cooler” than he probably ought to be.

        • Tefturnal Redware  March 16, 2013

          Hehe, very good! Yes, I totally agree – Doctor Who is an eccentric little TV show, it’s not an action movie. If you think it should be ‘cool’, you’re probably missing the point.

          • Thomas  March 18, 2013

            To be fair, though, this is a problem that plagued Six quite a bit- his constant one-liners after gruesome deaths didn’t help matters. Even Davison had some of that going on, though his performance usually masked it a bit better.

          • Tefturnal Redware  March 18, 2013

            Yes, I think Saward was a very macho writer and script editor, even if Saward himself wasn’t especially macho.

          • Anonymous  March 18, 2013

            I wonder whether perhaps Sinitta liked the Saward era…

        • Anonymous  March 17, 2013

          To be fair, though, this plagued Six just about as much as Seven…his one-liners after gruesome deaths certainly didn’t help matters.

          • Thomas  March 18, 2013

            Uh, okay, didn’t know why that got posted. My bad.

  31. BWT  March 16, 2013

    For each generation there is a series of images that epitomises all that is scary, nasty and downright creepy about the show. In my day it was Autons, Drasheigs, Giant Maggots and Harrison Chase laughing over people turning into Krynoids. For the kids of the eighties there will always be the creepy image of a hearse full of clowns dressed as undertakers arriving silently on an empty, threatening desert-scape.

    THE GREATEST SHOW IN THE GALAXY is one McCoy I love to remember. Magic. And the Chief Clown, both in concept and performance, is one of my favourite โ€œbaddiesโ€ ever.

    But what the hell is this โ€œZeldaโ€?

  32. Matt Sharp  March 16, 2013

    Wait, wait, wait… if Captain Cook is Benton, then the leggy punk werewolf with the sexy nose must be… Toby Hadoke!

    Cor, there’s a turn up. Who’d have thought it…

  33. frankymole  March 16, 2013

    Linda Davidson played Mary the punk in Eastenders…. Still, all punks look pretty much alike ๐Ÿ™‚

  34. John G  March 16, 2013

    My view of this story is the exact opposite of Sue’s. I think the first half is very strong, with some great imagery and a very effective exploitation of the inherent creepiness of clowns. There are also some great performances, especially from Ian Reddington and T.P. McKenna, but sadly by part 4 the story descends into incomprehensibility and rather fizzles out, big explosion at the end notwithstanding! I also find McCoy’s bits of business very irritating indeed.

    I love the fact Sue is still so annoyed by Pertwee nicking Jo’s sandwiches – just a shame she can’t properly remember the name of a certain Hartnell comedy western…

  35. Neil Perryman  March 16, 2013

    Just to let you know that I am aware that the site is undergoing some formatting issues at the moment. I’m working on a solution.

    • Neil Perryman  March 16, 2013

      Fixed. Bloody twitter widget. That took a whole 2 hours to resolve!

  36. Nick Mays  March 17, 2013

    I remember watching Greatest Show being a bit “Hmmmm… interesting, but not really my idea of ‘\Who'” at the time. I re-watched it again with my kids a couple of years back and only the first time in 23 years since it was broadcast and I really “got it”, as did they. It would work perfectly well in Nu-Who.

    I’d rate Remembrance above 1st in this season, but Greatest Show would be a very good second and streets ahead of Silver Nemesis and Happiness Patrol. But as a McCoy episode, it really sums up the direction that the ‘Dark Doctor’ was taking.

    NIck

  37. Owen Wildish  March 18, 2013

    I stumbled onto this brillent blog late last year and I’ve been following it since “Trial of a Time lord” I’m a bit shy to ask this but I was just curious about weather or not you’ll be showing Sue “Dimentions in Time” regardless of it’s debatable “yay or nay” continuty, I hope so as I’d be very intrested to read what she says about it before the TVM? ๐Ÿ™‚ (please excuse my poor grammer)

    • Anonymous  March 18, 2013

      Your grammar is fine, Owen.

    • Neil Perryman  March 18, 2013

      1) Maybe and 2) Definitely. It’s always been the plan to finish with McGann.

  38. John Miller  March 18, 2013

    Neil, Sue didn’t spot that this one was shown out of (intended) sequence with Silver Nemesis? What is funny is how the original intention was to “finish on a high” with…Silver Nemesis. ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Neil Perryman  March 18, 2013

      Funnily enough, that sailed right by her.

  39. FrPip  March 18, 2013

    I didn’t quite get this one at the time, not realising how megameta it was. I’m glad I didn’t as I would probably have been cross. After the Happiness Patrol seemed to be trying to smash my favourite programme to bits, the idea that the entire story was taking the piss out of fans like me would have probably meant I would have stopped watching. Also it would have meant I didn’t enjoy this, which I really did.

    It was confusing but pleasingly mysterious right from the beginning. Okay I didn’t understand it, but then again I was 13, I didn’t understand large parts of my life. Above all it felt like a lot of people had put a lot of effort into it; directing writing, acting, et al. At the end of that day I think that’s what good Who demands. It only works when everyone is doing their damndest.

  40. Mark Faulkner  March 18, 2013

    I’m guessing Sue isn’t a Corrie fan either?

    Also, if Sue doesn’t recognise the actor who plays Nord from the Kwik Fit ads then what about early 80’s Comic Strip films: “Five Go Mad…”, etc.

  41. DamonD  March 19, 2013

    One of McCoy’s best, glad Sue enjoyed it.

    A lot comes together right – several of the performances, the music, the direction and capturing that whole faded ‘dream is dead’ vibe.