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DVD Review

DVD cover

Doctor Who
The Greatest Show in the Galaxy


Starring: Sylvester McCoy
RRP: £19.99
Certificate: PG
Available 30 July 2012

It feels like a bad open mike night when the Doctor and Ace arrive at the Psychic Circus, on Segonax, where visitors are expected to form part of the entertainment. The circus is overseen by the sinister presence of the chief clown and his gang of robots. The whole show seems to be for the benefit of one single family, though the Doctor thinks that much more is going on. His investigations are helped and hindered, in equal parts by the other visitors, including the explorer Captain Cook and his partner Mags and the bike riding Nord...

The Greatest Show in the Galaxy is a show that was nearly never completed. Asbestos in the studio meant that the scenes destined to be filmed there initially looked like they were never going to happen, turning the story into another Shada. The brilliant but obvious idea of filming the circus tent scenes in an actual tent saved the show and added a layer of reality to the shots.

The four part story was originally transmitted between 14 December 1988 and 04 January 1989. Written by Stephen Wyatt and directed by Alan Wareing. The story stared Sylvester McCoy as the Doctor and Sophie Aldred as Ace.

The story is more akin to a murder mystery than a science fiction show. Something is very wrong with the circus and people are dying. The show has a wonderful collection of supporting actors including T.P. McKenna (The Captain), Jessica Martin (Mags), although the stand out performance is given by Ian Reddington who plays the chief clown, although he has possibly the fewest lines he creates a character whose creepy gestures make for a memorable one.

In these cash strapped times it is good to see that the Classic Who releases still have a good range of extras to peruse. There is the full length audio commentary with Sophie Aldred (Ace), Jessica Martin (Mags), Christopher Guard (Bellboy), Stephen Wyatt, script editor Andrew Cartmel and Mark Ayers.

The Show Must Go On (30 min, 17 sec) chronicles the problems, but also the joy that brought the show to fruition. Deleted and Extended Scenes (11 min, 10 sec) with an assortment of black and white/colour footage, add little to the finished story, but it's still nice to see. Lost in the Darkness: Model Effects (2 min, 08 sec) has some model shots which were originally created to be used at the beginning of the show, but were dropped at the last minute. The Psychic Circus (3 min, 53 sec) is a music video, either 2.0 or 5.1 audio, the song was written by Christopher Guard, who also sing with Jessica Martin and TP McKenna.

Remembrance Demo (3 min, 24 sec) has two shots, with either a 2.0 or 5.1 audio tracks, from the Dalek story with music by Ayres. Tomorrow Times (14 min, 31 sec) is another in the series which looks at the show changing fortunes with Fleet Street. There is a short skit from Victoria Wood (1 min, 15 sec). The rest of the extras are the usual Production Information Subtitles, a Photo Gallery and the Coming Soon (1 min, 04 sec) for Planet of the Giants.

Often time is cruel to early stories, with derision heaped upon sets and acting, Sylvester must have felt like a Doctor under attack as fans and media were pretty vile in their attacks on the show. In retrospect there is much to like; not just in how the show is presented, unique in the series history, but also the growing edge to the Doctor pointed the way to the first Doctor of the new series.


Charles Packer

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