The Greatest Show in the Galaxy

Chase - Posted on 11 August 2009


I'm tempted to say, well, it's not this, but truth is, it is. This story has always sat well with me as it's very good. It evokes some scares from clowns and ciruses and to be honest, it wrings it all out of it well. I've always had a love/hate relationship with circuses and zoos, mostly because I worry about how they treat the animals and because of what could happen there (such as fires and stampedes etc mostly culled from childhood memories of movies from the 50s and 40s that show this), illogically.

One thing I forgot to mention is that this ep and ep1 of SILVER NEMESIS is the sound quality. There are times when the Doc and Ace walk away from the camera and we can't really hear a lot of what they are saying. Similarly in SILVER, the witch and Rich walk toward us from afar and they are talking and we can hardly hear what they are saying. Unless it's just the copies I have (doubtful) the sound quality is poor!     

Clowns are creepy sometimes. Here we have a great planet, a great looking planet, an unusual set up and a Doctor, who while doing something that Tom Baker's Doctor might do, is also setting up Ace again to face something that she fears...and we'll get more of that later on, too. The grouchy people on the planet, both visitors and natives, are well set up: Nord (a Mad Max rip off if ever there was one and a mean person to boot) , Bellboy and his girl (Bellboy's right fit he is), the fruit lady (rotten fruit is disgusting and that seems to be what Ace and the Doctor are forcing themselves to eat in order to get in her good graces), and the circus itself. It's obvious there's something sinister going on but not what, I hoped that would come later. Chances are when I first saw this, I wasn't paying much attention because I expected that the explanations and what was going on would not come later as some things in SILVER just weren't fully explained, nor the Doc's motives in some of the more recent stories. Here, again, he's heard things as in other stories of this time. To be honest, it seems as if one big bad (Fenric? The Gods?) have gotten all of the Doc's worst and most powerful enemies together, many of them that we've never seen before (Fenric, The Gods of Rarrrrrraggnnoorrraaccckkkk, the witch, Morgaine, etc etc) and a few we have (Davros, Daleks, Cybermen) and gotten them all to go up against him at the same time while also making him think HE'S the one setting them all up. Of course, none of this is obvious until about CURSE OF FENRIC and frankly at the time, I hated all of it, every last bit of it. Nowadays, not so much. I just thought the idea of a traveling scientist/explorer was lost into something that was just...sort of stupid and even a bit predictable and where it wasn't predictiable it didn't seem to make any sense. Then fans and writers explained more of it. But is that good TV? or even good storytelling? I think not.

But anyway back to this: the set up of Bellboy and his girl, attacked by the Robot and the Circus and the kites was intriguing. Ace's fear of the circus made us have someone we could identify with, finally; and the intro of Mags is good. The Capt annoys and he is like a Dr Smith/Mr Fitzhugh from LOST IN SPACE/LAND OF THE GIANTS. The two later robot attacks in this episode (there are three!!!!) are strange...Mags is digging one up when it attacks her and the Doctor...and the other one is a Tin Bus (another bus, what is it with this series and buses?) Conductor that killed the girl---disturbingly---who gets zapped by the How did the Doctor just do that? Was the Robot just malfunctioning? or was it just stupid? Or what?

The Whizkid character is meant to be us fans. Thanks JNT. I guess it's his revenge on that fanzine that always attacked him in the 80s...what was it called, DW Bulletin? Not sure.

Anyway a good episode.     


There's some very odd choices going on in this story. Still, this episode is good, tense and exciting in all the right ways and the poor judgement on the production team side are small and minimal compared to the stories around it and the entire year before this season. One bad point is Nord's attack on the Captain Cook ("I presume"). It looks very staged and fake. Then there's Mag's attack on Nord, again, almost a non attack. Another poor point is the silver arm that seems to grab Ace in the room she's locked it a Cyberman arm? Where did it go? How did it let her go? Whatever. Those are small quibbles.

The rest is brilliant. Of course, I'm not sure what was going on at the time but that's nothing new for a McCoy story but it's not his fault. He's great as the Doctor. Ace is also good. The clowns, I forgot there were so many of them, are all creepy and well presented. The Ringmaster comes off better in this episode but as a villain and he rhymes. The ticket lady, fortune teller, seems almost three dimensional. Did the Doc walk into the trap or did he deliberately know it was  a trap and didn't tell anyone? With this Doc, it's hard to be sure of what he doing or thinking and that's really a drawback at times and a plus at other times.

As if there weren't enough characters, more are added here: the family and Deadbeat, both I was not sure were needed but they are. Glad to see Bellboy's alive if only to look at his...never mind. Uhm, love the chase around the tents with Ace, Mags, and the Doc and Mags might make a great companion. Cook turns out to be a real bas#$&d and a villain, too, just trying to survive, I guess. Goodbye Nord. What exactly happens to the people who "die" in the circus? Bellboy seemed to survive, maybe? And what did the Clown want to know from Ace? Why not just put her in the ring? And poor Whizkid...does anyone Identify with him?      

All in all, another good ep and with appropriate music and fufilling the expecatations of the first episode and the premise...well done. 


Well, there comes a time (about ep2 or 3) that you realize that a DW story is really a lot of tosh and rubbish and / or that it could have been SO much better. This plagues the McCoy era a lot (HAPPINESS PATROL, PARADISE TOWERS, BATTLEFIELD, etc) and this story is almost a full on train wreck. Despite good performances, a less over the top style of acting, good guest stars, a good performance from the two regulars, good sets, good locale, good effects (mostly, the werewolf is really ...bad and I'm not sure even CGI could help, look at TOOTH AND CLAW, it's a bit better but only a bit and looks a bit like a cartoon attacking real life people), and some creepy sequences and a cast of characters, some of whom are menacing and some of whom are polite victims (Whizkid was a bit of a satire so we'll give him that for THAT performance) and others who are genuinely warm and caring...this is a mess.

Why? We know nothing of what is going on. Okay maybe the "mystery" will be solved in the end, in part four and maybe, just maybe it will make sense. Like why are the things killing people in the arena. The attack of the robots on Ace in the Bellboy Room is particularly bad, low key when it should have been part of a double cliffhanger from part 2 into this part--as it is played, it's not even barely a high point. It's very poorly directed. And we've ignored some of those in part two, too. There are fans who mention that the Captain would have been a good rematch for the Doctor. I can't agree and I can't wait until the annoying bugger meets his deserved end.

Oh and for one major sticking point, Bellboy gives notice that he's going to commit suicide, sort of...and the Doctor just says something like, "So be it, Bellboy. C'mon Deadbeat, we've got work to do,"  and even though she feels bad, Ace leaves Bellboy to it, also. WTF? And if he's going to control all those robots just to kill himself...why not just make them attack the other ones? Poor Bellboy, open jacket and all. Why do all the characters I like in movies and TV get killed off?

And again, the Doctor knew things were going to get out of hand. Which, with BATTLEFIELD, has almost become a template for the series now (witches, factions, supernatural goings on, good factions, bad factions, something the Doc has fought before, an ancient artifact with powers, something the Doc has done or will do that will help or sometimes that he forgets to do, huge armies or fleets, Nazis, etc etc). 

The family get annoying, the Ringmaster gets annoying, and in fact, the plot gets annoying. Thus this story could have been better as a three parter. Also see ABOUT TIME 6 for the entire entry on this and why this story has many continuity messes regarding Ace's rucksack, pins, badges, and other things. There are so many THINGS THAT DON'T MAKE SENSE, i'ts almost rivaling TRIAL.

Oh and even though there's  a mystery it would be nice to know who was doing what to whom so we could care a bit...

Whatever. DW looks better than it was but as Whizkid says, "It's not as good as it used to be but I"m still terribly interested."      Just.


Wow. That was horrible. I mean really horrible. I love Ace's and Deadbeat's (KingPin's) defeat of the Bus Conductor but that's the only viable thing in this. The destruction of the tents at the end remind me of SOMETHING WICKED THIS WAY COMES. The only other cool thing was the Doctor walking away from the tent as it is about to explode, seemingly unconcerned.

The rest? Sh#t. Really. Okay Ace and Deadbeat go to the bus to get some way to get to the gods but the Doc gets bring him to them instead of them getting him in the ring. I suppose it could be they needed the medallion to defeat them...but...who knows?

The Captain's dialog is hard to hear and almost incomprehensible over the music and Mag's growls during her attack. He says several things during it that I cannot hear and also during his reanimated body scene. What does he say before he dies? gosh it's so poor. Mag's attack continues to be poorly directed. McCoy mugs it up. And the most horrid scene: McCoy trying to entertain the gods. Yeah, I wasn't entertained either, gods. And the gods' voices....poor cartoony big boom voices. Nothing really explained. I supposed a lot of things about it: the gods needed power from the entertainment itself and threatened people to get them to do stuff.  The Doctor entertainment thing is almost as bad as Dr Smith having wrestling equipment, mats, etc and a giant cage to get locked in all from the Jupiter 2's cupboard in LOST IN SPACE-THE DEADLY GAMES OF GAMMA 6.

All in all, ep1 was good, 2 was not so great, 3 was worse, and 4 was awful. Not as good a story as I remembered. It's truly poor in almost every department by the ending. It just makes little to no sense as if no one cared about what was happening, only the means it happened in.      

Doctor Whoovie's picture

Seeing you post in the 'recent comments' section just below Idiom's Galaxy 4 review, it struck me that there was no greatest show in 'Galaxy 4'. Boom Boom! (All forty something UK lovers of Doctor Who will recognise that catch phrase, as it appeared on Saturday nights very close to our beloved show)

Sorry! Couldn't help myself!

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