Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Carnival of Monsters

Another four parter & by jove they rush by in comparison with some of the recent six parters. It's quite fun this, if a little weightless.

The Doctor, his ability to hop about the universe restored by grateful Timelord's (& probably a grateful production team) at the end of the 'Three Doctors' is supposed to be taking Jo to Metabelis Three but materialises on board what appears to be a ship making its way to Bombay. The Doctor's not convinced it is Earth - although Jo just thinks he's covering for his mistake. However the Doctor turns out to be right. The passengers & crew of the SS Bernice repeat the same behaviour over & over again & then the Doctor notices a rather bizarre addition to the floor...it turns out that they are trapped in a Miniscope.

Meanwhile outside the Miniscope it's owner, a travelling showman called Vorg(Leslie Dwyer) & his charming lady assistant Shirna (Cheryl Hall) are trying to convince a trio of stuffy Inter Minorians (Kalik, Orum & Pletrac - a pre-Davros, post-Farrel Michael Wisher; Terence Lodge & Peter 'Packer' Halliday) to admit them & their Miniscope for entertainment purposes.

The Doctor & Jo clamber about the insides of the machine - a quite impressive set - before stumbling across the unpleasently carnivorous & persistent Drashigs.

Will the Doctor & Jo escape the Miniscope? Will Kalik's devious plan to over-throw his brother the President succeed? Will the Drashigs eat everyone & everything?

Yes, No & No.

It's all frothy fun. The Doctor gets to do some nice moral highgrounding over Miniscopes & tell us of his (& the Timelord's) role in banning them. The scenes involvong Kalik, Orum & Pletrac are all nicely played & all three actors put in lovely, fussy performances.

In fact the strength of this story is its cast. There's good performances from the crew & passengers of the SS Bernice, which includes Pertwee's mate from the Navy Lark Tenniel Evans; a pre-Harry Sullivan Ian Marter & Jenny McCracken. Leslie Dwyer & Cheryl Hall do a fine job to, especially Dwyer's playing of the moments where Vorg changes attitude mid-sentence but I think the acting prizes go to the Three Stooges: Wisher, Lodge & Halliday.

So not a hugely deep or important story but a lot of nice stuff. I've heard it suggested that this is Robert Holmes' commentary on Doctor Who itself, with Vorg's line about it being 'just entertainment...nothing political' being a highlight in this regard. Maybe it is, maybe it isn't but it feels like we've earnt bit of light-heartedness. For the record my favourite line is Vorg's: "The generators were built by the old Eternity Perpetual company. They were designed to last forever; that's why the company went bankrupt."

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