“Let me entertain you.”
Step right up ladies and gentlemen… to the greatest show in the galaxy. Doctor Who, of course. The end of this season for McCoy ends on a happier note thanks to the coulrophobia inducing performance by the Chief Clown. Let the show begin.
The Doctor (Sylvester McCoy) and Ace (Solphie Aldred) head for the Psychic Circus on the planet Segonax when a robotic messenger shows them the ballyhoo they’ll encounter. They meet a disparate group of fellow visitors including a pompous explorer named Captain Cook (T.P. McKenna), his companion Mags (Jessica Martin) and a biker known as Nord (Daniel Peacock).
The Ringmaster (Rocco Ross) moves the show along but the forever grinning Chief Clown (Ian Reddington) is really controlling the show with his robots. The Chief Clown is also looking for Bellboy (Christopher Guard) and his girlfriend Flowerchild (Dee Sadler). The visitors are roped into a talent contest with the audience being a single family (David Ashford, Janet Hargreaves, and Kathryn Ludlow) but failing to amuse can be deadly.
Lon Chaney Sr. famously quipped that there was nothing more terrifying than a clown after midnight. That fear of those ever smiling “make us laugh” circus performers certainly propels the villain along. What might not be known is that this circus nearly never made it to the big top. BBC Television Center was found to have asbestos and was made uninhabitable while it was cleared out.
These events came about just as The Greatest Show in the Galaxy was coming back to begin studio work – only to find that they couldn’t use the studio. It was nearly going to have to become a lost production, such as Shada, but the brilliant idea was hatched. We’re shooting a show about a circus – why not set up a tent in the parking lot and shoot the show outdoors?
Billowing tent walls would fit right in to the production design and no one would be the wiser. So the Psychic Circus’ show went on instead of betting shelved. There is certainly an amount of fun as the Doctor and his companions find that they have to entertain… oh I won’t spoil it for you. McCoy seems to be much more in his element here getting to juggle and joke. McCoy’s tenure seems to improve with each episode but he would only have one more season before the curtain fell on the greatest show.
The Greatest Show in the Galaxy is presented in fullscreen. Special features include a commentary with actors Aldred, Martin, and Guard, writer Stephen Wyatt, script editor Andrew Cartmel, and composer Mark Ayres, a pop up trivia track, an isolated score, the 30 minute “The Show Must Go On” making of, 11 minutes of deleted and extended scenes, 2 minutes of model effects, a 4 minute “Psychic Circus” music video, 3 minutes of scenes rescored by Ayres, the 14 minutes “Tomorrow’s Times” featuring the seventh Doctor’s press, a photo gallery, a 1 minute Victoria Wood comedy sketch (with Jim Broadbent aping Tom Baker!), and the Radio Times listing on DVD-ROM.
The Greatest Show in the Galaxy took what could’ve been an episode ending setback and came up with a brilliant idea to get it through.
If it had been any other script, the death kneel would’ve been given. McCoy is fitting into a good groove, but time would soon run out for both him and the show, though this reviewer approves of the entertainment so no actors were reduced to dust.
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