After defeating Omega and meeting his former selves, the Doctor is given control of the TARDIS again and his first adventure finds him joining a peepshow. Parlae the carny? Step right up and see the ferocious Drashigs if you dare.
The Doctor (Jon Pertwee) and Jo (Katy Manning) take the TARDIS on a test flight. They arrive on a cargo ship, the SS Bernice, that appears to be crossing the Indian Ocean in 1926 but something seems odd with the passengers Major Daly (Tenniel Evans), his daughter Claire (Jenny McCracken), and ship’s officer Lt. Andrews (Ian Marter).
Meanwhile on the planet Inter Minor, showman Vorg (Leslie Dwyer) and his assistant Shirna (Cheryl Hall) arrive in unceremonious fashion as cargo with their miniscope. The device contains miniaturized habitats with some dangerous creatures inside including the violent Drashigs. Aliens Kalik (Michael Wisher) and Orum (Terrence Lodge) see an opportunity to pull the wool their supervisor Pletrac’s (Peter Halliday) eyes and let the Drashigs escape from the machine and the ensuing chaos allow the overthrow of the planet’s president.
Memory tells me that Carnival of Monsters was the first Pertwee episode I saw but it may just be the Drashigs of the mind since I can’t be 100% positive. It certainly has some good ideas in it. We can’t say that the special effects hold up very well as the interiors have a very 1970s vibe and groove out to the loud costumes that our interstellar peepshow proprietors wear. When I watched it I much liked the way that we had the incongruous 1926 ship and the alien planet and liked how the two came together. The Drashigs have a nice look to them and we discover that the special effects team used dog skulls to put the makeup on.
The dinosaur that menaces the ship doesn’t fare as well. The production also shoots on a real ship for the exterior shots, not that she wasn’t a tub scheduled for demolition. Pertwee even got in trouble for snatching a bit of the old boat for a souvenir. It would also mark the first appearance of Ian Marter who would later become a traveling companion to Tom Baker as well as writing the Target novelizations. Sadly, he would die young.
Carnival of Monsters rises above some of the limitations of the production, as with most Who you have to give it credit for overcoming those.
Carnival of Monsters is presented in fullscreen. Special features on disc one include a commentary from Manning and producer Barry Letts (from the original release), a commentary from Halliday, Hall, McCracken, and special sounds creator Brian Hodgson, pop-up trivia notes, a 29 minute early edit of episode two, 2 minutes of behind-the-scenes footage, 8 minutes of visual effects models, the 4 minute “Five Faces of Doctor Who” trailer, the 1 minute “Director’s Amended Ending,” the 3 minute “CSO Demo” with Letts showing off the then new technique, the 1 minute “TARDIS Cam 2,” and the Radio Times Listings on DVD-ROM.
Disc two has the 23 minute “Destroy All Monsters!” making of, the 16 minute “On Target with Ian Marter” on how the actor eventually wrote some of the Target novelisations of Doctor Who, the 11 minute “A-Z of Gadgets and Gizmos,” the 18 minute “Mary Celeste” that details mysterious ship disappearances, and a photo gallery.
The carnival is back in town and with new special features not found on the original release and not just kewpie dolls. Pertwee and company might not have gotten to keep the purloined sextant from the doomed ship, but the ideas of the episode overcome the limitations to be a delightful calliope.
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