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The Greatest Show In the Galaxy - Let ME entertain you...
on 6 August 2014
First aired in late 1988 - early 1989, this four parter finished season 25 of the classic series on a real high. Season 25 had been much better than season 24, with exciting new companion Ace and the writers having a better idea about the Seventh Doctor's character, and this serial was the apogee of that progression.
I was 12 when this first aired, and I can distinctly remember enjoying it immensely, hence upon viewing it again some years later I cannot help but see it through rose tinted specs and am going to find it hard to write an objective review.
In this adventure Seven and Ace are drawn to the mysterious `Psychic Circus' by a direct mail shot. The Doctor is aware that all is not as innocent as it seems, and pretty soon it is clear that something is very very wrong, with performers dying at a rapid rate in what seems like an extreme version of `Britain's Got Talent' (I wonder if Cowell had to pay the script writers for nicking their idea? Or if he has considered similar fates for contestants who fail to entertain?) What follows is an atmospheric run around with a grand finale that had me right on the edge of my seat.
What made this stand out was the sense of something different. The setting and characters were like nothing Who had done before. The chief clown in particular still haunts me, he is probably the most disturbing Who villain in the entire canon. And there is a dash of humour that is not only welcome, but really works, putting Sylvester McCoy's physical talents to good use for a change and not just the pointless pratfalling of his earlier episodes.
Rewatching this recently I found myself enjoying it every bit as much as I did way back then. The story, with its thrills, chills and high production values deserves 5 stars. As an adult I also now understand a lot more of what is going on. The script writers were making a lot of comments about Dr Who itself. These passed me by back then, but now I could understand them and I appreciated them.
This release from 2¦Entertain is similarly excellent. The picture is clear and fresh and the sound superb. The restoration team probably didn't have too much to do with this story but they have taken every care with it. As usual there is a plethora of extras, from the usual info subtitles (always interesting and entertaining), an audio commentary, PDFs of radio times listing, interesting documentaries and a deleted scene. A 5 star package.