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Send in the Clowns,
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This review is from: Doctor Who - The Greatest Show in the Galaxy [DVD]  (DVD)
Ian Reddington played the Pied Piper at the Stoke Vic in 1982, and by gum he was chilling, and then that significant talent for being scary found its way to Dr Who. Stick him in clown make up and weepers and give him a hearse...
It is of course wrong to suggest that any writer has ever done anything as heinous as take drugs. It's a circus, in a desert, miles from anywhere, and people just turn up, like moths to a flame, and they never come out again.
And hanging onto the edges of this catastrophe curve are the circus folk, the fortune teller, the ringmaster, the Chief Clown, the kite-maker, the android engineer, and the android clowns he made, and out in the dunes a gloriously grumpy Peggy Mount serving up a mixture of Ambrosia Custard and sweetcorn. Apothecary, thy drugs are quick.
Sylvester really is in his element here; the days of the Ken Campbell Roadshow and the Theatre Royal Stratford East don't seem so far in the past. He's very much at home in a circus, while Ace just as clearly hates it - as so often he's happiest in places that have her climbing the walls.
Filming the circus stuff in a real tent in the BBC car park (because of asbestos shutting the studios) really pays off. You can see it's real, and the chases through canvas corridors have a nightmare quality all their own.
It's got a lovely cast; TP McKenna is wonderfully awful as the Captain, while Rico Ross is great as the rapping Ringmaster (he'd not long since played Pte Frost in Aliens). Chris Jury does a very nice job as Deadbeat/Kingpin, and then went on to do Lovejoy.
But it's in the circus skills of physical theatre at that the show really hits its mark. The clowns are beautifully slick, and wonderfully sinister; Ian Reddington is a delight to watch.
Besides the awful Captain, the snarling werewolf, and the two fall guys (Gian Sammarco reprising Adrian Mole in all but name), there's the audience, and you know there's something deeply wrong with them before they turn into the Gods of where? Raganrok? Norse mythology isn't it? What's that to do with circuses? Nothing? Oh well...
It doesn't really matter, because for once there's so much going for the story; besides the excellent production and acting, the script is extremely well crafted and full of incident - the Dr remarks on 'two brushes with death ' before they even arrive at the circus - so that's two thirds into the first episode - there's lots of story in this.
The extras are good too - The Making Of tells a good story of a highly-committed company determined to tell the story as well as they possibly could, the music video is fun, and the feature about press coverage just goes to show how many unpleasant people make a living in journalism.
And this is a great story for the Seventh Doctor; one person that can be relied upon in a circus is a man that plays the spoons and used to put ferrets down his trousers.