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"Twenty times around the deck is a mile.",
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This review is from: Doctor Who: Carnival Of Monsters [DVD]  (DVD)
NB: for some inexplicable reason, Amazon have inanely bundled together the reviews of numerous completely different Doctor Who stories from different eras on the same page. This review refers to the single disc release of Carnival of Monsters.
Even among many fans of classic Doctor Who (and, it's rumoured, among the BBC's restoration team on the DVDs of the series), Jon Pertwee's tenure as the Time Lord has been overshadowed by the popularity of the Tom Baker years. It's a shame, because aside from saving the show from its disastrous ratings slide during the latter days of Patrick Troughton's time in the TARDIS, the Pertwee era saw some of the very best stories in the series. Case in point Carnival of Monsters, which sees the Doctor, finally released from his Time Lord-imposed Earthbound exile and free to roam time and space again only to find the TARDIS is as unreliable as ever and instead of sending him to Metabilis Three, he and Jo Grant are trapped inside... well, that would be telling for anyone who hasn't seen it, but the mystery involves a ship whose crew and passengers are stuck not in time but in a loop of identical behavior that always ends with the appearance from the depths of a Plesiosaur, on the run from the savage wormlike Drashigs and lost inside the circuitry of a machine while, in a side story, a tacky sideshow operator and his assistant are stuck in bureaucratic wrangling with grey-faced aliens who want to deport them...
Thanks to Robert Holmes' imaginative and ingenious script it's a wonderful mixture of the fantastic and the comic that never tips over into self-parody, having fun with its ant farm analogy and even the Doctor himself (the self-confessed vagabond is mistaken for a carnival person) without losing its sense of cosy danger. There's even a chance to see Ian Marter before he became one of the Doctor's regular companions in the Tom Baker years in a prominent supporting role as one of the crew of the ill-fated ship as well as enjoyable turns from Leslie Dwyer and Cheryl Hall as the tatty carnival act. There are even brief cameos from an Ogron and a Cyberman. And remember, twenty times around the deck is a mile.
The original single disc DVD release offers an acceptable transfer and a very decent array of extras - audio commentary by Katy Manning and Barry Letts, a shorter alternative ending from episode four, behind the scenes footage of the shooting of the story, 16mm model tests, a vintage demonstration film for the Colour Separation Overlay training film, TV spot for The Five Faces of Dr Who season, photo gallery, TARDIS-cam model sequence, and onscreen production notes. There's also an extended early edit of episode two is surprisingly worthwhile, expanding on some aspects of the story and including some sly moments (such as the suggestion that the exhibits may be breeding as an explanation for the Doctor and Jo's sudden appearance) that hit the cutting room floor when the show was trimmed by five-and-a-half minutes for broadcast. It also features a terrible reworked theme tune that didn't feature on any of the UK broadcast versions. While listed as being unrestored, the picture and sound quality of the episode is excellent.
The picture quality of the story as broadcast, however, is not up to the standards of later releases, which is perhaps why it was remastered for the Doctor Who Revisitations Box Set - Volume 2 [DVD] boxed set - and that version is the best one for first-time buyers to pick up. Aside from the better picture quality, all the extras have been carried over and new ones added: a new additional commentary by Peter Halliday, Cheryl Hall, Jenny McCracken and Brian Hodgson, a making of documentary Destroy All Monsters!, featurette On Target with Ian Marter, which deals with his transition from onscreen companion to one of the best authors of the Doctor Who tie-in novels, a featurette on famous disappearances at sea and a throwaway A-Z of Gadgets and Gizmos. It's a much better treatment for one of the best stories from the golden age of the series.