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Claustrophobic horror but the ending is weak
on 4 February 2003
Sylvester McCoy, despite his short tenure, ranks alongside Jon Pertwee and Tom Baker as one of the great Doctors. Ace is also up there with Joe Grant, Leela and Sarah Jane Smith as one of the best assistants. The combination is excellent, and the scenario for this unusual adventure is also very strong — a psychic circus which has turned into a fatal attraction run by sinister clowns where the only attractive characters are cowed or insane.
This story has a nightmare logic which makes a virtue of the limited cast and low budget.
Sadly, the climax lets the story down. The culprits are the gods of Ragnarrok — a rather lazy piece of pseudo-norsism, especially when compared to the 'Curse of Fenric' just a couple of adventures later. For some reason the gods of Ragnarrok can't make their own fun (although this is never explained convincingly in the manner of the Eternals in one of the fifth Doctor adventures), and therefore require entertainment. Sylvester McCoy is a magnificent and versatile performer, but he reverts to Vision On type as he entertains the gods with conjuring and tumbling until Ace and the now sane Kingpin are able to slip him the Eye, which, for no very adequately explained reason, can be converted into a weapon against the gods.
Despite some creepy performances and nice cameos, this is an ultimately disappointing adventure – the whole doesn't equal the sum of the parts. If you can't get enough of Ace and the Doctor, then you'll want to add it to your collection. However, if you want to see McCoy in classic mode, you would be better placed looking at 'Time and the Rani', 'Battlefield', 'Dragonfire' and 'The Curse of Fenric'. 'Remembrance of the Daleks' also comes strongly recommended, although to my mind is not one of the strongest Dalek stories.