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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Circus Maximus", 4 Sept. 2012
This review is from: Doctor Who - The Greatest Show in the Galaxy [DVD] [1988] (DVD)
I'm not a huge fan of the stories script eidted by Andrew Cartmel becuase I don't think his approach could deliver within the budgets etc. of the time he was working on Who but when the stories came together ( Remembrance of the Daleks, Curse of Fenric and this), you can't deny something special resulted.
Following the teleportation into the Tardis of an advertisting robot(nice touch) the Dr and Ace go to see the Psychic Circus but soon discover that what with the lack of audience, death dealing bus conductor (played by Dean Hollingsworth also an android in Timelash)and strange family watching the shows, something evil lurks at the heart of it.
Sylvester is the dark Doctor here. Ace clearly doesn't want to go due to a fear of clowns but he insists and seems to revel a bit in the goings on. Great performance from Sylvester who is given a neat scene to reveal is skills form his earliest showbiz incarnation as a physical performer e.g escapology and magic tricks. (interestingly Cartmel reveals in the commentary that he wasn't in favour of the way it was done)
Ace's fear of clowns give something different for Sophie Aldred to do & it's good to see a chink in Ace's armour. Her best scenes are with Christopher Guard the 2 working really well together.
Great guest cast most notably Ian Reddington's Chief Clown who switches form an almost Stephen Fry demeanour to menacing very effectively, T P McKenna's bombastic explorer Captain Cook (revealed in the info titles to have been inspired by politician Lord Hailsham!) and Jessica Martin's Maggs. Watch also for Daniel Peacock's Nord and the stallslady played by Sitcom legend Peggy Mount!
Well directed and the tents, plus location filming all convince us the circus is real. Some effects inevitably fail to look good after all this time (wonder if in a few years people will say that about Christopher Eccelston's stories?). Coolest moment? Sylv strolls nonchalantly off with a huge explosion behind him!
Good remastering although as well as delivering a good picture it has sharply pointed out how knackered that tardis was inside and out, by this time!

The pic n' mix commentary is the best in some time. It's funny e.g. cartmel recalls during the filming in the Elstree car park the "Allo Allo Girls doing a Can Can!"Sophie says this was his dream and also tells us that the custard and sweetcorn her and Sylv had to eat may be the forerunner of Matt Smith's fishfingers in custard! It's informative e.g. the original story idea was a bit more space museum and would have featured home of a Who Exhibition of the time Longleat and there are interesting view points e.g. Mark Ayres says that a lot of JNT's ideas didn't work but when they did they were terrific and he did give new talent chances. The Moderator Toby Hadoke shocks them all by referring to Daniel Peacock's character as dead in such a way they think he means the actor and are shocked, whoops! He does clarify himself thankfully.

There are deleted/extended scenes and and unused effects shot put into context by Mike Tucker's introduction. The shot looks a bit like his Red Dwarf work.

There's The Psychic Circus a song sung by Christopher Guard, Jessica Martin and (channelling Vincent Price in Thriller) T P Mckenna about the story, made into a video with clips.

Mark Ayres' test run on scenes from Remembrance of the Daleks is synced up to the action for us and there's a mildly amusing sketch with Jim Broadbent as the Dr.

Tomorrow's Times covers the 7th Doctor's Era, a period when the show was not loved by Fleet Street. You may need a stiff drink!

Best saved til last "The Show Must Go On" is a terrific making of covering the story's genesis, how part of the way through filming the unavailability of studios led to the cancellation before setting up a marquee in Elstree car park saved the day. As in the commentary tribute is paid to JNT as the man who saved the show. A fantastic doc. Just a shame that as in the commentary, there's no input from Sylv

I once said that I thought the extensive (even if mostly second hand)extras on Curse of Fenric made it doubtful, there would be a better DVD release. Delighted to be proved wrong, I recommend this to everyone!
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 1 Nov 2014, 10:53:11 GMT
Great review Bob, detailed & informative.

In reply to an earlier post on 20 Nov 2014, 12:16:34 GMT
Bob Marlowe says:
Many thanks for your kind words
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