Monday, 17 September 2012

Review: Doctor Who Classic: The Greatest Show In The Galaxy

The Doctor and Ace visit the Circus...
Doctor Who - Season 25, Story Four - The Greatest Show In The Galaxy
Written between 18th and 19th June 2012

Season 25 was a weird season of Doctor Who. There were two anniversary episodes, with a 50% success rate, and two stories that shot out into the avant-garde. The Greatest Show in The Galaxy, long name notwithstanding, is a pacey adventure that perfectly rounds off the season on a high, using weird visuals and interesting characters, mixed in with villains of epic proportions. There's also a teaspoon of satire in there somewhere. I didn't love it quite as much as I did the first two serials of the season, but by the end I was captivated.
     On the planet of Segonax, the Psychic Circus reaches out into the Universe, drawing The Doctor and Ace into the Greatest Show In The Galaxy. Despite Ace's fear of clowns, The Doctor goes in regardless, not suspecting the murderous robotic ticket operator or the violent guests of the circus until the moment it's far too late. The circus takes performers from around the planet, who are forced to perform in front of a family of three; those who impress are hired by the circus, the rest reduced to dust. Most travel the latter path. The Doctor and Ace must uncover the Gods of Ragnarock and entertain them long enough to find a way to save the day.
       There's a hell of a lot of rather nasty metaphors here. The annoying nerdy boy Whizz Kidd, who claims to "have never seen the older stuff, but I know that it's not as good as it used to be" is a parody of anally retentive Doctor Who fans.  The family is the British Audience, forever calling for more and more of a show deprived of resources and perceived as being stuck in one place, then destroying everything that doesn't come up to their ridiculously high standards. The Captain is the corrupt corporate executive, screwing over the performers in the show, and Mags the werewolf represents the people trying to get the show running again that are transformed horribly by the experience. Like all great Doctor Who, The Greatest Show works on many levels, and this is only my interpretation.
"Ashes to Ashes, Funk to Funky..."
     There are a lot of primal fears in The Greatest Show that make it great for kids and adults. Adults can understand the complex, dark themes behind the mythology and the writer's metaphors, while kids can spectacle at the spooky, spooky clowns, robots and werewolves. Even they were making me feel unsettled; the Pierrot clown leading the troop was wonderfully demented, and in fact reminded me of the character from the first series of Ashes To Ashes.
      The Greatest Show In The Galaxy is a fine end to the season, riddled with alternative meanings and characters that either frighten or intrigue. The Doctor and Ace's relationship is better than ever and the writing is just superb. The metaphors may be a bit harsh on the show and its audience, but that's open to interpretation and it's great that this far into the show's run it can still create complex and interesting content.


NEXT WEEK: I take a break and prepare for the return of Red Dwarf.

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