Review of Doctor Who ‘The Greatest Show in the Galaxy’ (Series 25)

Neela Debnath

Doctor 300x229 Review of Doctor Who ‘The Greatest Show in the Galaxy’ (Series 25)In the run up to the 50th anniversary of ‘Doctor Who’ in November 2013, Neela Debnath with the help of BBC DVD, will be reviewing one story from each of the previous 31 series of the show. Each review will offer readers a snapshot from every series of ‘Doctor Who’ and celebrate the longest-running science fiction television programme in the world.

This serial has the best musical opening number to an episode of Doctor Who ever – it even trumps the Master’s song at the start of Last of the Time Lords.

The Ringmaster’s rap at the beginning of The Greatest Show in the Galaxy is just marvellous. It can only be described as The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air rap of Doctor Who and I’m glad it’s repeated several times throughout the adventure by the Ringmaster (Ricco Ross).

The Doctor (Sylvester McCoy) and Ace (Sophie Aldred) land on the planet Seganox and pay a visit to the greatest show in the galaxy: the Psychic Circus. Instead of going to watch the acts, they find themselves unwittingly roped into performing and discover that dark forces are at work.

But first Mel (Bonnie Langford) has left the Tardis. She departed in series 24’s Dragonfire. She was reunited with intergalactic rogue Sabalom Glitz (Tony Selby) – we last saw in Trial of a Time Lord – and decided to travel with him.

In her stead we have a refreshingly feisty young woman in the form of Ace. Dorothy Gale McShane, better known as ‘Ace’, made her first appearance in Dragonfire as a waitress on Iceworld. The troubled teen from 20th Century Perivale was transported to Iceworld after a disastrous chemistry experiment triggered a time storm and sent her hurtling through time and space.  

Ace is a much-needed change to the likes of Mel and Peri (Nicola Bryant). Dressed in a black jacket covered in badges and a pair of boots, she is every inch the companion. She is smart and very hands-on, if a tad reckless. She’s not afraid to take on killer robots and she has an aptitude for chemistry which means she is a master at blowing things up. She was a strong role model in the Eighties and continues to be one today.

The Greatest Show in the Galaxy is a terrific serial, it’s got creepy clowns, scary robots and even creepier robot clowns. There’s even a werewolf, an odd family and a jingoistic Captain (TP McKenna). What more could you want? This story could easily be remade into an adventure on Doctor Who today.

There is only one fault. It’s interesting up until the Doctor is forced to entertain the Gods of Ragnarok, it  gets rather tedious and there is too much time filler. It doesn’t help that the Gods of Ragnarok look like something you would find on a knock-off  Star Wars-themed chess board. All the previous creepiness dissolves once we finally see what The Family really looks like. Saying this, McCoy really comes into his own as a Doctor and gives a sterling performance as he lambasts these evil creatures.

Overall The Greatest Show in the Galaxy is terrifying and brilliant. There is a timeless quality to it and it’s a great one for contemporary viewers. Given the lack of budget, setting the story inside a circus tent is a stroke of genius because it’s inexpensive and it looks authentic and therefore more believable. This story will give you the heebie jeebies in a good way.

DVD & image credit: BBC

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  • Vivamancer

    Kudos to Sylvester McCoy for keeping a stiff upper lip & acting on when an explosion behind him went off with much more force that it should have.

  • TheRoastNewt

    Great episode. One of Sylvester’s best.

  • Joe Simons

    The explosion went off before it was scheduled, so good on him for keeping his cool, then!

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