The TARDIS is invaded – not by Daleks, Sontarans or Cybermen, but by a satellite delivering junk mail to any passing vessels. This particular satellite brings good tidings from Segonax, home of the Psychic Circus, and the Doctor is intrigued – while Ace is repulsed, primarily by the thought of circus clowns. The Doctor decides to go anyway, and finds Segonax less inviting than its sales pitch promised. From the curious variety of other circusgoers, to the abandoned bus manned by a homicidal robot tram conductor, to the mysterious explorer known only as the Captain and his exotic sidekick Mags, the Doctor immediately senses that something is wrong. Upon arriving at the Psychic Circus at last, the Doctor discovers the truth: those coming to visit the circus are not there as spectators, but as the entertainment – and the penalty for failing to entertain the unusual audience, a seemingly bland family of three, is death.
Cast: Sylvester McCoy (The Doctor), Sophie Aldred (Ace), T.P. McKenna (The Captain), Jessica Martin (Mags), Christopher Guard (Bellboy), Dee Sadler (Flowerchild), Ian Reddington (Chief Clown), Deborah Manship (Morgana), Ricco Ross (Ringmaster), Chris Jury (Deadbeat), Daniel Peacock (Nord), Gian Sammarco (Whizzkid), David Ashford (Dad), Janet Hargreaves (Mum), Kathryn Ludlow (Little Girl), Peggy Mount (Stallholder), Dean Hollingsworth (Bus Conductor)
Broadcast from December 14, 1988 through January 4, 1989
LogBook entry & review by Earl Green
Review: So much has been made of The Greatest Show In The Galaxy as a metaphor for the current state and then-recent history of Doctor Who that I won’t even go into it – was Nord really an archetypal symbol for Colin Baker’s Doctor? Is Whizzkid really a less-than-affectionate representation of fandom? Why was anyone looking that close at these things? Just because it fell into the 25th anniversary season?
It’s an interesting story, made even more engrossing by Mark Ayres’ first musical contribution to the series, and I have to hand it to Stephen Wyatt for what may be the most imaginative script of the show’s 25th year. Though they don’t move around much, the Gods of Ragnarok – masquerading as the milquetoast Stereotypical British Family – prove to be formidable adversaries, and the supporting cast of characters is at the very least interesting. Granted, there’s a lot of running around, being captured and escaping filling out the four episodes of Greatest Show, but it adds something new to the Who mythology without leaning quite so heavily on the old. Stylistically speaking, it’s off the scale on the weird-meter, but that only puts it in the same range as many a well-regarded Doctor Who story. Quite entertaining…just don’t strain your brain too much wondering who is a metaphor for what.