Doctor Who episode 686: The Greatest Show in the Galaxy – Part Three (28/12/1988)

‘Things are beginning to get out of control quicker than I expected.’ Appropriately for an anniversary story, this is nostalgic with Bellboy and Whizz Kid both eulogising a past that was better than the present. But while Whizz Kid is just going by rote like a good DWB reader, Bellboy is speaking from experience, and Deadbeat’s turn back into Kingpin implies that things can be good again if they stop making it for the impossible-to-please fans in the ring. I wonder if there’s a subtext?

This is thoughtful while also being colourful and accessible. It looks better than The Happiness Patrol, and while the Chief Clown might not be quite as bizarre as the Kandy Man, Ian Reddington’s unhinged, Richard III style performance (slightly crawling towards the other circus members, striding about when he’s surrounded by his clowns, playing to an imaginary crowd from the corner of the screen) is hugely memorable.

This is getting all the basics right, filling the screen with striking images (the Sauronish eye-in-a-crystal-ball; Bellboy killed by his creations; Mags recoiling from a moon icon), and some amusing one-liners (‘You’re just an ageing hippy professor’). The werewolf transformation is just a bit of makeup, some contact lenses and false nails but little details like the drool help sell it as something a bit more gory. I remember ducking out of a schoolfriend’s Christmas party to watch this one on a portable TV in his dad’s study so I must have thought it was good at the time. My opinion hasn’t changed in the intervening 30-odd years.

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Next episode: The Greatest Show in the Galaxy – Part Four

One comment

  1. Pingback: Doctor Who episode 685: The Greatest Show in the Galaxy – Part Two (21/12/1988) | Next Episode...

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