CRRRaSh! 287 Doctor Who: Carnival of Monsters

By Roy Mathur, on 2019-11-06, at 22:42:19 to 23:10:10 GMT, for Captain Roy's Rocket Radio Show, Listen

Cast and Production

Third Doctor: Jon Pertwee
Jo Grant: Katy Manning
Director: Barry Letts
Writer: Robert Holmes
Producer: Barry Letts
Second serial/story of season 10, 4 x 25 minute episodes, 27 Jan to 17 Feb 1973.

What Happens

The TARDIS lands on a ship and the Doctor and Jo are seized as stowaways. It seems like the crew and passengers are caught in a time loop of some kind and there are sea monsters.

The pair escape through a hatch and find that they are inside of a machine. The Doctor realises that the machine is banned Time Lord technology. It is a Miniscope used for shrinking living creatures.

The owners of the Miniscope, Vorg and Shirna, arrive on Inter Minor, bringing the machine as part of their travelling show.

They soon fall foul of the intrigues of the isolationist, bureaucratic, elitist Inter Minorans. A pair of whom, dissatisfied with the status quo, and desiring a more militant, expansionist government, decide to release the monsters, the Drashigs, within the Miniscope. They plan to cause chaos that will lead to the downfall of the current president, who they think is weak, leaving a power vacuum that they will fill.

Fortunately, Vorg, an ex-soldier, uses an eradicator to kill the monsters. He then reverses the effects of the Miniscope, which releases it's occupants and returns them to their place in space and time.

The last episode ends with Vorg starting to make money by using his huckster carny skills and suckering an important Inter Minoran into playing the shell game. while Jo and the Doctor leave.

What I Thought

Oppressive social strata can be seen both on the ship with the white colonials on their way to India and the white captain and bosun running a native crew, and on Inter Minor where the elite species uses the other for slave labour. I.e., there's the usual very political Doctor Who undercurrent, which makes the show somewhat unique for a children's programme. I think that is a good thing, but I can't help thinking how many times I have pointed out this very same facet of the programme, and I'm sure by now the listeners are getting a little bored of my repetition, which is exactly what happens when you are nearing three hundred episodes of a solo podcast. Sorry, I'll try harder to bring something new to these media revisits, other than my usual "ha ha ha ha", "it's good", and "it's political".

The showman Vorg, reminiscing about his national service when he finds a vital component of the eradicator beam, reminded me of my own father explaining how to load a shoot his British Empire-era Lee-Enfield bolt-action rifle and other weapons during his military service. From my father's accounts of learning to play bugle calls in the army, I would also class instruction on that particular musical instrument as weapons training.

Trivia

The hatch took me right back to the mysterious hatch in Lost.

Because of the Doctor's flamboyant clothes, Vorg mistakes him for a fellow showman and attempts to prove his theory to Shirna speaking Polari to the confused Time Lord. Polari is a real language from London formally used by entertainment and theatre folk and later gay men. It's a mixture of London slang, Romani, Yiddish, and other languages. Giving the age and long career in show business and London roots of both the actor playing Vorg, Leslie Dwyer, and Jon Pertwee, and though I have no proof of this, it seems conceivable that many the pair had a hand in adding that to the script and it seems probable that both were also fluent in the language.

The bald caps and hairpieces of the actors playing the Inter Minoran elite kept coming loose.

Cheryl Hall, who plays Shirna, went on the play Wolfie's pretty girlfriend, as well as marrying her co-star Robert Lindsay in Citizen Smith. Citizen Smith was a late 70s sitcom I liked so much, I even bought and wore Wolfie Smith's characteristic Che Guevara-esque beret.

The scriptwriter was Robert Holmes, an ex-Metropolitan police officer, who, according to an un-attributed section of his Wikipedia entry, became enamoured of the writing profession by watching court reporters furiously scribbling in shorthand.