Doctor Who (1963–1989)
7.4/10
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4 user 2 critic

The Greatest Show in the Galaxy: Part One 

The Doctor and Ace visit the psychic circus on the planet Segonax and encounter the evil supernatural forces that really run it.

Director:

Alan Wareing

Writer:

Stephen Wyatt
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Cast

Episode cast overview:
Sylvester McCoy ... The Doctor
Sophie Aldred ... Ace
T.P. McKenna ... The Captain
Jessica Martin Jessica Martin ... Mags
Ricco Ross ... Ringmaster
Peggy Mount ... Stallslady
Ian Reddington ... Chief Clown
Deborah Manship Deborah Manship ... Morgana
Christopher Guard Christopher Guard ... Bellboy
Gian Sammarco Gian Sammarco ... Whizzkid
Daniel Peacock Daniel Peacock ... Nord
Dee Sadler Dee Sadler ... Flowerchild
Dean Hollingsworth Dean Hollingsworth ... Bus Conductor
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Storyline

The Doctor decides to take Ace to the planet Segonax. Current home of the Psychic Circus. But previously unknown to the Doctor. His young traveling companion has an irrational fear of clowns. A fact that the Time lord chooses to ignore. The circus however is far from your ordinary run of the mill attraction. Run by the Ringmaster and aided by the his cohorts Morgana and the sinister Chief Clown. They encourage visitors to audition and be a part of the show. An odd assortment of characters make their way to the Circus. Some willing to audition and other's not so enthusiastic. The geeky, fan boy known as Whizzkid. The brutish intergalactic biker called Nord and the untrustworthy, caddish explorer, Captain Cook and his traveling companion, Mags. But auditioning at the Psychcic circus carries a price. A fatal one for those who fail to entertain the mysterious family of three who always sit at the back of the stalls. The revelation that something darker is taking place beneath the brightly... Written by Robert McElwaine

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Plot Keywords:

doctor who | seventh doctor | See All (2) »


Certificate:

TV-G
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Details

Country:

UK

Language:

English

Release Date:

14 December 1988 (UK) See more »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Stereo

Color:

Color

Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Near the beginning of this episode Ace briefly appears wearing the Fourth Doctor's trademark scarf and Mel's top, as seen in the 1987 episode Doctor Who: Paradise Towers: Part One (1987). See more »

Quotes

Junk Mail: Scared?
Ace: What?
Junk Mail: Scared to come to the Psychic Circus?
Ace: No.
Junk Mail: Scared to take part?
Ace: No, of course not.
Junk Mail: Well, if you are then go right ahead. Ignore me. I quite understand.
Ace: I don't believe it. Junk mail that talks back.
See more »

Connections

Featured in Doctor Who Live: The Afterparty (2013) See more »

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User Reviews

Not for the Coulrophobic
29 July 2015 | by JamesHitchcockSee all my reviews

During my childhood in the sixties and seventies clowns were simply funny men who made people laugh, but since the eighties these once innocent symbols of light-hearted entertainment have taken on an increasingly sinister role in popular culture; the Evil Clown, who hides a malevolent nature behind his smiling mask, has become a stock character in horror films and stories. A pseudo-academic word, "coulrophobia", has even been coined to denote a morbid fear of clowns, although the "coulro-" element does not correspond to any Greek root.

Coulrophobes would be well-advised to avoid "The Greatest Show in the Galaxy", which has a circus theme. The Doctor and Ace pay a visit to the planet Segonax to see the fabled Psychic Circus, despite the fact that Ace is something of a coulrophobe herself. On arrival, however, they find that something very odd has happened to the circus. There are only three other members of the audience, a father, mother and their young daughter, who all appear to have stepped out of a fifties timewarp. This family, however, appear to have the power of life and death over those appearing in the circus ring; those whom they judge to be insufficiently entertaining are executed on the spot. We make the acquaintance of several more eccentric characters, including the famous intergalactic explorer Captain Cook, his eccentric female companion Mags, who turns out to be a werewolf, and the Circus's eccentric Ringmaster. And, of course, several Evil Clowns. The Doctor and Ace, assisted by those few surviving members of the Circus staff who still hold the quaint old- fashioned belief that boring one's audience should not be a capital crime, try to uncover the sinister power which has seized control of the Circus.

Sylvester McCoy's Seventh Doctor will never be my favourite, but this serial is certainly a lot better than some others from his era, such as its immediate predecessor "The Silver Nemesis" or "The Curse of Fenric" from the following year, both of which attempted to cram too much plot (in the case of the largely nonsensical "Fenric", far too much plot) into a short space. "The Greatest Show in the Galaxy" avoids this mistake by concentrating on a single plot line. It has its own logic, albeit a weird, surreal logic, and makes a sort of sense on its own eccentric terms.

One Doctor Who spin-off novel asserts that the Gods of Ragnarok, who appear in this serial, also created the Land of Fiction, which features in the Second Doctor story "The Mind Robber". Such novels are regarded as being of doubtful "canonicity" by most Who fans, but I can see the logic behind this idea. These two serials, separated chronologically by about two decades, have a lot in common with each other, being more surreal fantasy than hard-core science fiction and playing games with the concept of reality. The idea of a circus on an alien planet, frequented not only by a Time Lord but also by a robotic bus conductor, a female werewolf, three mysterious gods, several Evil Clowns and an "intergalactic explorer" who actually looks less like a spaceman than a Victorian jungle explorer, down to the pith helmet, seems like some nightmarish vision out of a painting by Dali or a modern Hieronymus Bosch.


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