50 for 50 — The Greatest Stories in Doctor Who History — #17

Across the personal lists created by the four reviewers for this countdown, there are numerous stories that appear in most, and in some cases, all of them. And you can see why. Obvious classics. And then, showing the truly eclectic and personal nature of our favourite show, there’ll be stories that just appear in one countdown. And at number 17 in our continuing odyssey, is just one of those. Carnival of Monsters appears in my list and my list alone. And it’s there because it has everything. It’s exciting, is hugely inventive story wise, has some great monsters in the Drashigs and is, overall, immensely fun, with possibly the best double act ever seen in the show.

Following the groundbreaking events of The Three Doctors, this is the first story since The War Games that the Doctor has been allowed to fly the TARDIS himself. And it’s interesting that the Doctor chooses to take Jo to Metebelis 3, a planet that would have a very profound effect on the Third Doctor’s ultimate fate. But, of course, the Doctor misses his destination (or does the TARDIS deliberately take him to Inter Minor, given what we now know from The Doctor’s Wife?)

And although we’ve seen the Third Doctor visit the odd planet of two, never have we seen anything as over the top and outright fun as Inter Minor. We have the Minorians, who have a huge male pattern baldness problem and seem to do nothing except stand around and grunt. And then we have the technicolour feast that are showman Vorg, with his choice of natty head gear and his assistant Shirna with her interesting grasp of interstellar fashion and make up. The planet is wonderfully whimsical and Vorg and Shirna are a brilliant double act, with some cracking dialogue. In fact, the story would work as a Seventh Doctor story, as it’s brimming with whimsy and over the top design.

The story itself is very clever as, from the outset, you are unsure of the connection with the scenes on the SS Bernice and those on Inter Minor. And, what seems like a typical foray into the past for the Doctor, starts to turn into something more like an episode of Sapphire and Steel, as the ship and it’s crew experience their very own groundhog day. The intrigue mounts up even further when you see the Drashigs, who, even though we know they are actually glove puppets. are a design masterpiece, genuinely scaring the hell out of me as kid.

And then, just when we thought the story couldn’t get anymore twisty-wisty, we discover that the Doctor and Jo have been miniaturized and are inside a machine! I mean what? I remember thinking I really wanted a Miniscope. I wasn’t bothered about the ethical stuff the Time Lords were. I was seven and it seemed like a very cool idea to be able to stick all your favourite things into one box!

The story is a master class in sleight of hand and something that Steven Moffat would have been proud to have written, I’m sure. In fact, it’s interesting that in 2010, when Mr. Moffat decided that he wanted to create a live stage version of Doctor Who, it was to Carnival of Monsters he turned, with the show effectively being a sequel to it.

And I was lucky enough to see the show and it was a perfect follow up to one of most fun and inventive stories in Doctor Who history. It was just as enjoyable and equally wacky. However, I was a bit disappointed that the main character, Vorgenson didn’t share his father’s taste in head gear…

So what’s not to love about Carnival of Monsters? And with that in mind, I’m going to ask my esteemed fellow reviewers to grab their copy from their Doctor Who DVD shelves, all neatly arranged in broadcast date order and watch it again. Honestly, it’s a masterpiece.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve just found a Miniscope for sale on eBay. Comes complete with a spotty bowler hat apparently…. — Steve

Alan’s #17 — The Empty Child
Andy’s #17 — The Enemy Within
David’s #17 — Blink

How sweet will #16 be in the Countdown?  Find out next week.