Which One : Freaky clowns in the psychic circus.
Cast : The Doctor : Sylvester McCoy
Ace : Sophie Aldred
Captain Cook : T. P. McKenna
Mags : Jessica Martin
Ringmaster : Ricco Ross
Chief Clown : Ian Reddington
Stallslady : Peggy Mount
Whizz kid : Gian Sammarco
Nord : Daniel Peacock
Bellboy : Christopher Guard
Morgana : Deborah Manship
Deadbeat : Chris Jury
Flowerchild : Dee Sadler
Bus Conductor : Dean Hollingsworth
Dad : David Ashford
Mum : Janet Hargreaves
Daughter : Kathryn Ludlow
Written By : Stephen Wyatt
Produced By : JNT
First UK Broadcast : 14 December – 4 January 1989.
Length : 4 x 25 minute parts.
Plot : The Doctor takes Ace to visit an inter-galactic ‘psychic’ circus show. Little realising that the forces behind the circus run it – for evil purposes.
Whats good : Good strong and dark story for McCoy, for a change. Ian Reddington’s Chief Clown is an effectively sinister baddie.
Whats bad : Bar the obvious dating, not much else.
Review With Spoilers : Greatest Show In The Galaxy is an effective Who story, about an intergalactic circus which kidnaps its customers, draining their emotions and then killing them. Why the Doctor would want to drag Ace along to the circus, is anyone’s guess, as Ace is petrified of clowns!
Talking of the clowns, the presence of evil clowns really help make The Greatest Show In The Galaxy a rather unsettling experience. Especially the Chief Clown (played by Ian Reddington) who masterfully underplays the main villain, with a simply ‘taking his leave’ swipe of the hand.
He drives about in a hearse with a bunch of creepy robotic clowns for company, using colourful kites to spy on fleeing circus performers and customers.
“Now listen folks, we have a great new act. He’s a real find, there’s no doubt that’s a fact. He’ll entertain you, he’ll make you stare, and our great new act is…. seated over there!” The Ringmaster
Even Private Frost from Aliens (Rico Ross) gets in on the act here, playing the rapping Ringmaster – who introduces the next performer (or victim).
Everything works to good effect here. The mother, father and daughter trio who watch the show without flicker of emotion. The murderous bus conductor robot, who hides aboard his derelict bus and awaits potential victims to come aboard. The dastardly Captain Cook and his werewolf assistant Mags.
The Doctor eventually comes face-to-face with the real power behind the circus; The Gods Of Ragnarok. Who feed on the entertainment like a drug and kill those who displease them.
After escaping, McCoy does a really convincing explosion walk away from the tent. McCoy said later he got a fright at the strength of the explosives used, as he wasn’t expecting it to be so strong. Hence McCoy’s slow purposeful walk, followed by a thunderclap inches from his head. It still looked good on screen though.
Part 4 attracted a viewing audience of 6.6 million which was the highest of any of the McCoy adventures.
For once, we have a McCoy adventure that just about gets everything right and provides a fitting send off to anniversary season – 25.